The Arizona Republic
Ana Gasteyer: ‘A fun, brassy gal singer’
By Randy Cordova, The Republic | azcentral.com 9:28 a.m. MST March 23, 2016
Mister D: I bought this album and it’s very Bette Midler-esque. I loved it.
Let’s agree on something: Ana Gasteyer is one wildly funny woman. She proved that again and again during a delightful six-season run on “Saturday Night Live” and later during her scene-stealing turn as the world’s most dedicated PTA mom in the woefully underrated sitcom “Suburgatory.”
SomethingÂ about Gasteyer that’s notÂ as well known:Â She’s a tremendously gifted singerÂ who blends a snappyÂ sense of humor withÂ impressive vocal chops. The result is a beguiling debut album called “I’m Hip” and a cabaret act that she has been honing for severalÂ years.
Well, maybe “cabaret” isn’t exactly the proper term.
“The danger of that word is that it’s been bastardized by far too many people in gowns,” Gasteyer says on the phone. “The nice parts of cabaret are the intimacy and the interpretation of songs, and those are things I definitely care about in front of a live audience. But I want it to be intimate, fun and personal, and I want people to have a good escapist evening, not an insufferable, earnest, self-important evening.”
Think of the live show as a chance to watch a sassy singerÂ swingingÂ withÂ five musiciansÂ â€” “In a perfect world, it would be a big band,” she sighs.Â Â In terms of musical role models, Gasteyer says, there’s a little Bette Midler here, a little Betty Hutton there.
“It’s really kind of a throwback show,” Gasteyer says. “It would have been called a nightclub act back in the day. It’s me in a fancy dress, slinging jokes and singing songs.”
Gasteyer’s many moods
And, man, Gasteyer has good taste in songs. On “I’m Hip,” she takes on the deliciously sly title tune,Â a Blossom Dearie standard. There is a rip-roaring version ofÂ the bawdyÂ “Sister Kate,” written in 1919.Â You even get a gorgeous,Â haunting reading of Â “(Theme From) Valley of the Dolls” that will make a listener say, “Dionne who?” And Gasteyer can catch you completely off-guard withÂ a finger-snapping rendition of Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats” that moves the tuneÂ from the barroom to a “Peter Gunn” era jazz club.
It sounds like a dizzying mix of songs and styles, but it’s all neatly wrapped up and tied with a pretty bow. Gasteyer, who studied voice at Northwestern University in Chicago,Â knows how to create a set listÂ that makes for a cohesive listening experience.
She laughs and apologizes, saying, “That’s a very long-winded way of saying that I’m performing what really makes me tick. I listen to this kind of music, and I come from the American tradition of a fun, brassy gal singer. That’s what I am.”
‘I love not screaming’
There is one song on “I’m Hip” in which she displays no brass. Gasteyer appeared as Elphaba in the Broadway production of “Wicked” and sangÂ “Defying Gravity,” the Idina Menzel lung-buster. Gasteyer reprises it on the album in a version that is sweet, optimistic and quietly hopeful.
Plus, she points out, she’s not slamming the original arrangement.
“When you see ‘Wicked’ and she’s green and she’s dying and there’s an orchestra? That’s a big, explosive experience. To try to recreate that in an intimate room? It’s not happening.”
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-444-8849.Twitter.com/randy_cordova.
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, March 26.Â
Where: Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, 7380 E. Second St.Â
Details:Â 480-499-8587, scottsdaleperformingarts.org.Â