As part of the Broadway @ NOCCA series, stage and screen star Jane Krakowski performs Monday, Oct. 7 with Seth Rudetsky, who turns the show into what Krakowski calls a "Broadway series of Inside the Actor's Studio."
The four-time Emmy Award-nominated star of 30 Rock — where she played dim late-night diva Jenna Maroney — also earned a Tony Award for her 2003 performance in the musical Nine, in which her descent to the stage wrapped in nothing but a sheet accompanied the song "A Call from the Vatican." Krakowski shows off her multitude of musical chops on her 2010 album The Laziest Gal in Town.
In her interview with Gambit for our 2013 fall arts and entertainment guide, Krakowski talks about New Orleans (where she filmed the 2009 flick Cirque du Freak), growing up on stage, and what's next after 30 Rock.
Will this be your first time performing on stage in New Orleans?
I was there for maybe two months (filming Cirque du Freak). That was my first time being in New Orleans and I loved it. New Orleans is to be celebrated. We all had the best time while we were there, everyone a part of the movie. Many people who were part of the movie ended up staying and buying houses and apartments. There was a great love affair, the entire case and crew and New Orleans. We had so many amazing nights going out and listening to music.
There’s so much to celebrate in New Orleans. What I love about New Orleans, I’ve gotta say, in America, I find you know you’re there when you’re there. You come to New Orleans and you know you’re some place different, and that’s very rare these days. I love it.
You and Seth first met performing together on Funny Girl—
Oh yeah! That’s right. That is where we first met. I guess I had forgotten.
There’s your reminder.
(laughs) I’ve seen him many, many times before, but when you know somebody for so long you don’t remember particularly where you first met.
So this will be a kind of reunion for you?
A bit. We haven’t done one of these sorts of shows together since 2002 — where we sort of do our little talking and singing and storytelling. Seth is a vibrant and celebrated musical performer, and he knows so much about musical theater. I’ve always been very impressed by his knowledge of that world. He’s also just a hilarious guy to be around. I find the kind of concert we’re doing this time around with Seth is sort of a very impulsive and impromptu sort of show. You never know what Seth’s going to bring out in the night. He runs the song list and the way it goes. I’ve been touring around the states doing my own personal show with my whole band and a different musical director. Seth is his own thing. you ride with Seth. It’s a fun evening. You tend to get stories people didn’t intend to tell. Insider stories. Last minute changes of songs. More of a freestyle evening. It can be super fun and a little less pre-planned as most shows are.
Is there a song list in the works, or will that be sprung on you as a surprise?
I think he knows the songs I tend to sing from my own show and CD, then the songs, because it’s a Broadway series, some musical theater and Broadway shows. I think it’ll be a combination of those two. I think we’re just going to have lots of music and see where the conversation takes us and goes from there. It’ll be some songs I think are, I don’t know, what some people might be looking forward to. (laughs) we’ll have a conversation or two prior to be "prepared" for the evening. I think part of the fun thing about Seth, when you work with Seth you have to come in with the set list then expect anything happen.
Let him take it from there.
It’s fun! It’s like a Broadway series of Inside the Actor's Studio. He asks questions and get a sort of an insider's storytelling view of the experience, how you got the job — it becomes a hybrid of an interview-concert.
So I guess it being a more casual show, you won’t be doing any inspired theatrics, like the “A Call from the Vatican” performance.
We may sing “A Call from the Vatican” but I don’t think I’ll be bringing the sheet I came in from the ceiling with me. (laughs) Could you imagine if Seth made me use the entire apparatus? That would be hilarious. That was such a special experience in my career. It’s funny, the visual of it and the physicality of it were such a large part of that song, so to take it out, people won’t really be getting the impression of what it was like in the Broadway show. But it’s a Broadway show — people want to hear it, even though they’re not getting the acrobatic thing.
When did you know you wanted to sing professionally?
From the earliest I can remember I’ve always wanted to do this. I was inspired by my parents being involved in local community theater as a child. Instead of getting a babysitter my parents just used to take me with them when they were rehearsing or putting on a show, so I spent a lot of time as a young person being backstage with them, seeing how it all worked. It’s where I saw my parents having fun, so I think that had a great influence for me to do this. Also I think being in close proximity to Manhattan and to Broadway from New Jersey, I would come in and see every Broadway show. We’d wait on line and get tickets, or pay the cheapest tickets you could get, or standing room only for $9 which now I don’t even think exists anymore. You could see every show even on a budget. Those shows I saw in my younger years, my early years, I remember them so clearly. They had such an influence on me.
From seeing Chita Rivera in Chicago — I remember so clearly being on the third aisle, and Chita, at the end when she throws a rose, she threw a rose to me. skip ahead I don’t know how many years later, I’m working with her on a Broadway show in Nine. It’s one of those moments that’s like, "How did this all happen?" Those performances were so influential, and so ingrained in my musical theater memory box. The performances those women gave had great influence on many of the performances I gave as well. Thank goodness for Bob Fosse. In movies and musicals, they didn’t have to be ingénues. They had sassy, sexy strong, women. Characters. He changed that around from the traditional ingénue-y leads. That has always had a great influence on me.
30 Rock just came to a close. What was it like to close out that run?
It was the best job I think I’ve had. I’ve had seven amazing years with all those people. I miss it very much, especially the people. The incredibly funny, smart people I worked with day in and day out. I loved playing Jenna. She was outrageous and hilarious to me at all times, and I loved that. What was really special to me, was I got to do the last "30 Rock song" — I never expected that, nor for it to close the episode. That was really touching to me. I loved that side of Jenna, and how much they’ve used that in a comedic way through the series. Getting to end the series saying "These were the best days of my flurm" sort of sums it all up. (laughs)
It’s so touching and so, so funny.
And not understandable at all. (laughs)
The character was written perfectly, and is so over-the-top. Was Jenna written for you to just jump into?
Any person who plays any character brings so much of themselves into the role. Especially when you’re doing a show day in and day out for so many years, and especially on 30 Rock. There were blurred lines, say with something that had happened to Tracy Morgan in real life would sometimes bleed into Tracy Jordan on the TV show. There were moments were we even sent ourselves up a bit. The show was always written impeccably and thorough and hilarious. I think everyone brings their sense of how they’d fill it out as a performer.
What have been your plans since 30 Rock ending?
I’m hoping to do something on Broadway sooner rather than later. I love the theater and I live in New York City. My family’s here in the city. I’d like to stay here. I’m trying to find the right musical. Nine was the last one I was there with. I’d like to come back and find something really special. I’m in the process of hopefully finding that. I think Broadway will be — if we can get the timing, it’s definitely on my mind — it’s the next thing. I absolutely loved being a part of television, and it’s a great place to work these days. The speed, the talent working there now, writers and producers. TV has really changed the last 10 years. It’s gotten really good and high caliber. I love being a part of it and I’d love to find something and be on your television again some time.