Music & Nightlife

Jessie Mueller performed as a famous singer. Now, she’s making a name for herself

Jessie Mueller, the Broadway star of “Beautiful” and “Waitress,” will appear Saturday with Seth Rudetsky at the Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale.
Jessie Mueller, the Broadway star of “Beautiful” and “Waitress,” will appear Saturday with Seth Rudetsky at the Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale. The Interval

You may not know Jessie Mueller by name. But you probably know the music legend she brought to life on stage.

Mueller, 35, won a Tony for her portrayal of singer-songwriter Carole King in the 2014 biographical Broadway hit “Beautiful.” She also starred in the 2016 Sara Bareilles musical “Waitress” and the 2018 revival of “Carousel.”

So, what’s next for the multi-talented Broadway performer?

A brief vacation in Florida, of course, before heading to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., to co-star with Norm Lewis in “The Music Man.”

But before that, Mueller will appear Saturday at the Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale for some talk and some song with Sirius-XM radio host and Broadway commentator Seth Rudetsky.

He will accompany her on the piano, and banter with her about her past, present and future life in show business.

We spoke with Mueller by phone about her musical and personal worlds.

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Sirius-XM radio host and Broadway commentator Seth Rudetsky.

Q: How does performing with Seth Rudetsky differ from your typical show?

A: Well, he’s hilarious. He is so off the cuff, and his energy is amazing. Anything goes with him, so it’s always fun and exciting.

Q: Most musical theater shows are at night. What do you do during the day?

A: It’s kind of different depending on the show or the production, the demands of a role, or what you need to get done that day. Sometimes I sleep. Sometimes I do my laundry. Sometimes you’ve got press.

Q: When you’re traveling, do you get time to explore the cities, or is it all strictly work?

A: I love to just check out a city if I have time. And I love food! I love to eat, so I’ll try to find a great restaurant or a beautiful park and just walk around and take in the sights.

Q: Will you have time to explore South Florida while you’re here?

A: It’s kind of a quick turnaround this time, but I hope we get a chance to.

Q: What did you do to prepare for “Beautiful?” How was taking on a role in which you portrayed a real person?

A: I didn’t meet her until after the show opened on Broadway. It was a ton of research. It was a ton of listening, reading her book, doing any kind of research I could. Reading other people’s books about her. I’m very visual, too, so I still have a collection of photos I found while working on the show. I like to gather visuals to spark the feeling of someone.

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Jake Epstein and Jessie Mueller perform a scene from ‘Beautiful - The Carole King Musical’ at the 2014 Tony Awards in New York City. Theo Wargo Getty Images file

Q: Your sister, Abby Mueller, followed you in the Carole King role. Tell us about growing up with a talented sibling.

A: We only went for the same part once or twice. We were both living in Chicago at the time. I feel really blessed. My whole family are performers, and so they get it. We can be supportive of each other because we know the specific ins and outs of what it is that we do and the challenges, and the wonderful things about it, too. It’s always great when the people you love get you.

Q: Do you have a favorite duet to sing with your sister?

A: There’s a song we’ve done a couple of times. It’s called “A Life That’s Good.” I love doing that with her. We used to sing all kinds of stuff together. We were Disney movie junkies, so we would sing all of those songs. And the Andrews Sisters. It’s a joy to sing with her.

Q: Were you a theater kid in high school?

A: It started in high school. I always liked theater. I grew up watching a lot of theater, but I didn’t get into it until then. I spent a lot of time in the upstairs theater at Evanston Township High School.

Q: In what way is originating parts in new musicals like “Waitress” different from reviving a classic part, like in “Carousel” or your upcoming production of “The Music Man?”

A: The biggest difference is when you’re reviving something and you know it’s been done, and it’s been proven, and it works on a certain level, there’s an inherent trust in the piece. And when you’re working on something new, there’s just an extra level of trying to get to that step. I’ve been really fortunate in the new pieces I’ve worked on. They’ve been so good, so I think getting to that step happened pretty early.

Q: What do you look forward to the most about doing shows on the road?

A: One of the things is the travel. I just love going to different places. I feel like it opens me up. It refreshes me. I love New York City, but I also love getting out of there. And traveling with someone like Seth is always fun.

Q: Are you doing a string of shows on the road?

A: I just did a couple, so this is the end of the string because I start “Music Man” at the end of this month. This is our nice jaunt to the beach before we go back to New York for the dead of winter. The sun is shining today here, so I’ll take it.

Q: When you’re outside enjoying the beautiful weather, what’s on your playlist?

A: I go in such waves. I love Christmas, so I was just listening to a lot of Christmas music. I was listening to “The Nutcracker” the other day. I love Rosemary Clooney, and Bing Crosby, and Nat King Cole, and Ella Fitzgerald. I love that sort of era. But I listen to a lot of Americana country stuff. I love Jason Isbell and Lori McKenna. Singer-songwriter roots-y stuff. I love jazz. When I find a new artist, or when I love somebody, I kind of go overboard and I listen to it a lot. I’ll wear an album out and move on to another one.

Q: What ‘s your pre-show meal?

A: I’m more of a post-show snack kind of gal. I don’t usually eat before a show. I keep the cords clear. It’s not that I’m nervous, but I can’t really eat before a show. I’ll snack after. I’m more of a salt girl than a sugar fiend.

Q: What will you sing at the Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale? What can the audience expect?

A: Seth can play anything. There’s been a couple of times where we’ve been talking about a song as we’re chatting during the show and he’ll start playing it, and we’ll start doing it. Anything can happen. I think the show is really fun for audiences because of the energy that we bring, and the energy between us. It’s cool because it’s fun and casual and it’s like we’re all just sitting and chatting about stuff. We’ll do stuff from “Beautiful,” we’ll do stuff from “Waitress.”

If you go

What: “Jessie Mueller With Seth Rudetsky”

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12

Where: The Parker Playhouse, 707 NE Eighth St., Fort Lauderdale

Tickets: $37-$67, available through Ticketmaster

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