Tony Award winner Jayne Houdyshell has become a Broadway staple. From her Tony-nominated turns in Follies and A Doll’s House, Part 2 to her beloved performance in The Humans for which she won the Tony Award, she has continued to be a star of the Great Bright Way.
On top of returning to her scene-stealing role in the latest season of Only Murders in the Building, she is back on Broadway, starring as Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn in the revival of The Music Man, playing at the Winter Garden Theatre. At this year’s ceremony, her hilarious performance in the much-buzzed-about revival nabbed her a fifth Tony Award nomination.
Houdyshell took some time to “talk-a-little” and answer 5 questions with Broadway Direct, telling us how her father inspired her to perform, why Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster are true leaders, and the park she finds comfort and beauty in.
1. What inspired you to become an actress?
Initially, it was my father. He had aspirations to be a performer as a young man, but those dreams were never realized for him. As a young man he tried for a short time to break into vaudeville in Kansas City, but that was just as the stock market crashed, and vaudeville very quickly died on the vine. But when I was a child my Dad loved to sing and play his ukulele, and also was a member of a Barbershop Chorus in Topeka, Kansas, where I grew up. He had a sweet voice. He also was an amateur magician and belonged to a magic club and loved to do sleight of hand tricks for me as a child. He always talked nostalgically about wanting a show business career. His dream deferred became my own fantasy for myself I think.
2. Who in your field inspires you?
So many people over the past 50 years have been inspirations. But ever since I started out in the business, when beginning a new project, I always looked for the person in the room who had the most experience in the business. I watched how they worked and what their process was. I have always tried to be mindful and learn from those who have gone before me, and hopefully pick up a thing or two from observing their skills. I apply that to actors, directors, designers, and writers. There are always people who know more than I do.
3. What will audiences be most excited about seeing in The Music Man?
Well, I admire all those in The Music Man company. The production is abundant with singers, dancers, and actors who have very deep skill sets, but our true leaders are our stars, Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster…. They are professionals of the highest order and NEVER disappoint audiences. They bring sharp professionalism, and true blue charm to all they do on stage. Their hard work and rich talent adds up to a kind of experience for the audience that is smart, witty, and magical. We as a company are inspired by them nightly, and so are our audiences.
4. If you didn’t need to sleep at night, what would you spend your time doing?
Reading books, and watching documentaries. I never had a true college education, so I live hungry for learning more about more.
5. What is your favorite NYC spot?
I have an affinity for Fort Tryon Park and the Cloisters Museum in Upper Manhattan. I lived in that area for 27 years before moving down to my current neighborhood in Harlem. I always find the peace and beauty in that park comforting.
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