Benanti at the 2012 Drama League Benefit Gala
July 15, 1979 |
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Height||5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)|
|Spouse(s)||Chris Barron (2005-2006)
Steven Pasquale (2007-2013)
Laura Benanti (born July 15, 1979) is an American actress of television, film and Broadway theatre, also known for her performance as Baroness Elsa Schräder in the 2013 NBC television production of The Sound of Music Live!.
Benanti was born in New York City, the daughter of Linda Wonneberger, a vocal coach and former actress, and Martin Vidnovic, a Broadway actor and singer. She is of Yugoslavian, German, Irish, and Native American heritage. When quite young, her parents divorced and she moved to Kinnelon, New Jersey, with her mother and her stepfather Salvatore Benanti, a psychotherapist, whose name she took and whom she has referred to as her father.
Benanti remembers being "very serious" and "a bit of an ugly duckling" as a child, and was intensely interested in musical theatre, which distanced her from other children. (In 2008, Benanti told The New York Times that she drew on this loneliness in her portrayal of the neglected Louise in Gypsy.) Though her parents refused to let Laura audition for professional theatre, Laura appeared in several high school and community productions, including Evita (as Peron's mistress), Follies (as Young Heidi), and Into the Woods (as Cinderella). At 16, Benanti played the title role in her high school production of Hello, Dolly! and won a Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award for Outstanding Actress in a high school production. She graduated from Kinnelon High School in 1997.
In 1998, Paper Mill's then-artistic director Robert Johanson recommended Benanti for the role of Liesl in a Broadway revival of The Sound of Music. Benanti auditioned for the show's producers and was considered too mature-looking to play Liesl, but, after several call-backs, was signed at the age of 18 to play one of the nuns and to understudy Rebecca Luker as Maria. Benanti played the role for two weeks during Luker's vacation, and, at 19, took over the role when Luker left the production. Playbill's Michael Buckley later wrote that Benanti "was an absolutely wonderful Maria[...]As do others, I believe that had she opened in the show, Benanti would have been an overnight sensation." When she was cast in The Sound of Music, Benanti had attended New York University for two weeks; the dean recommended she go on leave to take the job.
In 1999, Benanti appeared in the Broadway revue Swing!, for which she received a Tony nomination for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical. In 2000, she co-starred with Donna Murphy in the critically acclaimed City Center Encores! concert production of the Leonard Bernstein-Betty Comden-Adolph Green musical Wonderful Town.
In 2002, Benanti played Cinderella (a role she had played as a teenager) in the Broadway revival of Into the Woods, and received both a Tony nomination for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical and a Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical. During a mid-performance pratfall in Into the Woods, Benanti fractured her neck, herniating two discs directly onto her spinal cord and cutting off spinal fluid, a condition that sometimes leads to paralysis. The injury was misdiagnosed and Into the Woods producers asked Benanti not to mention her injury; when she began missing performances due to neck problems, rumors spread that Benanti was behaving unprofessionally, something that she calls "really hurtful." I had a serious injury and there was absolutely no way I could have done the show. I tried to. I tried to go back and do it but I physically couldn't." Benanti was eventually replaced in the show by Erin Dilly. Eight months after her initial injury, Benanti was rediagnosed and received surgery that could have damaged her voice but was successful, though as of 2005 she still experienced neck pain and myelopathy.
Three weeks after undergoing spinal surgery, Benanti started previews in March 2003 for the Broadway revival of Nine, in which she played Claudia, a movie star who inspires Guido, a director played by Antonio Banderas. She left the show in September 2003. From April 2006 to December 2006 she played Julia Sullivan in the Broadway musical The Wedding Singer.
In July 2007, Benanti played in a three-week limited run of the musical Gypsy in the Encores! production at the New York City Center as Louise, alongside Patti LuPone as Rose and Boyd Gaines as Herbie. In March 2008, the production transferred to Broadway, where it ran until January 2009 and received widespread critical acclaim. Benanti's performance as Louise was praised, with The New York Times's Ben Brantley declaring it "the performance of her career". She won several awards, including a Tony for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical, a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical, and an Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical.
