Chatback with Ann Harada

Ann Harada has appeared on Broadway and London’s West End, among her numerous film and TV credits, including Theresa Rebeck’s musical-drama series, Smash. Harada is also the co-creator and writer of Christmas Eve with Christmas Eve – an annual cabaret supporting Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights Aids. Ivan Steel Presents caught up with the funny Harada during a break in rehearsals of Jerry Herman’s limited engagement musical, Dear World to talk about her newfound love of 19th-century London and revealing which sycophantic cartoon character she was nicknamed by Smash co-star, Jack Davenport.

Growing up in Hawaii, it was a big deal when large scale productions like Miss Saigon and Cats played at the Neal Blaisdell Concert Hall. That’s my earliest memories of the theatre. At what age did you first discover your love for the arts?

When I was in 3rd grade I remember watching the 6th graders do a play and being completely amazed at how good it was. My parents were very good about taking me to a variety of events at the Blaisdell (then known as Honolulu International Center or HIC) and I remember seeing a tour of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown and The Sound of Music when I was small. My love for the theatre really kicked in in high school when I auditioned for The Importance of Being Earnest and got cast as Merriman, one of the butlers. From then on I was just in every play or musical.

Your career spans over two decades now. You’ve starred in many different productions and played an array of unique characters, some you’ve originated. Which one do you hold dearest to your heart and why?

As difficult as it is to choose between your roles (much like choosing between your children) I would have to pick Christmas Eve in Avenue Q for a number of reasons. I got to develop the character from the very beginning through many table reads and workshops. I originated the role Off Broadway at the Vineyard, on Broadway at the Golden Theatre, and was given the opportunity to originate the role in London’s West End, which was a dream come true. I love her and so much of her is me.

In the new production of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella, there are some political undertones throughout the story. What are your thoughts about it?

I loved it because it gave Cinderella a way to help the prince and not just be rescued by him. I also loved the character of Jean-Michel the rebel, played so beautifully by Greg Hildreth.

Let’s discuss the fan-favorite phenomenon Smash. You played Linda, the stage manager. After appearing in 18 episodes, I would imagine you have some behind the scenes stories to share?

I loved being on Smash and it was a big surprise to me that I was in so many episodes, since I was originally hired to just be on 4 episodes, and they kept bringing me back for some reason. It was a blast getting to be in so many scenes with Jack Davenport. We called each other “Smithers” and “Mr. Burns.” We would also play Scrabble between takes on his iPad but after a few weeks he was peeved that i kept winning so consistently so he quit playing me. Mr. Burns’s ego couldn’t take it, I guess.

Too funny! And of course you got to work with Angelica Huston. What was she like?

Angelica Huston is exactly as you think she’d be — gorgeous, charming and kind. Sometimes I couldn’t believe I was actually eating lunch with her off of paper plates at a cafeteria table (TV is very glamorous).

Two years after the series ended, the cast reunited for the Bombshell concert. One of the highlights of the evening was getting to hear you perform “I Never Met a Wolf Who Didn’t Love to Howl.” How did the idea come about?

It was all Marc Shaiman’s idea for me to sing it and I resisted it at first because I couldn’t imagine that anyone would want to hear me sing one of the Marilyn songs, but he insisted it would be okay. And as usual, he was correct!

I know that you’re currently in rehearsals. What can you tell us about your new project at the York Theatre Company?

It’s a Musicals in Mufti ( which means in street clothes) staged reading of Jerry Herman’s Dear World, which is a musical version of Giraudoux’s The Madwoman of Chaillot. Tyne Daly is the star. I play one of her friends, another madwoman! It’s lots of fun but crazed because we only have a week to put it together and we start performances Friday.

Wow – Break legs on your opening! With your very busy work schedule, what do you do in your free time to regroup and unwind?

Haha! Well, tonight I sat down and watched a bunch of episodes of Masterpiece Theatre’s Victoria. It’s really been a comfort during the last few months, to be able to escape into a world where politics didn’t involve the nasty rhetoric of today. I’m a big fan of Showtime’s Penny Dreadful as well. I think there’s something about Victorian London that just appeals to me. Perhaps I lived there in a former life!

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