For Laura Benanti, Manhattan's 54 Below was an especially fitting venue for the concert she recorded for posterity last May. Before moving with her family to Kinnelon, the Tony Award-winning actress spent the first few years of her life in an apartment on West 54th Street -- just a few blocks from that Manhattan nightclub and restaurant, located downstairs from what had once been the renowned Studio 54.
And so, "On the Street Where I Lived" -- a reworking of the Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner song from "My Fair Lady" -- is one of the first tunes Benanti sang last May at 54 Below, a show that was recorded live for her new album, "In Constant Search of the Right Kind of Attention."
"My music director, Todd Almond, and I, we just wanted an eclectic mix of songs," says Benanti, whose comic skills are also showcased during the patter between songs on the album.
Her lineup includes three new selections that Almond wrote for an upcoming musical, as well as two of Benanti's own compositions (including "The Ukulele Song," on which she accompanies herself on that instrument); a little-known Harry Chapin song, "Mr. Tanner," about a performer's soul-crushing review; and a couple of Benanti's most celebrated Broadway numbers -- the haunting "Unusual Way" from "Nine" and the zany "Model Behavior" from her Tony-nominated turn in "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown." There are also new versions of contemporary hits, and personal anecdotes and revealing stories about Benanti's life. There's even a moment when Patti LuPone, who played Mama Rose to Benanti's Louise in "Gypsy," takes the microphone and says, "Please turn off your cellphones and any electrical devices -- now."
Of that humorous reference to a well-publicized 2009 incident during a performance of "Gypsy," when LuPone stopped an audience member who was taking pictures of her, Benanti says, "I have wonderfully supportive friends, who are remarkable."
"In Constant Search of the Right Kind of Attention," released by Broadway Records, is available on iTunes, Amazon and in stores.
-- Virginia Rohan
A service of YellowBrix, Inc.
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