NEW YORK (AP) — Tackling the lush legacy of renowned composer Richard Rodgers might be daunting for any singer, but Judy Kuhn hasn’t stopped there. She’s doing songs from his whole talented family.
The four-time Tony Award nominee and current star of “Fun Home” has a new CD in which she sings tunes by Richard Rodgers, his daughter Mary Rodgers and her son, Adam Guettel.
Richard Rodgers wrote the music for such blockbusters as “The King and I” and “Oklahoma!” His daughter composed the hit “Once Upon a Mattress” and her son wrote the Tony-winning “The Light in the Piazza.”
“What was in that DNA?” Kuhn asks, laughing.
The album, “Rodgers, Rodgers & Guettel,” has music direction by Todd Almond and guest appearances by Malcolm Gets and Shuler Hensley. Kuhn hopes to take it on the road next year.
AP: How did you approach this CD?
Kuhn: I was really interested in how to find a way of having a musical conversation between the three of them. I didn’t want it to be a music history lesson. I didn’t want to be pedantic in any way. So I was interested in how songs sounded side-by-side.
AP: Is there any common link between these three composers?
Kuhn: I think there’s a kind of romanticism in all of them that’s very powerful and strong. And one thing that binds them, too, is how individual they are. They have their own voices — such strong, individual voices.
AP: How did you pick the actual songs?
Kuhn: We took all this music and went through it and chose things that felt right for me or that I liked. And as we started to pull those things out, we said, ‘Hey, that would be interesting next to that.’ Of course, you always have to look for a balance. That’s another common thread: They all write great ballads. But you can’t do an evening or an album of all ballads.
AP: What’s one of your favorite cuts?
Kuhn: ‘Hero and Leander’ by Adam. It seemed like a nice way to end the album but I always worry, ‘Are people going to get that far? Are they going to hear it?’ Sometimes the last cut is often peoples’ favorite.
AP: Some songs are respectful of the original version and others are reinvented.
Kuhn: I always approach songs like they’re a little one act play. It’s a story to tell. And this had the additional element of wanting to tell their story, too, through their music.
AP: You kick off the CD with a reinvented ‘Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin” by Richard Rodgers from ‘Oklahoma!’ Why that song?
Kuhn: I feel like you have to start with the grandfather. I wanted something iconic that really everybody knows, that even people who have never been to the theater know. But I want them to hear it differently.
AP: Now, on to your day job. Is ‘Fun Home’ wrenching every time for you? You play a woman whose husband is closeted and suicidal.
Kuhn: It’s the most fun ever, this show. I mean, it’s not fun to be Helen every night. But it is fun to be in this show every night. I am thrilled to be in this show. I think it’s groundbreaking. It’s one of the most honest, risk-taking pieces of theater I’ve ever been in.
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