Ana Gasteyer is a cherished “Saturday Night Live” alum, Broadway actress, comedienne and outstanding singer. In support of her album of jazz standards, entitled “I’m Hip,” the talented Gasteyer will be stopping at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts 8 p.m. Saturday, March 26 with her cabaret-inspired show. You can buy tickets here. Scottsdale.com got the chance to catch up with Ana Gasteyer prior to her performance in the Valley.
The album of jazz standards includes some of Gasteyer’s favorites. “It’s a genre that I love and I live in, a lot, and its music I listen to,” Gasteyer says. “I’m a multi-hyphenate, which confuses people. I do comedy, I sing, I’ve been on Broadway and that area kind of leaves me a lot more freedom, in terms of a live act. I think I’m drawn to it because there is the acting component in storytelling in a lot of those songs in the Great American Songbook.”
She continues, “I absolutely am not a very serious performer. The idea of me standing with a piano in a gown makes me so depressed, I can’t stand it. I need a band. I need a horn player and I need to travel with a group and connect with them onstage. It’s just sassier and brassier. The idea of doing a live show is very intimate, but it should also be a good time.”
Gasteyer explains, “I was really inspired by the entertainer’s era – performers that I aspire to – the Betty Huttons and Bette Midlers… The era where a gal could stand in front of a band in a pretty dress and almost host a party of her own, you know? That’s sort of what I was hearkening back to.”
In addition to singing on “I’m Hip,” The former vocal-turned-musical-theatre major also produced the album and chose the songs. “There are songs I had been performing live as the act developed. They definitely had to have a theme of joyful, ridiculous jazz to them, you know? A happy feeling to them – nothing overly serious, nothing overly earnest,” states Gasteyer. “They also have to be good songs and I think there are novelty songs on the record – which is what they would be called – ‘silly songs from days of yore.’ It used to be a common thing in the era of when you would go out to a supper club and you would see an evening of performance, it would be expected that you would have quite a few good laughs in addition to hearing good music.” In developing “I’m Hip,” Gasteyer worked closely with her own producer, Julian Fleisher, whom she has known personally and professionally for years. He could be counted on for his musical insight as well as a few good laughs along the way. “I didn’t want to do a comedy album, per se, as much as I wanted to live more in the music,” adds Gasteyer.
One sweet little, swinging ditty on “I’m Hip” is her jazzy rendition of Carrie Underwood’s smash country crossover single “Before He Cheats.” Gasteyer is not sure if Underwood has ever heard her unique take on this song, but was drawn to the storytelling component of the song itself. “It’s interesting; I’ve talked a lot about this to Julian,” states the singer and actress. “A lot of these songs from the tradition of the Great American Songbook are lyrically driven and they’re fun and they’re emotional. When we were looking and thinking about contemporary songs to interpret, a lot of country music does that still. It’s sort of the last place you can find just good, lyrical songwriting. Julian did that song in karaoke and he said, ‘We should do ‘Before He Cheats;’ you should think about that song.’ I was like, ‘That’s a great idea!’ It’s about something really emotional and funny and empowered. It’s a story. It’s something that the actor in me is very attracted to.” Other songs on “I’m Hip” include the hilarious, “One Mint Julep,” “A Proper Cup of Coffee,” “Cheek to Cheek” and “(Theme From) Valley of the Dolls.”
‘An Evening with Ana Gasteyer’ will indeed encompass more than singing. “It’s me. I would never be boring,” Gasteyer laughs. “I don’t do characters or anything like that. This is really a great, personal evening with a comedic performer who just happens to sing. It’s a musical night with a person who is funny, hopefully. I always have a good time and I always promise a certain amount of jollity to the evening. My preferred room is a nightclub where everyone has a fat cocktail in their hand and they’re out for a good time!” “I’m Hip” is available on iTunes and on Amazon.com.
Recently, Gasteyer played Principal McGee in “Grease Live!” - a role made iconic in the 1978 film “Grease” by legendary actress Eve Arden. The SNL alum channeled Arden with perfection, yet gave the role her own unique bit of quirk. “It was really fun and terrifying and thrilling,” Gasteyer explains. “It’s always a little daunting avoiding a direct impression of an iconic performance. But, you also want to honor that performance. I think people have a desire to see something they find familiar. I luckily had really good jokes written for me and I just committed and had a great time.”
“Again, nobody takes it too seriously, so it’s not like you’re trying to recreate Patty LuPone as ‘Evita’ or something. It’s a little more flexible. The live factor made it really, really thrilling and hair-raising.” Adding to the fear of the unknown was the fact that there was a torrential rainstorm as “Grease Live!” was being filmed. The reviews for the live show were stellar and the actress relished her role.
Not one to let grass grow under her feet, Gasteyer will also be busy with some new television projects. She says, “The next thing is the May 20 release of a series I had worked on called ‘Lady Dynamite’ that is on Netflix and after that, a series for TBS called ‘People of Earth.’ That will be shot in the summer and will come out in the fall.”
Gasteyer leaves the conversation by saying that she will be bringing out family and friends to her Scottsdale show, some of whom live in Tucson, and they are all looking forward to Easter weekend and getting some Arizona sun. “An Evening with Ana Gasteyer” will stop in the Valley at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts 8 p.m. Saturday, March 26 in the Virginia G. Piper Theater. For tickets, visit www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org or call (480) 499-8587. The venue is located at 7380 E. Second Street, Scottsdale.