3 issues | | Santa Fe Reporter


Multifaceted performer Ana Gasteyer is probably tired of explaining to yahoos like us how she’s a jazz and theater singer in addition to being a legendary alumnus of Saturday Night Live, but the lady killed him on Broadway and elsewhere, so you’re going to have to believe him. Never heard of Elphaba in Bad? Yeah, she did that. Gasteyer even has a few albums under her belt, and once she came to Santa Fe to perform alongside fellow musician/actor/Sirius XM DJ Seth Rudetsky for Broadway Confidential (7 p.m. Tuesday, May 10. $49 to $89. Lensic Performing Arts Center, 211 W San Francisco St., (505) 988-1234), we will all know the truth. Still, we wanted to know more, so we managed to convince Gasteyer to call us.

How did you come to theatre-style singing and how did comedy eventually beat a Broadway-style life, at least in the beginning?

Singing in general was the first thing I did well, the thing I thought I was supposed to do when I grew up. My parents were passionate about classical music and musical theater was part of that in my household. I grew up listening to jazz records…lots of female jazz singers on the radio, on the record player. I went to Northwestern as a vocal major, a traditional classical vocal major. I did a year of music school and I said to myself: ‘I don’t want to do this, I’m not a traditional singer.’ I found the improv folks — because Chicago is the birthplace of improv — graduated in musicals; moved to Los Angeles and did the Groundlings [improv troupe], but I have always sung as a musical tool; I always wanted to be in a band, but I don’t think I could have articulated that at the time.

When I came to New York to do SNL, because of being in New York, I went to the theater all the time. I love theater, and casting directors would sniff, “That’s a funny girl, we saw her on TV,” and they’d call me for stuff. And I fell in love again. After SNL, which is wild and crazy, the idea of ​​doing something as disciplined as acting really appealed to me.

We can only assume you’ve become very comfortable performing live by now, but acting and singing can be such different beasts. Does one practice inform the other, and do you find yourself leaning more towards one or the other?

You kinda answered the question in the question. Musicians and comedians have so much in common. Classical music can be so rigorous and disciplined that people can lose their spontaneity, but certainly for me, [music and comedy are] extremely married. This particular show is my favorite show because Seth is an exceptional musician, and he’s also exceptionally funny, and he’s very collaborative and very fun. Every time he asks, I just say yes. He makes me tell stories that I shouldn’t tell in public.

It’s such a night of storytelling. It’s very collaborative, it’s very relaxed and engaged, like his radio show. Seth was a writer for the Rosie O’Donnell Show in the 90s. We met at the NBC gym because we worked on the same floor. There was an immediate familiarity. We became friends almost instantly, and he stood up for me when I left. SNL considerably. He helped me navigate the Broadway community. He is a deeply generous soul.

I read an interview in which you jokingly said that your brand could be confusing to people, and I confess that I only knew you as comic before. Is there a part of you that likes to surprise people with your singing chops?

Of course, yes, and I would like to continue to surprise them in different ways. In some ways, in this particular situation where people come in knowing that I sing because I’ve been doing it for so long – I’ve released two records, I’ve done five Broadway shows, including three musicals – it’s great when people find out, but it would be great when people know in advance. I think it’s one of the great aspects of the career path I’ve chosen, but I don’t make decisions about it that have to be drastically different every time. I understand that, because the television medium is so much bigger than the theater medium. I’ve been on a high-profile TV show for years, but I don’t think it’s that unusual the more I get to know the artists. Tina Fey wrote a Broadway show. There are things people do that surprise you. Steve Martin is a banjo player. I just saw Sean Hayes in Good night Oscar, and he’s so triumphant playing “Rhapsody in Blue”. I joked to him, ‘How did you fake it?’ And he said, ‘You’d be shocked how many people don’t know I play the piano.’

I feel lucky to have taken the time to refine it. You are a better singer when you do more. Broadway, in many ways, is what brought me up to speed. Eight shows a week is just an impossible muscle standard. You end well.

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