I'm so glad Will Nunziata introduced me to Broadway powerhouse Haley Swindal. Her vocals are unreal and I can already tell she's going to blow the roof off of Feinstein's/54 Below when she returns with her new show Golden Girl.
Golden Girl is a brand-new concert event celebrating the music of an era that her heart and soul were born in – The Golden Age. With influences ranging from Rosemary Clooney to Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand, Haley puts her own stamp on songs that made these great dames stars. Haley will knock-out-of-the-park standards such as "Come Rain or Come Shine," "Don’t Rain on My Parade," and "Cry Me A River," all with fresh arrangements by musical director to the stars Tedd Firth (Michael Feinstein, Ana Gasteyer, Brian Stokes Mitchell). Conceived and directed by Will Nunziata (concert director for Tony Award winner Lillias White), this is an evening that will have you laughing, crying, and tapping your feet all within a matter of minutes, and a true showbiz event where a brand-new star is born.
Golden Girl plays Feinstein's/54 Below (254 West 54th Street, between Broadway & 8th Avenue) on Tuesday, May 30 at 7pm and Tuesday, June 6 at 9:30pm! Click here for tickets!
For more on Haley be sure to follow her on Twitter!
1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer (other than Rosemary Clooney, Judy Garland, and Barbra Streisand)? Singing was always in me. From the time I could walk, I was singing down the halls and driving my parents crazy. It was never a choice for me - it was in my blood, which is very funny because no one else in my immediate family is in the arts at all! I used to stand at the top of the stairs in our house and pretend to be "Eva Peron." My brother thought I was nuts (he still does). When I was about eight years old, I remember my mom took me to see a production of Hello Dolly with Carol Channing, and I remember thinking, WOW, I want to do that!
2. This May/June you return to Feinstein's/54 Below with your brand-new show Golden Girl, celebrating the music of an era that her heart and soul were born in – The Golden Age. What are you looking forward to about coming back to Feinstein's/54 Below? I always said I only want to come back with these shows when I have something to add, something to share, a story to tell. The two times I have played here have marked major events in my life: my Broadway debut for the first one, and getting married the second one. Those first shows were similar, but were both kind of about where I came from and what its taught me.
This show is something entirely different. First of all, not only have I done a lot more great roles, I have more importantly lived a lot more of life. I am married to an amazing guy, and I'm a stepmom to two awesome teenagers. I also have a new boss, who is eleven months old, my amazing daughter - Lily George Tantleff.
This show is really a concert meets one-woman show. I do everything from singing "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" as Judy, Liza, Patti, Billie Burke, and Bernadette Peters to stripping down to the bottom of my soul with some amazing torch songs.
I am thrilled to be back because this is a whole new side of me, a whole new journey, and I hope one that might surprise and excite people.
3. Golden Girl is directed by Will Nunziata. Will, primarily known as a singer with his brother Anthony Nunziata, has been making quite a name for himself as a director over the past several years. What was it about Will's style/vision that made you say, "He is whom I want to direct my show."? Will has been on my radar for a very long time. We first met in Michael Feinstein's apartment about four years ago, where Michael had a bunch of young folks over to talk about the future of the Great American Songbook and how the torch would be passed to our generation.
I followed him as he created amazing shows for Cady Huffman, Lillias White, and other incredible divas. It was Will that came up with the vision for this show. His concepts and his ideas are brilliant. The way he is able to bring out things in me and get me to burst out of my comfort zone is unreal. He gravitates I think towards strong women - women who can't really be put in any particular kind of stereotypical, run of the mill box. He takes their strength and what makes them unique and turns it into something brilliant. His concepts, his vision, and his ability to communicate, nurture, and bring out the best in those he directs is incredible. He is and will continue to be one of the greatest directors of our generation.
4. What is about this time in music that makes your heart a flutter? I often sit around and wonder, what will our generation be listening to when they are eighty? The generation ahead of us has the Beatles, Carole King, Carly Simon. When we were younger, we had Whitney, Celine. But will this generation be turning on Britney Spears? Eminem? Single Ladies?
What I love about the Great American Songbook is so many songs are literally transcendent of time. How many of us have been madly in love and connected to the lyrics of "Night and Day," "Whether near to me or far, it's no matter darling where you, are I think of you." How many of us have been heartbroken and can relate to Frank Sinatra alone in a bar at 3AM singing "One for My Baby," "It's quarter to three, There's no one in the place 'cept you and me, So set 'em' up Joe."
