Idol Worship: Les Miz Standout Keala Settle Reveals Her Three Muses For Madame Thenardier
April 8th, 2014
by Josh Ferri
Tony nominee Keala Settle is doing what she does best—stealing the show with humor, heart and killer pipes.
It’s hard to take your eyes off Settle (for fear of missing some genius new comic bit) as she breathes new life into Les Miserables’ jocular villain Madame Thenardier. Below, Settle shares with BroadwayBox the two iconic comedians and the person from her own life that inspire her engrossing performance.
The first inspiration that I draw from in any situation that's comical is Carol Burnett. She’s just incredible. I grew up watching The Carol Burnett show, and I would just imitate her. She has every nuance of every day living; she sees every spectrum of a moment in life and literally takes it to the next level comically. She’s a comedic icon.
The second one was Rosalind Russell because of the grandeur of who she was. When she played each of her characters—like His Girl Friday or Auntie Mame—you see this woman who is regal, who makes her presence known; she acts like she has it together, but then she gives you moments when she goes off the charts, and that’s her punch line. I grew up with a lot of old movies, and I’ve been completely enthralled by that.
The third is my mother. Growing up my mother never hid her emotions from us, so we got all the good of it and all the bad of it—when she was having a rough day, we all had a rough day. So I took it the next level. Being a woman with five kids, an immigrant, raising a family with all of us at each other’s throats (and her throat) and trying to deal with that in her own brain and her own way. Me growing up and now, seeing that side of my mom and recognizing it for what it is, I pay massive homage to her in the show, especially in Madame T’s relationship with these kids. One thing Cameron [Mackintosh] drilled into us is the reality that these people are real people. This woman is driven nuts because she doesn't want to be in this position. No woman says I want to be dirt poor, married to another psycho and stealing people’s stuff to survive; but they make it work because they have to make it work.
Don’t miss Keala Settle in Les Miserables at the Imperial Theatre.