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The Seth Concert Series – Jessie Mueller | Review

Jessie Mueller
Jessie Mueller

Some people in the online audience may have found the pauses and silences before Jessie Mueller answered a question rather awkward, or even a little trying. I loved it – after seeing so many interviewees in The Seth Concert Series articulate themselves with verbosity, seeing someone instead taking the time to consider what one wants to say came across as refreshing. There’s a cool poise about Mueller: where some guests might have reacted with “OMG” or “You can’t ask me that!” or “Are you serious?” to a curveball from musical director and interviewer Seth Rudetsky, she took it all in her stride, and if she didn’t know the answer to something, she simply said so.

It’s easy to see why she won the 2014 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance in the title role in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical – and it was interesting to discover how she pulled off playing the piano on stage eight times a week. It was, she says, “like learning choreography”. All but two of the song choices in this concert were from stage musicals – the exceptions were ‘What The World Needs Now Is Love’, written by Hal David and composed by Burt Bacharach (and recorded over the years by a diverse range of singers, from Cilla Black to Luther Vandross) and ‘Rainbow Connection’ from The Muppet Movie. I didn’t even have to look that one up, with Mueller singing half a verse in the voice of Kermit the Frog.

As Mueller had appeared previously in this concert series, many of Rudetsky’s questions were contributed by the audience. What, for instance, was her favourite role prior to her Broadway debut in On A Clear Day You Can See Forever in 2011? She was in quite a few productions before then, so picking one is impossible (fair enough). What genre in musical theatre is she most comfortable with? Well, it depends on what she’s doing – if she’s been belting eight times a week in a role that demands that kind of singing, then she’ll be at home with that.

There were, I hasten to add, some definitive answers. Asked whether she has any passions outside performing arts, Mueller gave a rather lengthy response about her appreciation for ‘visual arts’, particularly Baroque paintings. On the subject of coping in a global pandemic, she had come to a greater appreciation of how ‘privileged’ she really is, a point Rudetsky agreed on wholeheartedly, sympathising with those who work day jobs and have childcare responsibilities, as opposed to those who don’t and (ordinarily) work two and a half hours an evening, with what our American friends call an intermission.

Quite why the subject of Christmas was so prevalent wasn’t fully explained, though I have seen social media posts saying that this would usually have been around the time of year when pantomime rehearsals start in the UK. Presumably, this would also be the case for other seasonal shows, so perhaps most people in the entertainment industry are used to thinking of the festive season in early November. The concert even closed with ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’, which after the super-emotional ‘She Used To Be Mine’ from Waitress and the majestic ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel ended proceedings on a high note.

Versatility was the name of the game here with songs ranging from ‘On The Steps of The Palace’ from Stephen Sondheim’s Into The Woods to ‘Adelaide’s Lament’ from Guys and Dolls. An enlightening and entertaining evening.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Jessie Mueller most recently appeared on Broadway and at Steppenwolf in Tracy Lett’s new play The Minutes alongside the playwright, Armie Hammer and Blair Brown. She received a Tony nomination and Drama Desk Award for her performance as Julie Jordan in the recent revival of Carousel opposite Joshua Henry and Renee Fleming. Prior to that, she originated the role of Jenna Hunterson in composer-lyricist Sara Bareilles’ hit Broadway musical Waitress for which she was nominated for a Tony, Drama Desk and Grammy award. She earned all three awards for her starring role as Carole King in Beautiful-The Carole King Musical. She recently starred as Marian in The Music Man with Norm Lewis and Rosie O’Donnell at The Kennedy Center. Other major Broadway credits include Nice Work If You Can Get It, The Mystery Of Edwin Drood (Drama Desk nomination), and her Broadway debut as Melinda in On A Clear Day You Can See Forever opposite Harry Connick, Jr. (Tony and Drama Desk nominations). She portrayed Carrie Pipperidge in the New York Philharmonic’s staged concert production of Carousel at Lincoln Center, and was a part of Carnegie Hall’s family concert series, Take the Stage with Broadway Stars. Mueller began her career in Chicago and was named Actor of the Year in 2011 by The Chicago Tribune. Four years later she received Chicago’s prestigious Sarah Siddons Society Award. Recently she collaborated on Broadway for Orlando’s “What the World Needs Now” benefiting our brothers and sisters in Orlando.

Mark Cortale Presents

Sunday, November 1st at 8PM EST
Monday, November 2nd at 3PM EST

Sunday, November 8th at 8PM EST
Monday, November 9th at 3PM EST

Sunday, November 15th at 8PM EST
Monday, November 16th at 3PM EST

Sunday, November 22nd at 8PM EST
Monday, November 23rd at 3PM EST

Sunday, November 29th at 8PM EST
Monday, November 30th at 3PM EST
All tickets available at thesethconcertseries.com


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