I fell in love with my husband when he sang, "I only have eyes for you" badly (but endearingly) in my ear. These songs are masterpieces that capture the complexity of love and what it is to be human. As I grow older, I connect with them even more.
5. According to press notes, Rosemary Clooney, Judy Garland, and Barbra Streisand were some of your influences. What was it about these entertainers that made you go, "Yes! I want to be like them."? Judy Garland always said "Be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone else." What I think I loved - and continue to love - about these women besides their other-wordly vocals is that they were/are originals. They were unabashedly and unapologetically themselves. Their sound was distinctive, the way they approached their art was distinctive, and what they have given us is something no one else can ever come to close to because it is so uniquely them.
Patti LuPone, Christine Ebersole, Cady Huffman, and Bernadette Peters are some of these women on the Broadway stage.
The women I admire can transform themselves into incredible roles onstage, but, as human beings, they are unapologetically strong, which isn't always easy as a woman in this business. Onstage, they can be heartbreakingly vulnerable. It's an amazing duality, to be strong and vulnerable at the same time, and one that I admire. I think, so much of this business is how we fit. Fit someone else's vision, fit someone else's vocal styles, even fit someone else's costume. These women somehow transcend that. As for me, I guess I've just grown tired of trying to fit into a box. I'm a brassy blonde broad who has packed a lot of life into my first thirty years. That's my truth.
7. A few songs you will be performing are "Come Rain or Come Shine," "Don’t Rain on My Parade," and "Cry Me A River." Let's play with these song titles. When have you said to yourself, "Come Rain or Come Shine," I'm going to do this? HA! For better or for worse, all the time! "Come Rain or Come Shine," I guess probably in my love life in the past. Wanting so desperately to be loved, perhaps by someone incapable of loving...but trying to convince them.
"Cry Me a River" is realizing I'm going to be okay whether or not this person loves me. That the only person I need to live and be fulfilled is me.
"Don't Rain On My Parade" is a celebration of what it means to spill out everything you have, no matter what the cost might be, because you don't want to spend the rest of your life wondering "what if?" To me, this applies to choosing to creae solo shows, and challenging myself, and also following my heart in other ways.
8. When did you think, oh please, "Don't Rain on My Parade"? HA that was Will. I was thrilled. At first, I thought, really? But, then I realized why not, it's my truth? It's part of a medley, which I think has a really neat arc.
9. What event has caused you to cry like a river? I think the sadness of that song is realizing that sometimes love is not enough. The tragedy of still being madly in love with someone but the strength to put your well-being first and not allow that person to destroy you. I was there once. It took a long while, but I figured it out, and my life is richer for it. And I can sing one hell of a torch song!
10. Since this show is celebrating The Golden Age, what, age or age bracket has been your "Golden Age" so far? Why has it been so rich? Oh my goodness, NOW! I am just entering my thirties, young enough to still know what's fun, and old enough to know better. Just kidding! Undoubtedly though, meeting and marrying my husband and becoming a mother changed everything for me. I remember leaving my first Broadway performance and crying when I got home because I had been so tunnel-visioned that I had no one to share it with. Any part of my life other than work was completely absent. That changed. My daughter is the most amazing thing that ever happened to me and has put everything else in perspective. If I don't get anything else right in this life, I somehow built a perfect little human, and, to me, that alone is enough!
11. I know the show's title, "Golden Girl," is for the Golden Age of music, but we are going to take this to the Golden Girls themselves. If you had to describe yourself as one of the Golden Girls who would you be? I'm still obsessed with that show! My best friend and I used to spend all weekend watching Golden Girls marathons (she's "Sophia" re-incarnated!) As for me, I look at the world through "Rose"-colored glasses for sure, but I definitely am flirty and fun like "Blanche."
Haley has appeared on Broadway and on tour with Jekyll and Hyde, White Christmas, Jesus Christ Superstar opposite Ted Neeley, and at Lincoln Center in The Secret Garden. She has performed in concert at Carnegie Hall alongside the great standards vocalist Steve Tyrell, acclaimed Irish tenor Ronan Tynan, and under the baton of Steven Reineke with the New York Pops. She won a New York Emmy for her appearance on Kids on Deck and recently appeared in the film Walt Before Mickey.