ON STAGE: Colorado’s Melissa Benoist heads to Broad­way

Melissa Benoist got her start do­ing mu­si­cal theater in Denver

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - By Mark Kennedy

NEW YORK» To get ready to play leg­endary song­writer Ca­role King on Broad­way, Melissa Benoist had to learn her lines and com­pli­cated stage direc­tions. Lyrics, not so much.

The ac­tress, who stars on the CW se­ries “Su­per­girl,” has been lis­ten­ing to King since she was a kid, fed a steady diet of clas­sics such as “So Far Away” and “It’s Too Late” from the land­mark al­bum “Tapestry” by her par­ents.

“We would take road trips a lot as a fam­ily when I was a kid and each mem­ber of the fam­ily got to pick the mu­sic for an hour. My mom al­ways put on Ca­role King or Linda Ron­stadt or Joni Mitchell but mostly Ca­role King. So I def­i­nitely had a re­la­tion­ship,” said Benoist. “Need­less to say I didn’t have any mem­o­riz­ing to do when it came to learn­ing the songs.”

Benoist will take all the help she can get as she makes her Broad­way debut Tues­day in “Beau­ti­ful: The Ca­role King Mu­si­cal,” which con­cen­trates on King’s early years. The role Benoist is step­ping into earned Jessie Mueller a Tony Award.

“It’s like a roller-coaster every day be­cause I’ll have mo­ments — high highs where I’m like, ‘I got this!’ ” she said. “And then I have other mo­ments where I’m watch­ing some­one else do it be­cause I’ve been trail­ing back­stage or I’m look­ing at the script and I think to my­self, ‘Why did I ever agree? Why did I ever put my­self in this po­si­tion?’ ”

Benoist is clos­ing a circle in a way. She grew up do­ing mu­si­cal theater in metro Denver and sang dur­ing the last two sea­sons of “Glee.”

(Ed­i­tor’s note: In 2006, when she was a se­nior at Ara­pa­hoe High School in Lit­tle­ton, John Moore of The Denver Post named Benoist one of Colorado’s five “Can’t Miss Kids.”)

Benoist got the of­fer to join “Beau­ti­ful” while fin­ish­ing up Sea­son 3 of “Su­per­girl” in Van­cou­ver.

“I never ex­pected to be wear­ing a cape and in a fly­ing rig and play­ing a su­per­hero. That was just not on my radar. But I never, at the same time, gave up the idea of theater. It was al­ways some­thing that I wanted to come back to,” she said. “So I al­most feel like I’m com­ing home in a way.”

Benoist ac­tu­ally ac­cepted the of­fer of spend­ing two months on Broad­way with­out first see­ing the mu­si­cal she was join­ing. She sought ad­vice from Broad­way vet­eran and “Su­per­girl” cast mem­ber Jeremy Jor­dan, and trusted her ears.

“Who else could you say yes with­out see­ing it but Ca­role King? You KNOW the mu­sic,” said Benoist, laugh­ing. “I would never for­give my­self if I didn’t say yes.”

Pro­duc­ers Paul Blake and Mike Bos­ner said in an email that they were “ab­so­lutely ec­static” to in­vite Benoist to lead their show. “Then we saw her first per­for­mance and were com­pletely blown away! She lights up the stage when­ever she walks on.”

Benoist’s stint on Broad­way is lim­ited since she’s due to re­turn to film Sea­son 4 of “Su­per­girl,” but Benoist said she’ll go back to a far dif­fer­ent set en­vi­ron­ment than a year or so ago.

Warner Bros. sus­pended An­drew Kreis­berg, an ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer and show run­ner of “Su­per­girl,” af­ter sex­ual ha­rass­ment and mis­con­duct al­le­ga­tions were made against him.

He has de­nied any wrong­do­ing.

Benoist calls the new set en­vi­ron­ment “re­ally con­ducive to equal­ity and every­one has a say and that is some­thing that I felt change and go­ing in the right di­rec­tion,” she said.

She added that the “Su­per­girl” fam­ily is care­ful to dis­cuss “what we’re say­ing to young girls, what ef­fect it’s go­ing to have on them, what it means.”

“So the fact that that’s a part of the con­ver­sa­tion every day makes me re­ally happy,” she said.

While she’s hope­ful that “Su­per­girl” and Ca­role King fans will come out and see her sing at the Stephen Sond­heim The­atre, Benoist is a lit­tle wor­ried about one per­son pos­si­bly show­ing up.

That would be Ca­role King her­self.

“I wouldn’t want to know un­til af­ter­ward be­cause I wouldn’t be able to sing for her,” said Benoist. “I can’t imag­ine singing for her — her own mu­sic, es­pe­cially. But I hope I get to meet her. I would love that.”

Michael Zorn, Invision

Melissa Benoist in­tro­duces a per­for­mance by the cast of “Once on This Is­land” at the Tony Awards in New York on Sun­day.

As­so­ci­ated Press file

Ca­role King with James Tay­lor in 2007.

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