Broadway and TV Star Laura Benanti Closes KU Presents! Season April 19
By Susan L. Peña
KUTZTOWN, Pa. – Broadway fans may remember her in the role of Louise in the 2008 production of “Gypsy” with Patti LuPone, which won her a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress. TV fans of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” may remember her hilarious portrayals of Melania Trump from 2016 to 2021. Laura Benanti, also a film actor and recording artist, seems to be everywhere, all at once.
Benanti will perform her solo show 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 19, Schaeffer Auditorium, Kutztown University, as this season’s final production by KU Presents! She will sing Broadway songs, jazz-influenced torch songs and other favorites, including her own brand of comedy along the way.
Benanti started her theatrical journey with roles in high school and community theater musicals in Kinnelon, N.J. She landed her first Broadway gig at 18, in 1998, through a recommendation by Robert Johanson, then-director of the famous Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, N.J., after she won the playhouse’s Rising Star Award for her performance in the title role of her high school production of “Hello Dolly.”
The Broadway gig, in which she played a nun and understudied Rebecca Luker in the lead role of Maria in “The Sound of Music”; included Benanti taking over the role when Luker left, opposite Richard Chamberlain as Captain Von Trapp.
10 more Broadway shows followed (and five Tony nominations), including Cinderella in “Into the Woods” (2002), Claudia in “Nine” (2003), “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” (2010), “She Loves Me” (2016) and 2018 production of “My Fair Lady” (replacing Lauren Ambrose). She also played Elsa Schrader in the 2013 NBC production of “The Sound of Music Live!”
Benanti has been seen in numerous recurring roles and appearances on TV, notably in HBO Max’s “Gossip Girl” reboot. She will have a recurring role in HBO Max’s second season of “The Gilded Age,” beginning later this year. She created, executive-produced and starred as herself in the documentary “Homeschool Musical: Class of 2020,” also on HBO Max.
Her film work has included the Netflix film “Worth” in 2021, and she was featured in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 2021 film “Tick, Tick . . . Boom!” She will star in the Sony film comedy “No Hard Feelings” with Jennifer Lawrence, and in the Netflix film, “The Shade.”
Benanti can be heard on the albums “In Constant Search of the Right Kind of Attention,” based on her solo show, and in her 2020 eponymous solo album on Sony Music Masterworks.
Her courage and work ethic were in the news lately when she revealed that on April 3, she performed while in the midst of a tragic miscarriage on a Broadway-themed cruise ship. Benanti and her husband, Patrick Brown, have received condolences and well wishes from her fans all over the country.
For complete information on Benanti’s concert, and to purchase tickets, visit https://www.kutztown.edu/about-ku/administrative-offices/ku-presents.html.