In Conversation With... Shoshana Bean | Concert | Interview

Firstly I want to apologise for how late this interview is. I interviewed Shoshana back in September but unfortunately my phone glitched and I couldn't retrieve the interview so it had to be put off. Thankfully I got it back so you lovely, stagey people can finally read it! So I hope you enjoy this late, but still very interesting and relevant interview from the wonderful Shoshana Bean!

Shoshana is a Broadway veteran who's starred in Wicked, Funny Girl, Hairspray and Beaches to name a few. She's released 3 solo albums, done countless solo concerts as well as those with the Postmodern Jukebox AND she sung back-up vocals for Michael Jackson! There's really nothing this lady can't do!...  

For people that don't know about your career can you explain some of your highlights?

Oh man! I guess highlights would be my Broadway debut which was Hairspray, well my new York debut was Godspell so that was definitely a highlight and an exciting experience. Hairspray  being the debut was super exciting and when I look back, like the best couple of years of my life thus far. Wicked was obviously a highlight. Singing back up for Michael Jackson would be a highlight. And each release of each album and sort of the completion of the project and like the pride in completing them and then sort of each journey every one of them has taken me on from their birth and release. I guess those would be.... oh and then getting to do Funny Girl this year, those would be mine!

Was being a performer what you  always dreamt of or did you have a different career path in mind when you were younger?

It's always been that. I think when I was little, you know, I wanted to be a cheerleader, I wanted to be a veterinarian, I wanted to be a secretary... secretaries were a big deal back then I guess! But always, within all of that, the thing I was always doing was dressing up and performing and singing and then becoming involved in theatre groups or productions or whatever. So, I think the only time I had a question about it was when it was time to grow up and go to college. My assumption was that I should go into business and do what all my friends are doing and take over my family business. But my mum who was a creative spirit- she's a dancer- she was like "I just feel like if you don't at least give this a shot then you're always gonna wonder". So really that was the only moment, if there ever was a question, when I was like "am I allowed to do this? Is this a thing I can do?" 

As you mentioned you recently starred in Funny Girl which must have been amazing. What were you stand out moments doing the production?

I think because it was such a dream come true that like every moment was such a big deal to me! My first costume fitting was such a big deal, the first music rehearsal, meeting the cast for the first time. Everything, I was just so hyper aware... of being hyper aware! It was like, this is the moment you've been waiting for and you might never get this opportunity again. So just every little bit of it. So there's no one moment that stands out. Everything, every second of it was so beautiful- even the challenges within it. 

Yeah, I think probably the opening night, cause when you throw up a show in two weeks its like "Is this a joke? Are we horrible?" So when we finally did it on opening night and it came together and gelled and I got to sing the entire score and do the entire show, in one piece and with the orchestra and everything, that was amazing. And the cast was so beautiful and they knew how much it meant to me. 

So that opening night, I finish my bow and go down on a lift and come up round the back and they're all waiting for me around the corner and applauding so they were just a very generous cast, knowing how much it meant to me. That was a special night.

You’ve played some very iconic characters, how do you put your own 'Sho Spin' on them?

I think just by bringing myself to the table, you know, bringing my own humanity and my own quirks and personality to them. I bring myself to them, so I meet them and I figure them out and then I see how we're similar and how I would be in given situations or circumstances. You know, the gift with playing Fanny Brice is that it was a real person, so if ever I felt like I was flailing or not sure I just kept going back to the real person and that takes a lot of the pressure away because I just had to open up to the spirit of Fanny Brice like "hey just come through me!" It was a gift being able to honour her and be as much about her. That role is such a showcase for whoever plays her with the way the music is written and the comedy is written. I kept reminding myself that its not about how good you can sound of how funny you can be. Its about honouring this woman. So that was the gift there. 

But I think in general, I always have to remind myself, and its funny cause when I teach masterclasses that's the first thing I tell people like "I don't care what the character is like, I wanna see you" and yet sometimes it's the last thing I think to do. To just bring myself to the table. 

