BootLeg Betty

Ana Gasteyer: New CD And Concerts Inspired By Bette Midler

Mister D: I bought this and it is great!

A gal with moxie: Gasteyer swings the Kate
Published: Tuesday, November 17, 2015
By Bryan Ethier

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OLD SAYBROOK >> Is Ana Gasteyer hip?

“I have no idea,” she says, with a sheepish chuckle. “If you ask my children, if you asked my 13-year-old, they’d definitely say no.”

Gasteyer may be more accustomed to hearing adjectives such as “hilarious” and “brilliant” to describe her work as a comic impressionist and television and stage actress. Thanks to a blossoming career as a jazz singer and the popularity of her latest CD (aptly named “I’m Hip”), Gasteyer may wish to reconsider how she views herself.

The former star of Saturday Night Live is doing her part to rekindle a genre of music that was hip generations ago, but now dormant in the mainstream jazz world. Her live stage show takes audiences back to an era when sultry women dressed in tight — fitting, sequined gowns, patrolled smoky cafes with moxie, and tantalized audiences with provocative vocals, shapely legs, flirty humor and songs culled from the Great American Songbook.

Gasteyer, accompanied by a full “big brass” band, will perform at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 24. Her performance features songs from “I’m Hip” plus other selections, and will be recorded live as a part of CPTV “The Kate” series.

Get ready, for Gasteyer compares her live performance to “throwing a party,” which she loves to do.

“The music is what makes me happy,” she says. “I call it ridiculous jazz. There’s so much in the act – music and comedy. I love the intimacy. It’s an expression of joy. My central job is entertaining, not changing the world. There’s no heavy message. It’s a form of escapism where you’re having a good time getting out of your head.”

Gasteyer, 48, has spent a career helping people get out of their heads. From 1996 through 2002, she was a regular on SNL whose impressions of celebrities (divas) such as Barbra Streisand and Martha Stewart made her a fan favorite and a major comedic talent. She played one of her best-known characters, monotone NPR co-host Margaret Jo, in a side-ripping skit in which she eagerly vowed to devour Alec Baldwin’s “Schweddy Balls.”

Still, Gasteyer seemed destined to morph into a cabaret-style singer, a unique platform for melding her musical and comedic talents. A 1989 graduate of Northwestern University’s School of Communication, she is a classically trained singer who proved her vocal prowess in the role of Elphaba, the bad witch, in the Broadway musical “Wicked.” She earned a Joseph Jefferson Award nomination for that same role in the 2005 Chicago production.

Gasteyer says she got the “ridiculous music” bug after seeing Bette Midler perform in concert at New York’s spacious Madison Square Garden.

“Even though our seats were way up there, we walked out of there feeling we were her best friend,” Gasteyer said. “It was such an inspiration. We felt like we were sitting around a piano. I love that feeling; it’s an art form.”

It’s not a stretch to call Gasteyer’s performance an art form. Playful classics such as “One Mint Julip” and “I’m Hip” showcase Gasteyer’s ability to hit every note on the mark, while simultaneously skipping and sidling about the stage like a silly Danny Kaye in drag. She “babbles, belts, BS’s and Broadways” her way through the Andrews Sisters’ hit “A Proper Cup of Coffee.” Included in the bubbly song are rapid-fired, tongue-twisting lyrics and oral sound effects to which her bandmates eagerly respond.

“I’m a modern performer, but I love the old-fashioned style — the music and comedy,” Gasteyer says. “It has a supper club vibe. I’ve spent several years singing live and figuring out who I am. This is a really fun time.”

It is, indeed, the right time for Ana Gasteyer to be hip.

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