Interview: Christine Ebersole

A gay icon. So supreme, the very finest. Faaaabulous! All of those would be apt descriptions of Christine Ebersole. Or how about “one of those talents that comes along just a handful of times every generation”, which I wrote after seeing her in cabaret for the first time nearly 10 years ago, something she proved in spades in her Tony-winning turn in the Broadway musical Grey Gardens.

Now, for the third year in a row, she is doing a cabaret act at the chic Cafe Carlyle, and you absolutely, positively must see it; I’m simply not giving you any other option. First off, Christine is working again with the magnificent musical director John Oddo, like she did last year at the Carlyle. Oddo was also musical director for the late, great Rosemary Clooney and he worked with jazz legends like Woody Herman. This also finds her reuniting with director Scott Wittman, who has his own Tony for co-writing the score of Hairspray. I caught up with Christine for a few words as she prepares for the new show.

This will be your third year – is this your new permanent slot at the Carlyle?

I don’t know, but I’m hoping. Three years in a row! Always at the beginning of the year, I think this is the earliest it’s been. It’s a completely new show, about finding eternal youth. Through the Great American Songbook. [Laughs.] Evergreens, yes, and selections from Grey Gardens. I can’t say much more: How do we say what is there without giving it away? I’d rather have people be surprised!

You’re working with Oddo and Wittman again, are you three settling into a groove with your process?

I go way back with Scott, I’ve worked with him since 1996. We did our first club act then, which was recorded as Live at the Cinegrill and even before that, as far back as 1980, I’d worked with Scott and his partner Marc Shaiman. So with Scott there’s an unwritten communication. The way we understand each other is almost like clairvoyance, it’s weird. And John is the same kind of thing, musically we’re just so “in the pocket”. Our sensibility is very similar. It’s a great team. You keep thinking, “Oh Jesus, I can’t top anything.” You know what I mean? And you can’t. I have to remind myself not to make the mistake of trying to compare it. Each one is its own animal. After this year, I don’t know what’s left! [Laughs.] But then again I felt that going into this. The creative process is a strange bird; once you’re in it, it’s amazing how these things will come to you.

So when we first met you let me know that you wanted to become a gay icon. I think since then you’ve earned that status in spades, but do you feel like a gay icon?

[Laughs heartily.] Yeah, but it’s never enough you know, I’m always working on improving my gay icon status.

Have you got anything else coming up?

Yes, something very exciting. A TV show that I’ve been working on with George Segal, Jessica Walters and Jonathan McClain called Retired at 35 for TVLand as a companion to Hot in Cleveland premieres January 19. I have a recurring role, they’ve shot ten episodes so far, I’m in five of them. A very funny show, so well written!

For tickets, click here.

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