But I think that that's the magic for every performer and every powerful performer. I just saw Cynthia Erivo do The Colour Purple in New York and while there was a very well crafted character happening, the beauty of what's happening is Cynthia and who she is. The power of what's happening is not her hiding behind a character, pretending to be someone else. It's her bringing her authentic self to this role.

We get to be ourselves as someone else. So we don't always win, or get the guy, or voice being the outcast but like with Elphaba I got to be myself as the hero and the same with Fanny. That story [Funny Girl] resonates so personally with me, and the same with Beaches where I was like "who's life is this, mine or hers?", there's so many similarities that there's no hiding behind the character. I think it's different when you're an actor in movies maybe because you get to hang with that character for a couple of months but for me its a deeper dive into who I am and meeting myself and being myself.

As a self confessed Pentatonix and Superfruit addict, I loved when you did the Pop Goes Broadway video, so I just wanted to know what your experience was like making that?

It was really fun! I had no idea what to expect. They were like "we're gonna do a mash up of this song and this song" and I was like "I don't know those songs" and they just said don't worry, just take a listen or whatever. And most of the day was just spent watching them [Scott Hoying and Mitch Grassi] work it out. They're such brilliant musicians in their own right. Like Scott's beautiful piano playing and you know they just figured it out and figured out the whole track right before my eyes which was really impressive and blew my mind. People like them and Todrick [Hall] who can just create on the spot and are always inspired and looking to flip things on their head... my mind takes a little time and I'm slower at that so watching them work so fast is brilliant and of course the singers that they are. And they're great guys, it was great fun!

If you had a magic wand, which show would you do next?

Funny Girl. If I never played another role in my life that's what it would be. Yeah, Funny Girl if I had one answer but I would love for Beaches to happen and I would love for Lempicka to happen. 

What's the last thing you do before you step on stage?

The very last thing I do is take a sip of water. But usually I pray and I try and get really focussed and centred into my intention for why I'm stepping on stage in the first place. Usually that's trying to get out of my own head of trying to impress people or do it right, and just think that people are here and they need to be moved and they need to have an experience so just get all the other stuff away.

You've got so much repertoire so what can people expect when they come and see you in concert?

Let me first say that it's a struggle to pick music because I am very conscious of what people wanna hear and how vastly different it is for each person. So they'll be some covers and some of my originals, some Broadway stuff and some random others. So basically you'll hear, hopefully, a portion of everything you want to hear!

Do you prefer the more intimate venues or the big Broadway theatres?

I think I like the variety that I am lucky enough to have experienced. So like, I love small ones cause its intimate and I feel like we're hanging out in my living room. But then you know, when I'm with my full band and we play bigger venues or I'm out with PMJ [Postmodern Jukebox] and we're playing these big halls across Europe there's something super magical about these huge groups of people feeling united because of the music. And also with some concerts like when I did the Streisand concert at Lincoln Centre; I think  what I've learned from playing the intimate venues, I can also create that in these bigger ones. It's up to me to create that energetically and by the way I approach the material and the audience. I think that's the great value the smaller venues have taught. It's also nerve-wracking because the audience is right there and there's no darkness to separate us. Which is good because if I can be cool with you in my face while I'm singing then I can be cool when you're not so I'm grateful I've had all of those experiences.

What's you best piece of life or performing advice you've ever received?

I think the first time I heard "Trust Your Gut", it was from my aunt when I was in high school trying to decide on colleges and my future in that way. It's such a simple statement but I can get very heady and concerned what other people think and she just said to trust you gut, trust your gut. So that was the first time I heard it, but now, I translate it more to "Listen To Your Heart". I have some beautiful friends and teachers around me who just tell me to listen to my heart and so those would always be my pieces of advice to people. It's hard to hear it sometimes above the noise but that's the best, always!

I want to say a humungous thank you to Shoshana for taking the time to do this interview, again, I'm very sorry it's taken such a long time to go live but I hope it was worth the wait! Shoshana is a truly fantastic performer and if you get the chance to see her live- jump at it!

Read my review of Shoshana's concert at The Singer's Lounge here

Visit Shoshana's website for information on all upcoming performances, to buy her albums and for links to all her social medias here

Interview by Olivia Mitchell, Editor