Jessie Mueller: A ‘Beautiful’ Return

Seth Rudetsky in Mark Cortale’s Broadway@The Herbst | By Jeff Kaluzny

Jessie Mueller is leading the batch of young Broadway actors who will be soon be considered legends. At only 34 years of age and with just 6 years on the Broadway stage, her Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical) anchored by an additional 2 nominations for On a Clear Day You Can See Forever as well as Waitress have essentially cemented her place in musical theatre lore.

Musical theater is in her DNA. Ms. Mueller was born and raised a stone’s throw from Chicago in a family of 6 entirely made up of working actors and considered “the first family of Chicago theatre”.

This month Jessie Mueller will be making her return to San Francisco, where she premiered her Tony winning performance 4 years ago as Carole King, on October 19th. Hosted and accompanied by the incomparable Seth Rudetsky, she will bring an evening of song and back-stage story-telling to open the fourth annual Broadway @ The Herbst concert series which will help to benefit Project Open Hand, San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

You’re coming back to San Francisco. How does it feel?  I’m pumped! I was just in California not too long ago for a concert but I was in Pasadena. I love California very, very much. It’s quite beautiful in New York right now so it isn’t like I’m racing away in the dead of winter. I’m definitely looking forward to coming back to San Fran. What I remember is going from neighborhood to neighborhood and the temperature changes.

Mark Cortale’s Broadway series has normally been a retrospective of the careers of Broadway stars whose resumes have spanned numerous decades. Your career, as incredibly full and lauded and enviable as it has been is still relatively young. What are you hoping to bring to Broadway @ the Herbst?  What’s so interesting in talking to Seth about what we wanted to do. We did a show this summer in Provincetown and it’s been so fun to look back and do things from Beautiful and do stuff from Waitress but also stuff from my career in Chicago. Seth is just so funny. He just wants to really dig. He’d ask, “What was your favorite song in High School?” or “What was the first part you ever did?” or “Tell me a terrible audition story”. He’s so good at pulling that fun stuff out of you so I think it will be really fun. He throws unexpected stuff at you as well. I never really know where the patter is going to go or what questions he’s going to ask. You just kind of like, just go there with him.

Exactly! I’ve been able to see most of the other shows in the series and it’s so much fun watching him keep legends like Patti LuPone, Chita Rivera, or Christine Ebersohl on their toes. It adds an element of authentic surprise and vulnerability that makes this series stand out from others.  Yeah, it’s just really interesting. It’s prepared and all but it’s also got this relaxed ‘welcome to my living room’ kind of vibe. There is a lot of stuff that is off the cuff. Like I said he just throws things at you. There’s something about that that I think encourages and reminds people that they are seeing something unique and something that no one else has seen. They know that it’s not rehearsed within an inch of its life. Neither Seth nor the performer know exactly what will happen from moment to moment. I think audiences enjoy that because they really do feel like it’s something special and interesting.

It feels like we are being let in on an inside joke  YES! Exactly. And that’s the best, you know!?!

Are you allowed to share a sampling of the set list?  We’re gonna do stuff from Beautiful and Waitress. There may be a few things that we move around from the Ptown show. We did some songs from Carousel (which Ms. Mueller will be starring in on Broadway this Spring) She Loves Me, as well as some pop tunes — it’s a really good mix.

What inspires you as you go from city to city? How do you keep yourself motivated and excited?  The biggest thing I’m trying to work on is… I’m a little OCD, I’m a planner, I’m trying to just not get too ahead of myself. You know, stuff’s gonna happen from moment to moment each day, especially when you’re traveling and getting to go to different places. You don’t want to miss out on something because you made this plan and you’ve gotta get somewhere. Just being open to the new things that might be around the corner. Especially in a new place. That’s part of the delight of it, for me. When I’m travelling I try to go to the park or gardens or art museums. Stuff like that gets me going.

It’s not too late. Don’t miss Tony Award winner Jessie Mueller with Seth Rudetsky in Mark Cortale’s acclaimed series Broadway @ The Herbst concert series on Thursday, October 19th at 8:00 PM.  Tickets are available at or via phone at 415.392.4400.

For over 30 years Project Open Hand is a nonprofit organization that provides 2,500 nutritious meals and 200 bags of healthy groceries each day to help sustain their clients as they battle serious illnesses, isolation, or the health challenges of aging.

The San Francisco AIDS Foundation has been working to end the HIV epidemic since 1982.  Their refusal to accept HIV as inevitable has led to their mission to radically reduce new infections through education, advocacy and direct services for prevention and care in the most vulnerable communities.

Founded in 1978 as the first ever openly gay chorus, San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus is one of the largest male choruses in the world.  Their 300 members carry the mission of creating extraordinary musical experiences that inspire community, activism, and compassion.

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is one of the nation’s leading industry-based HIV/AIDS fundraising and grant-making organizations. They fund the social service work of The Actors Fund and award grants to AIDS service organizations nationwide.


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