Age & Hometown: 28; Evanston, Illinois
Current Role: A Broadway debut as Melinda Wells, a 1940s big-band singer who is summoned back to life in 1974 via hypnosis by a lovestruck psychiatrist (Harry Connick Jr.) in the re-invented revival of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.
Born to Sing: Theater is the family business for this vivacious Chicago-bred musical headliner: Her parents and all three of her siblings are professional actors. Mueller began developing her distinctively jazzy vocal style while still in high school. “I think I was born in the wrong era,” she says with a laugh. “I’ve always loved movies from the 30s and 40s, and when I was in high school I listened to Harry Connick Jr. and Kurt Elling.” Though she considered a classical track while attending Syracuse University, musical theater ultimately seemed a better fit: “I like so many styles of music, and I would miss the variety if I had to choose just one.”
Her Kind of Town: After graduation, Mueller became an instant star of the Chicago musical scene in shows like Carousel, Guys & Dolls and She Loves Me. (She even found real-life love when paired with actor Andy Truschinski in A Christmas Carol.) Called in for a local On a Clear Day audition, Mueller never dreamed she would nab the lead in a big Broadway musical. “It’s kind of a Cinderella story, but I wouldn’t be where I am today without everything I learned in the Chicago theater community,” she reflects. “The casting pool is smaller, so I was able to work at great places and keep auditioning for bigger roles.”
Wild About Harry: Falling in love with her childhood idol on a Broadway stage eight times a week is beyond exciting for Mueller. “I try to stay focused and ‘in the moment,’ but every once in a while, I realize, ‘Yes, I am singing in Harry Connick Jr.’s face and he’s singing in mine.’ It’s a thrill! To have someone like him at the top that we can all depend on and look up to is amazing.” After belting out one of her big-band numbers (added to the show from Lerner & Lane’s movie musical Royal Wedding), she even gets to hear Connick ask Melinda, “Where did you learn to sing like that?” With a laugh, Mueller says, “I want to answer, ‘Listening to you.’”