Benanti appeared in The Public Theater's world premiere production of Christopher Durang's play Why Torture Is Wrong, And the People Who Love Them, from April 6, 2009 to April 26, 2009. She next appeared in the Lincoln Center Theater production of Sarah Ruhl's In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) beginning October 22, 2009, and opening November 19, 2009, at the Lyceum Theatre.
Benanti appeared in the new musical Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown which played on Broadway from October 8, 2010, until January 2, 2011. Benanti received a Tony Award nomination, and won the Drama Desk Award and Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance.
In June 2013, Benanti performed as the soprano soloist in the San Francisco premiere of Andrew Lippa's oratorio, I Am Harvey Milk. She played Goddess in The Public Theater's musical adaptation of The Tempest, which was presented at the Delacorte Theatre from September 6 through 8, 2013.
Benanti has also appeared in the World AIDS Day concerts of Pippin, Children of Eden and The Secret Garden. These concerts were co-founded by her best friend, Jamie McGonnigal and former Miss America Kate Shindle.
Television and film
In addition to stage roles, Benanti was a regular on the short-lived FX Networks sitcom Starved (2005), which received mixed reviews but which Benanti described as "a good experience. I got a lot of camera experience, which was something I just hadn't had." A year later, she appeared in two films: Take the Lead, in which she reunited with her Nine co-star Antonio Banderas as his love-sick assistant, and Falling for Grace, in which she played a princess. In 2008, Benanti had a recurring role on the ABC television series Eli Stone.
In 2011 she was cast in the NBC series The Playboy Club, which was canceled after 3 episodes. Benanti played the wife of Dr. Atticus Sherman on episode 11 of season two of The Big C, entitled "Fight Or Flight." In 2011 and 2012, Benanti had a recurring role on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as Detective Nick Amaro's wife. Benanti played the role of Lauren Bennett, a leader of a support group, on the NBC series, Go On. Go On was canceled in May 2013 after one season. She currently has a recurring role on the USA series, Royal Pains. Despite her forays into screen work, Benanti remains devoted to the stage, and has stated that "musicals are a great American art form. We've got apple pie, jazz and musical theater. I want to do this my whole life."
Laura appears on the original cast albums of each of her Broadway roles, as well as compilation albums of Stephen Schwartz and Maury Yeston. She also appears as a guest artist on the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington, D.C.'s live album, You've Got to Be Carefully Taught: The Songs of Hammerstein & Sondheim, taken from a performance at the Kennedy Center in June 2002. She can now be heard on the cast album of Gypsy, which was released in August 2008 from Time/Life Records, and on the new studio cast album of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Allegro, which was released by Sony Classics in February 2009. A songwriter and guitarist, Benanti has written songs privately since at least the early 2000s; in 2005, she said that she was working on a folk-rock solo CD, though "Musical theatre is my first love[...]I want to take my music and orchestrate it in a kind of old fashioned style, and take some standards and 'popularize' them—do a true crossover. I'm working on it."
- Solo Album
- In Constant Search of the Right Kind of Attention: Live at 54 BELOW
- List of Broadway Recordings
- The Sound of Music (1998 Broadway Revival Cast Recording)
- Swing! (1998 Original Broadway Cast Recording)
- Into the Woods (2002 Broadway Revival Cast Recording)
- Nine (2003 Broadway Revival Cast Recording)
- The Wedding Singer (2006 Original Broadway Cast Recording)
- Gypsy (2008 Broadway Revival Cast Recording)
- Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (2011 Original Broadway Cast Recording)
- Concert and Studio Recordings
- The Stephen Schwartz Album - 1999 Studio Recording
- The Maury Yeston Songbook - 2003 Studio Recording
- NEO (New, Emerging... Outstanding!) - 2003 Concert Recording
- You've Got To Be Carefully Taught: The Songs of Sondheim & Hammerstein - 2003 Gay Men's Chorus Of Washington D.C. Recording
- Hair - 2004 Concert Recording
- Wall to Wall Stephen Sondheim - 2006 Concert Recording
- Allegro - 2008 Studio Recording
- A Little Princess - 2010 Studio Recording
Benanti met Chris Barron, lead singer of the Spin Doctors, in the early 2000s. They married on July 25, 2005 but by the end of the year were going through a "terrible divorce." They were divorced in 2006.
