5 Questions from Over the Pond: Shoshana Bean & Katharine McPhee
A slice of transatlantic pie, anyone? Broadway Jenna meets West End Jenna in this month's edition of 5 Questions from Over the Pond...
The hit Broadway musical Waitress has had no shortage of fabulous leading ladies serving up scrumptious performances as the show's leading lady, Jenna. Originated in Adrienne Shelly's 2007 film by Golden Globe winner Keri Russell (who is currently making her Broadway debut in the Tony-nominated revival of Lanford Wilson's Burn This) and originated on stage with a Tony-nominated performance by Jessie Mueller, the role of Jenna has subsequently been portrayed at Broadway's Brooks Atkinson Theatre by the likes of Betsy Wolfe, Stephanie Torns, Nicolette Robinson, and even the show's seven-time Grammy-nominated composer Sara Bareilles!
In April 2018, "American Idol" and "Smash" favorite Katharine McPhee would finally make her much-anticipated Broadway debut, assuming the role of Jenna and working two limited run "shifts at the diner" through August 2018. But that wouldn't be the end of her Waitress journey as she was chosen to originate the leading role in the West End premiere at London's Adelphi Theatre, which began previews on February 8, 2019, officially opening on March 7.
On March 18, 2019, after a 13-year absence, celebrated recording artist Shoshana Bean finally returned to the Broadway stage to try her hand at pie-making for an extended limited engagement through July 7, 2019. After making her Broadway debut in Hairspray, she won the hearts of Broadway fanatics as the first lady to replace Tony Award winner Idina Menzel as Elphaba in the musical phenomenon that is Wicked, starring opposite Katharine's "Smash" co-star Megan Hilty (as Glinda). Indeed, Shoshana and Katharine have also shared another co-star along the way, who goes by the name of Jeremy Jordan. The Tony Award nominee also starred in "Smash" with Katharine and is currently Shoshana's leading man, Dr. Pomatter, in Waitress... It's a small world, folks!
As Katharine McPhee's West End debut is sadly coming to an end on June 15 and Shoshana Bean will be "Opening Up" for a final time on July 7, we thought it wouldn't be a "Bad Idea" if we gave these current West End and Broadway leading ladies the opportunity to take part in our Waitress-themed 5 Questions from Over the Pond feature (and as it turned out, five just wasn't enough for these two curious cats)... So, let's get to it and find out "What's Inside" these two talented performers' hearts...
Here are the questions from London's current star Katharine McPhee for current Broadway star Shoshana Bean:
1. Katharine: Our voices are so different yet fit the same role so well. You're known for covering songs and making them your own and KILLING it, so out of any song in the world - if we were to duet one time - what song do you think we would/should do?
Shoshana: Oh man, ONE SONG???? ONE TIME??? KATTTTT... OK. Well, with that insanely clear high belt of yours, it has to be something by Heart so I can hear you sing those top harmonies! Either 'Alone' or 'What About Love.' Your choice. Now we HAVE to do it!
2. Katharine: What was going through your mind the first time you sang "She Used to Be Mine" on your opening night?
Shoshana: Wow... This is going to be hard to put into words, so forgive me if it's inarticulate. It was an overwhelming night for sure from top to bottom. The amount of love I had already been receiving from the audience up to that point in the show had definitely shocked me to my core. I was completely raw and vulnerable so even if I had WANTED to, I wouldn't have been able to hide from my own truths being reflected back at me with this song. Every word of it felt like a personal admission. The fact that I hadn't been on a Broadway stage in 13 years, the fact that I left as a young woman and returned as a grown woman, acknowledging to myself what all those years have done, admitting to all those people 'look I am definitely not who I used to be... I don't even know if I'm still capable of what that girl was capable of'... it felt like a confession. It felt like coming home.
3. Katharine: Your cover of "I Did Something Bad" went viral (and for good reason!). It was so different from everything else you normally do. What made you choose that song and did you ever hear from Taylor Swift's team about it?
Shoshana: I don't know, I was just hooked on it from first listen! It's dramatic and bad ass and strong and unapologetic...and lyrically it says things that wouldn't really be acceptable to say out loud in real life. I love songs like that! The kind of songs that let you expose your crazy and your dark inner thoughts that we all have but don't always discuss or quite know how to articulate... and then you get to do so under the safety and protection of the melody and the performance. Within hours of releasing the video, Taylor saw it and shared it on twitter with two words "Absolutely stunning." I was really happy to have that stamp of approval from the writer/artist herself.
4. Katharine: We've both co-starred alongside Megan Hilty and Jeremy Jordan. I love them both dearly! What's your favorite quality about them?
Shoshana: How lucky are we?! Two of the greatest co-stars I've EVER had the privilege of working with. And it's like a double gift... the gift of being on stage with them and the gift of their friendship offstage. This is going to be so hard! They have SO many qualities I love and admire! Ugh ok... I'm going to tell you my fave onstage quality and my fave offstage quality for each of them.
My favorite quality of Megan onstage is her heart. Her ever-present heart. It is never withheld, it is never protected, it is huge and vulnerable and right there every time you look in her eyes, right there in every note she sings, in every joke, every giggle, every action... she leads with it. And to get to sit in the glow of that light is a gift to anyone lucky enough to experience it. Offstage, my favorite quality is her grace. No matter the situation she is kind and respectful, patient and generous with everyone she encounters both professionally and personally. Even in conflict she asserts herself with masterful grace! I don't know HOW she does it. She truly is a wonder.
Onstage I love that Jeremy is down for ANYTHING! He is playful and fearless and brave and fun and super present and doesn't take himself too seriously. Every day is a new adventure with him and I love that. Offstage my favorite quality is what a caretaker he is. He checks in on me, talks me down, talks me up, comforts me, reassures me... he always seems to see straight through me to exactly what I need and then shows up to give it. Generously. Everyone should be so lucky to have co-star and a friend like him.
5a. Katharine: What would you say is the biggest difference between playing Jenna in Waitress and playing Elphaba in Wicked?
Shoshana: The biggest difference is the challenges they each present. The challenge of Elphie was the stamina. The sheer amount of energy it took to sing her, play her, physically track her... it was hard work. So I worked hard. I sang hard and high, I ran around that raked stage and under that raked stage and did quick changes and wore the heavy dress and the make-up and carried the book and the broom and flew and did the hard work offstage that it took to be able to show up and do the hard work onstage 8 times a week like ALL the Elphies do. But with Jenna, on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, the challenge has been adjusting to working LESS hard and trusting myself to show up in the simplicity and stillness she requires. It was really uncomfortable and felt counterintuitive at first. If I'm not doing a million things and singing my highest notes and riffing my riffiest riffs and leading with strength... is it going to be enough? Me showing up to Jenna requires me to expose my most vulnerable, gentle, fragile self and I struggled with wondering if she was going to be enough.
5b. Katharine: If you could switch roles for a day with any other celebrity, would you do it? who would it be and what would you do?
Shoshana: Switch roles like switch lives? Oh I'd wanna be J-Lo for a day, no question. And I'm sure no explanation necessary!
Check out Shoshana Bean's questions for Katharine McPhee on our London Theatre Guide sister site here!
Waitress Tickets are available now.
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