Lena Hall looks forward, and back: Broadway star 'Auditions' at Feinstein's

by Jim Gladstone

Lena Hall
Lena Hall  

While starring in the Broadway production and national tour of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, San Francisco native Lena Hall had an amazing six-pack of leading men: Neil Patrick Harris, Andrew Rannells, Michael C. Hall, John Cameron Mitchell and Darren Criss.

But champagne arrived in the form of real estate agent Jonathan Stein, who proposed to her this past Christmas, just two days before she spoke with the Bay Area Reporter about another upcoming engagement. Her three-show run at Feinstein's at the Nikko opens tonight (It's almost sold out, so act fast if you hope to attend).

"We're on vacation in Bermuda," a slightly distracted Hall said by telephone, explaining that she hadn't been expecting the proposal, which is clear to anyone who watches the surreptitious sunset video Stein shot and Hall later shared with her Instagram followers (http://bit.ly/HallStein).


Lena Hall in a recent cabaret performance.  

In addition to her impending nuptials, old friends and well-wishers at Hall's shows this week will have Hall's first regular role in a television series to celebrate.

Along with Jennifer Connelly and fellow Bay Area native Daveed Diggs, she stars in Snowpiercer, a massively-scaled TNT television adaptation of the graphic sci-fi novel and Tilda Swinton/Chris Evans film it inspired.

"After the pilot was filmed," Hall says, "There was a big overhaul of the show [The original director and showrunner were replaced]. I ended up in a different role than I'd been originally cast for, a new role that was specifically written for me to play.

"I'm not allowed to say much," she explains, given the show's high profile and surprising plot turns, "but I love playing this character. She's awesome and I feel like I'm the luckiest person on the show." (Filming was just completed, and the show will premiere at a still undetermined date later this year).

Hall says that the jump from auditioning for Snowpiercer to working on the show was radically different from her early efforts to break into Broadway.

"Because the casting was being done in L.A. and I'm based in New York, I auditioned on video. My agent sent me script pages and I set up the lights and a tripod in my apartment. There's no director sitting there, no casting director. I just self-taped what was written down and uploaded it."

She got the role, and was off to long days on the soundstage.


Lena Hall in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Photo: Joan Marcus  

Hall's first years in New York were another story.

"When you're starting out in musical theater, the auditions are the work. You spend far more time auditioning and preparing to audition than you spend as a hired actor."

Those years are the inspiration for the new cabaret act Hall will perform at Feinstein's: The Art of the Audition.

"I take everyone through the auditions that I did, and my huge fails. I have more fails than I have wins. There are so many stories of ridiculous things that I had to do to get a job."

Among the hardest things to do as a newcomer, says Hall, is the hit and miss process of choosing audition songs that will help capture your uniqueness as a performer.

"Why was I singing Phantom of the Opera?" she wonders in retrospect, having since established herself as one of Broadway's preeminent purveyors of grit.

Feinstein's audiences will also get to hear Hall's rendition of another unlikely selection: "Tits and Ass" from A Chorus Line.

"The show's a crowd-pleaser," says Hall, who has previously performed it in New York and Vancouver, but is excited about bringing it to her hometown crowd. "Everyone can relate to the anxiety of applying for a job."

Lena Hall's 'The Art of the Audition,' Jan. 31- Feb, 2. $55-$85 ($20 food/drink min.) at Feinstein's at the Nikko, 222 Mason St. www.feinsteinsatthenikko.com


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