Laura Bell Bundy on stage Dec. 10 at the Lexington Opera House for a holiday concert with lifelong friend Lyndy Franklin. Copyrighted photo by Angela Baldridge for the Herald-Leader/Kentucky.com.
The last time we had a good chat with Laura Bell Bundy, it was the eve of the opening of Legally Blonde -- the Musical, the Broadway hit that has made the Lexington-native a certified stage star.
A lot has happened since that late April night: Bundy received a Tony Award nomination for best actress in a musical, the show was filmed and aired nationwide by MTV, and Broadway endured a 20-day shutdown with the stage hands strike. All that, and she also released her solo debut as a country artist, Longing for a Place Already Gone, and played gigs around New York to promote it.
So, we decided to take advantage of Bundy being in town for her holiday concert with fellow Broadway performer, Lexington-native and lifelong friend Lyndy Franklin to chat with her about how it’s been going and her future with and beyond Blonde.
Here’s an edited transcript of that conversation:
Copious Notes: Tell us about the strike.
Laura Bell Bundy: There were rumors like, ‘OK, tonight, you might need to take your stuff out of the theater,’ months before we struck. Then, all of a sudden, within 48 hours it was like, ‘Take your stuff out of the theater, if you need anything. Make sure you take it home tonight.’ We weren’t able to get into the theater, even to get our costumes for the Thanksgiving parade [Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade] because the Local One stage crew opens the door to the theater.
But we were required by Equity (the stage actors union) to show up at what would be our half hour (call) and stay until the time of the show in case there was a deal. We had to do that for the first week. The second week, they started to say, ‘Well, you don’t have to come tonight because we know they’re not negotiating.’ So then we started to come every couple of shows.
CN: So, what was it like being closed during that period of time, during the holiday season, when you’re one of the hottest tickets on Broadway?
LBB: It was really unfortunate, because I’m sure we would have had incredible audiences during those weeks. Our show was pretty much sold out for that week and it’s a big money-maker week that lasts them a long time. You have two major weeks a year: Thanksgiving week and the week following Christmas.
But in a lot of ways, it was OK for me, because my family was up in New York, and I got to spend a lot more time with them.
CN: Was there anything else you had to do on Thanksgiving other than the Macy’s Parade?
LBB: Not on Thanksgiving itself. But I had to some stuff that week, like special appearances. And I caught up with a lot of friends that aren’t in theater. I can’t go out at night on Friday or Saturday, because that’s the hardest part of the week for me -- I have five shows between Friday and Sunday. So I got to hang out with a lot of friends that I don’t normally get to see.
CN: What is your future with the show?
LBB: Technically my contract ends Jan. 20, but we’re in talks to renegotiate for a while. I’ll probably stay until the summer. I think we all want that. There are other things I want to do, but I think we can work it out where I can do those other things.
CN: What are some of the other things you’re looking at?
LBB: I pitched a show to Warner Bros., and they bought it. But because of the writers strike in Los Angeles, that’s been put on hold. But I essentially have a short-term deal with Warner Bros. as a creator, producer and an actor. So, I’ll have to leave and do that, if a pilot’s made. And then, I have my music, and I’ll probably doing some festivals in the summer, like I’ll probably be doing the South-by-Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. And I’m putting together a live show to take on the road, probably in the summer of 2008.
CN: How has the CD been going?
LBB: It’s been good. It’s hard to do gigs in New York while Legally Blonde is going without calling out a show of Legally Blonde. To sing two-and-a-half hours eight shows a week and then do an hour-and-a-half gig is just brutal. So, I cut back a little bit. But when I was doing them consistently, there was a strong momentum going. A lot of stations around the country are playing my music -- indie-country stations and Americana stations, and mainstream country as well. And I got some good reviews. So what I’m noticing is momentum is picking up. I co-produced it and released it on my own label so as to not have any creative control taken away. So, in doing that, you have to have a slow distribution process getting it out there. But Legally Blonde has helped a lot, and it’s been good.
CN: What was the MTV thing like?
LBB: Most people on Broadway never get the chance to have a professionally recorded video of their show. We’re lucky if we have a bootleg we buy off eBay a few years later. So, it was really amazing for all of us to have a copy of this show . . . I can show my kids when I’m old. My cousins are getting to see it, my nieces and nephews who can’t come to New York as often as they’d like.
It was a perfect match for MTV. It’s pop culture and it’s the right demographic for our show and it’s their demographic. But also, MTV has gotten away with having a lot of programming that doesn’t have music on it, and it’s supposed to be music television. This was music television. This was a musical on their network, and it was perfect for them. It’s perfect for us, too. There’s the thing of, ‘Oh God. People will see it on TV and then they won’t come and see the show.’ But there have been a lot of people who have seen it on TV and then come to see it live.
The fans are a bit crazier, since MTV. Particularly on the weekends, when the show starts, they start screaming. I think it’s the MTV crowd, because they know the people on stage.
CN: Do you think people in your generation and younger generations still have any sort of mentality that, ‘If I see it on TV, I don’t have to go’? With so many things these days, even on Broadway, it seems having a movie or a TV show helps the live show sell more.
LBB: It depends on your own mentality. If you want to save a buck, you see it on TV. If you’re into having the live experience of seeing the people that were on your television screen live, to see if something goes wrong when it’s live, to sing the songs when you’re in your seats, you’re going to want to see it live. It just depends on what kind of person you are. Now, a 13- to 18-year-old person typically wants to see something live. You don’t just buy the CD and say, ‘I’m not going to see the concert because I have the CD.’ Most likely, you only want to see a concert if you already have the CD. And I don’t know if that works the same way if you see something on television and want to see it live. But there is a demographic that does that and then there’s also a mentality of wanting to see it live. It’s the High School Musical crowd, it’s the, ‘I’ve seen the Disney movie, and now I’m going to see the live version and get the doll and everything that goes with it.’
MTV was pretty open about the fact that they wanted this to be their High School Musical. The only reason they didn’t put it out on DVD is they can’t. We didn’t give them the rights, because if you have the DVD, are you really going to come see the show?
CN: Do you think there will be a DVD from the show, eventually, from this version?
LBB: I think there will be, if the show closes in New York, they’ll probably do the deal for the DVD, and that would be a good idea, because they’d make a fortune.
Coming Sunday: We also talked to Lyndy Franklin about her work on A Chorus Line. See what she had to say, here.