Tony Award nominee Kate Baldwin returns to the New York stage this spring bringing her gorgeous, rich voice to the role of Irene Molloy in the highly anticipated revival of Hello, Dolly!; but before sharing the Shubert with Bette, Baldwin is back at Feinstein's/54 Below with her new show of pop music, Extraordinary Machine, which candidly and comically deconstructs the façade of being a Broadway star. The Big Fish, Finian's Rainbow and The King and I star plays the intimate club October 25 through 29, with special guest Matt Doyle (her son in the Dallas production of Giant).
BroadwayBox caught up with Baldwin to talk about the show, the voices she loves to hear, and her Hello, Dolly! audition.
1. Jumping off the “deconstructing the façade of being a Broadway star”, what’s one B’way leading lady myth you want to debunk right now?
The leading ladies I know are incredibly hands on and do it all themselves. They don’t have people to help them with things. The leading lady gets to the theatre and says, “This is my playtime where someone else can help me.” Because throughout the day you’re scheduling band rehearsal, hiring musicians, you are taking care of a child, you are burning yourself on the oven because you’re making dinner—you’re doing it all yourself. I was talking to someone today who is hiring someone to wrap her Christmas presents for her, and I was like, “I would never think to do that. I want to do all of that myself.”
2. Whose voice did you idolize growing up?
I loved Liz Callaway, and I still do. We are both from the Midwest. I listened to Marin Mazzie a lot. She has those low tones and richness that I adore. I’d love to do Ragtime someday; I haven’t but there’s still time…I hope there’s time. And I listened endlessly to Patti LuPone and Bernadette Peters but I can’t imitate their sounds so I stopped trying to fit myself in those molds, but I love those ladies in terms of style and personality.
3. What album are you wearing out on your iTunes right now?
Great Big World. My favorite thing to listen to is skinny white boys singing pop music really high, so if you don’t know Great Big World you should. I love Vampire Weekend too. If I could have figured out a way to put those songs in my show I would have.
4. What’s your favorite Kate Baldwin on a cast recording track? Are you able to listen to yourself?
I can’t. I don’t listen to myself. What I will say is I am immensely proud of John & Jen. We knocked that out in seven hours and it sounds great. I remember singing and Andrew Lippa conducting—I think it was “Just Like You”—and he turned around and he smiled, and he was crying. I thought “Oh, this is a moment.” It really was moving.
5. I’m beyond excited for your Irene Molloy. What was the Hello, Dolly! audition like?
I went in and saw my friends who were auditioning—when you get to be this age you walk in and you see all your friends there. I soon realized they were all dressed for the audition and I was wearing the wrong dress—I meant to pick the green one, instead I picked the blue one and it had a big slit up the side and it was wrong. I was like, “Oh crap. I already screwed this up.” I walked in the door and Bernie Telsey said “Oh, don’t you look beautiful?” And I said “I know. I know it’s the wrong dress. I’m sorry. I didn’t get it right.” Now Jerry Zaks was in the corner and he said, “Are you going to apologize about the dress or are you going to do the scenes?”
I’ve played that role twice before and I feel very comfortable with it. I did the scene into the song, and they had me wait outside. Then they had me come back in and do another scene and another song. I remember the look on Bernie’s face when I was singing and Jerry Zaks was laughing and I thought, “That went well. I think I’ll get a callback.” So I got on the train to get back home to Brooklyn, got the dry cleaning, and met my husband on the corner (we were going to pick up our son from preschool), and my phone rang. My agent said, “Do you want to do Hello, Dolly! on Broadway?” And I screamed on the corner. People thought I was being assaulted. My husband had to say, “She’s fine. Everything’s alright.” I love that show and I love that role and I’m excited to do it.
6. Irene sings about wearing ribbons down her back this summer. What was the outfit you wore out this summer?
I had this off-the-shoulder lace, sort of blush-colored blouse. You wear it with white jeans and a heel. Perfect.
7. What’s been the biggest "show must go on" moment in your career?
It was Songbird last fall. There was a glass door upstage, and it was the only entrance in and out of the bar. It was a beautiful, vintage, antique found door that our amazing set designer Jason put up there, and it looked so cool. So about three weeks in, that door decided to give it up. The doorknob stopped working and so you really had to get into it. I really twisted the door knob and laid my shoulder—like a linebacker does—into the glass door and the glass shattered. I looked at my friend Erin Dilly, who was onstage with me, and she said, “Are you ok?” And I was like, “Yup, let’s keep going.” I stepped over the glass and then the next person in the scene came out with a dustpan. It was a scary moment of, “Who’s bleeding? Is anyone bleeding? Are you ok? Good. Step over the glass and go.”
Don't miss Kate Baldwin in Extraordinary Machine at Fienstein's/54 Below October 25-29, and get your tickets to see her in Dolly! beginning March 15.