k.d. lang reflects on her Broadway debut in 'After Midnight'
Singing classics like “Stormy Weather” and “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” the show is a callback to lang’s jazz roots — and it’s an opportunity she’s relished as she prepares to end her Broadway debut. (lang will perform through Sunday, March 9, and the show will then welcome Toni Braxton and Babyface.) Before she packs up for good, lang chatted with EW about the lessons learned during her stint on Broadway.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When you’re on the Broadway stage, what are the biggest differences you’ve noticed from your other shows?
k.d. lang: Certainly the energy of the cast and the high intensity of the show rubs off, and that’s a wonderful thing. I love the energy of the dancers and certainly the energy of the big band. That’s pretty new for me.
Did you find that you had to tap into some of your other skill sets?
Singing those four songs is pretty natural for me, but there are some vast differences from being a musician to being a singer on Broadway, and one of them is you don’t have a microphone in your hand. Which is a big deal because I use that as a part of my instrument. The proximity of the mic to your face, or of your voice to the mic — and here it’s just stuck on top of your head. Also, not having monitors is a big deal. It’s kind of new for me not to be able to hear myself on stage. But other than that, it’s just been an incredible experience for me. I wouldn’t say I’m going to give up my night job for Broadway, but I’ve really, really enjoyed it.
How has the Broadway experience surprised you?
I’m not really big on the matinee shows, although I like them because everyone feels a little looser, doesn’t feel so intense, you can take some chances and try out some things you’ve been wanting to try. It’s quite stressful on the dancers and on the singers. It’s a lot of work. But then when you think of the weekly overhead of putting on a Broadway show, it’s a give and take.
When you joined, how did the original members of the cast embrace you?
They were extremely welcoming. They really let me set the tone for my first week. I kept my head down and tried to stay focused. I tried to have fun but I also tried to just figure out how to integrate myself into it. And then into the second week we started having fun and playing practical jokes and laughing. We all just feed off each other’s performances, so we try to do our best to make the next one better.
Are you a better dancer now?
[laughs] I’m going to say, absolutely.
Did you approach this as playing a character, or did you feel very much yourself?
I created a subtext early on in November when I saw the show, because I was having a hard time seeing myself integrated into the show. I created a subtext that I was sort of a total misfit of society and somehow knew somebody in the band, or maybe straddled the world between the patrons — which were pretty much the mafia — and the band. Somehow I got in there and was able to sing and I was embraced by the entertainers because I was a misfit.
Did you have any connection to any of the songs you sing?
The one I was most excited for was “Zaz Zuh Zaz,” which is one of the most rewarding of the evening. Bu they’re just such great songs that singing them every night, I learn and experience them in a new way every single night. That happens with classic songwriting.
Do you feel like you’ve reconnected to jazz through the show?
Jazz is always on my mind. Jazz has been on my mind since I was a kid, but I struggled with the whole concept of singing the American jazz standards other than with Tony [Bennett] because so many people have done it, and I really worship them so much. But I feel… with Tony, I have a reason because he kind of helped create the American songbook, and so I have a right to be doing that with him if he asks me. But I don’t know. I just feel like so many people have sung them that I don’t really feel it needs to be done anymore.
Until something like After Midnight comes around.
What’s your advice to Toni Braxton and Babyface, the next guest stars coming into the show?
Have fun! Be yourself and really soak up the moment you have, because with the Lincoln Center Band there, you can imagine what the expense of having those musicians there every night is. And just remember the purity and intention of those musicians and the cast in reliving such an important part of American history. I would just say be present and soak it up.
After Midnight is currently running at Broadway’s Brooks Atkinson Theatre.