At the 2005 World AIDS Day "dream cast" concert of The Secret Garden she met actor Steven Pasquale. In September 2007 they married. On July 8, 2013, they made the statement “After almost six years of marriage, Steven Pasquale and Laura Benanti are amicably filing for divorce. They remain loving and committed friends.”
Awards and nominations
- Rosati, Nancy. "Spotlight on Laura Benanti", Talkin' Broadway, 2000. Retrieved on 2008-06-29.
- Buckley, Michael. "STAGE TO SCREENS: Chatting with Stage and Screen Star Laura Benanti", Playbill, 2005-08-28. Retrieved on 2008-06-29.
- Singer, Barry. "THEATER; With a Song in Her Heart, Taking On the Stage (Again)", The New York Times, 2001-01-28. Retrieved on 2008-06-29.
- McGee, Celia. "Sing Out, Laura. It’s Your Turn.", The New York Times, 2008-03-23. Retrieved on 2008-06-29.
- Klein, Alvin. "JERSEY FOOTLIGHTS; A Girl Named Maria", The New York Times. Retrieved on 2008-06-30.
- Fradkin, Lori. "Laura Benanti on Stripping in ‘Gypsy’ and Her Delighted Husband", New York magazine, 2008-03-28. Retrieved on 2008-06-30.
- Rosati, Nancy. "Update Interview with Laura Benanti", Talkin' Broadway, 2006. Retrieved on 2008-06-30.
- Gans, Andrew. "The Wedding Is Off: New Musical Wedding Singer to Close in December", Playbill.com, 2006-10-25. Retrieved on 2008-06-29.
- Brantley, Ben. "Curtain Up! It’s Patti’s Turn at ‘Gypsy’", The New York Times, March 3, 2008. Retrieved on 2008-06-29.
- "Arts, Briefly", The New York Times, February 12, 2009. Retrieved on 2009-02-15.
- Listing lct.org
- "Tony Nominations Announced" broadwayworld.com, May 3, 2011
- Hetrick, Adam. "I Am Harvey Milk, With Andrew Lippa and Laura Benanti, Premieres in San Francisco June 26" playbill.com, June 26, 2013
- Hetrick, Adam. "Laura Benanti, Norm Lewis and More to Headline The Tempest at the Delacorte" playbill.com, August 7, 2013
- "Laura Benanti, Cheyenne Jackson & Shuler Hensley to Lead THE MOST HAPPY FELLA at Encores!; Running April 2-6" broadwayworld.com, August 22, 2013
- NBC orders three more dramas: 'The Playboy Club,' 'Awake,' 'Grimm'
- Ross, Robyn (November 14, 2011). "Exclusive: Law & Order: SVU Casts Detective Amaro's Estranged Wife". TV Guide. Retrieved November 14, 2011.
- NBC Picks Up Matthew Perry Pilot "Go On," Featuring Tony Winners Laura Benanti and Julie White
- Brickner, Tierney. "Matthew Perry's Go On Canceled by NBC" E! Online. May 10, 2013.
- Stanhope, Kate. "Go On's Laura Benanti joins Royal Pains as Hank's New Rival TV Guide. April 5, 2013.
- Audra McDonald, Laura Benanti and Christian Borle Join Cast of NBC's Sound of Music Playbill, Retrieved September 16, 2013
- 'Sound of Music Live!' with Carrie Underwood: NBC announces more cast, releases poster Entertainment Weekly, Retrieved September 16, 2013
- "Broadway Records Releases Live Album of Laura Benanti at 54 Below Today" broadwayworld.com, September 6, 2013
- "An Off-Broadway Production" newjerseybride.com, December 17, 2008
- Laura Benanti | Official Website
- Laura Benanti at the Internet Broadway Database
- Laura Benanti at the Internet Movie Database