Keala Settle has had a dream year on and off Broadway, jumping from a Tony-nominated performance in Hands on a Hardbody to the current, revamped staging of Side Show at La Jolla Playhouse, as the Fortune Teller. The effervescent star will soon lend her big voice to the juicy role of Mme. Thenardier in Les Miserables, which is set to begin previews at Broadway’s Imperial Theatre on March 1, 2014.
“Ironically, I have never seen a production of the show,” Settle told Broadway.com as news of her Les Miz casting was announced. She knew enough to realize that Madame T is a great part, however: “I thought, ‘I would love to try my hand at this and see if I can put my own take on it.’ I went to a series of auditions, and when I finally did it for [producer] Cameron Mackintosh, it felt really, really good.” So, did she admit to Mackintosh and his team that she was a Les Miz virgin? “Oh, yeah, they knew!” Settle replied with a laugh. “I said, ‘Sorry about that—I’m just going to give you what I think this woman is.’”
Having studied the script, Settle describes Eponine’s mom as “the brains of the outfit. Her husband is the charmer, but she’s doing all the work. It’s a messed-up relationship, but it works, almost like Bonnie and Clyde. She’s this really, really dark woman who just goes balls to the wall.”
Seattle has never met her future stage husband, to be played by Canadian actor Cliff Saunders, but she is excited to reunite with former Priscilla Queen of the Desert castmate Will Swenson, who will play Javert, and Hairspray tour co-star Caissie Levy, who has been cast as Fantine. “The minute I found out [I got the part] my phone started blowing up,” Settle said. “The family is reunited! Caissie and I call each other BFF because she played my best friend [Penny Pingleton] when I was Tracy in Hairspray.”
Looking back on 2013, Settle said, “It’s been a crazy year, and it just gets crazier and crazier! I’m an actress who likes to work as much as possible, so I’m very grateful for all these opportunities.”