Christine Ebersole was driving to White Plains, New York, when she called me. The two-time Tony Winner (42nd Street and Grey Gardens), best known for her work in musical theater, has been busy organizing concerts and cabaret engagements, like the ones she’ll be performing this weekend with the Huntington Theatre Company. Hosted by noted music director and radio host Seth Rudetsky, the shows promise to provide an inside glimpse into the life and times of the stage and screen veteran.
I caught up with Ebersole in anticipation of her arrival in Boston. Sadly, her sparkling personality and mischievous laugh do not translate as well onto the page. But, yes, she is aware that her “Little Edie” Bouvier accent must be perfect in order to make it in this town.
You’re doing a cabaret with Seth Rudetsky. What do you like about doing these intimate shows?
It’s kind of like a party! Seth is so funny and it feels like you’re invited into his living room, and I’m one of the guests. We just talk about our careers and lives and everything, really.
What is it about him that gets artists so comfortable and relaxed around him?
He’s so knowledgeable. You always feel so at ease because you feel like he always knows the answer. He’s just so easy and funny.
With a show like this, do you let him take the reins? How do you plan ahead?
We collaborate on what songs we’re going to do and things like that, but a lot of it comes down to whatever inspires him to discuss in the moment. These shows are always special and have an element of surprise. With Seth, I can be as surprised as you, to be honest.
Are there any songs you think you’ll always perform?
Hmm, no. I’ve been doing this for 45 years. There’s so much treasure there, it’s always delightful to exhume some old chestnut and, at the same time, keep it current.
I realized while preparing for this that I’d first seen you in the movie Richie Rich, but I doubt that’s how most people get to know you.
I’m always amazed by people who recognize me from Richie Rich; that was like 25 years ago. It was a wonderful experience and so much fun. My baby, Elijah, was like 7 months old and learned how to walk on set, and now he’s 25.
Is there a difference for you between film and theater?
Of course, stage is really the actor’s medium, so that’s really the most fulfilling for me. But the value of doing film and television has never been diminished for me, it’s just a different experience. I think live theater is the most sustainable, in terms of your interaction with the audience. They give you your fuel.
You were recently on an episode of Pose; how was performing in such a groundbreaking series?
It was fun! I only did one episode, though, you know, and it was, like, me smoking cigarettes and drinking whiskey at 10 in the morning. The people I worked with were fantastic, though, and I had a great experience.
And now you’ve been cast in a new TV show, right?
I’m doing Bob Hearts Abishola [on TV], which is exciting. And I’m spending the summer at Glimmerglass, which is an opera company up in Cooperstown. I’m doing Show Boat and Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades up there.
So, Patti [LuPone, with whom Ebersole did War Paint on Broadway in 2017] said that it would be her last musical, even though she—
I told them not to believe her! “She’ll be back,” I told them. “There’s no way she could step away.”
I would hope! Even though it wasn’t true for her, should we believe you if you were to say the same?
Well, I never said that! Maybe privately, but I never said it publicly.
So should we be waiting for your Broadway return anytime soon?
Of course, of course!
Is there anything in the works you can tell me about?
No! Nothing at all!
CHRISTINE EBERSOLE WITH SETH RUDETSKY. 1.26 AT THE HUNTINGTON THEATRE COMPANY, 527 TREMONT ST., BOSTON. HUNTINGTONTHEATRE.ORG