Playing a Comedic Bombshell with a Grown Up Harry Potter
By Sally Deering
Harry Potter’s all grown up and nobody knows that better than Emmy-winning actress Tammy Blanchard of Bayonne who shows off her comic side as a ditsy bombshell trying to seduce Daniel Radcliffe eight shows a week in the Broadway revival of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” Known to audiences for playing dramatic roles in “Rabbit Hole” with Nicole Kidman and “Sybil” with Jessica Lange (among others) Blanchard turns to her comedic instincts and pulls out all the stops as a Broadway comedienne.
Blanchard’s repertoire of serious Broadway, TV and film roles includes an Emmy Award winning performance as young Judy Garland in “Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows,” and a Tony nomination for her Broadway debut as Louise in “Gypsy” opposite Bernadette Peters. She played an unstable young woman trying to find herself in “Bella” and her portrayal of the title role in the remake of “Sybil” with Jessica Lange is so emotionally searing, she rips the heart right out of your chest.
On Broadway, Blanchard gives a comic turn in her role as Hedy LaRue, a bubble-headed knockout that’s garnering big laughs from audiences eating up her performance night after night. (The show opened on Broadway March 27th.) Blanchard shares the stage with Radcliffe – even has to sit on his lap and seduce the former Wizard of Potterville – and John Larroquette, the four-time Emmy Award winner of TVs “Night Court.” Playing with these two heavy-hitters is absolutely delish, Blanchard says.
“Daniel is a doll,” Blanchard says, on a Saturday afternoon during her dinner break between matinee and evening performances. “He’s a pro, a gentleman and so talented. We’re lucky to have him.”
Blanchard also gets to kiss Harry Potter eight shows a week, which is enough to make Potter fans drool on their invisible capes. Blanchard says after every performance Radcliffe’s fans wait outside the Stage Door for a glimpse of the famous wizard. And when they see Radcliffe appear, it’s pandemonium with Potter fans going goo-goo ga-ga over their fictional hero.
“He has some hard-core fans,” Blanchard says.
And working with Larroquette, who is making his Broadway debut and displays hilarious comic chops both on and off stage makes Blanchard as giddy as bubbles in champagne.
“John throws one-liners at you all the time,” Blanchard says. “He’s so funny. He’s both a star and a great human being. I just love him.”
Blanchard’s learned a lot about playing comedy on stage, which is very different from playing drama before the camera, she says. Timing is everything when you’re doing comedy in front of a live audience. “When I’m on stage, if I take a second too long (during a laugh line) it goes flat,” she says.
Directed and choreographed by Rob Ashford, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” stars Larroquette as J.B. Biggley, president of the World Wide Wicket company and Radcliffe as J. Pierrepont Finch, a window cleaner whose dream of moving up the corporate ladder is inspired by a book he’s reading, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” (which is voiced throughout the musical by Anderson Cooper of CNN.) When Blanchard as Hedy La Rue is hired as a new secretary, the world of World Wide Wicket goes wonky with office romances going awry and Finch tediously dangling from the corporate ladder’s top rung. But just like all musical comedies of its genre, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” succeeds in giving audiences a happy ending with lots of singing and dancing.
“How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” originally opened on Broadway in 1961 with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and libretto by Abe Burrow, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert who based the story on the1952 book by Shephard Mead. Some of the songs became big hits like, “I Believe in You,” and “Brotherhood of Men,” and in 1962, “How to Succeed…” won seven Tony Awards, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award and the 1962 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It was revived in 1995 with Matthew Broderick as Finch, which earned him a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical.
Blanchard was invited to audition by two of the producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who she describes as her heroes. Zadan and Meron worked with Blanchard when they produced “Life with Judy Garland” and have since gone on to produce blockbuster movie musicals “Chicago” and “Hairspray.” Currently, the producing team is working with Steven Spielberg on a new NBC television drama, “Smash” about the making of a Broadway musical.
Hesitant to audition, but up for the challenge, Blanchard says she drove to the audition in Manhattan and experimented with voices for the La Rue character in her car. When she discovered the voice, something clicked, she says. She auditioned, landed the role and now she gets to show her comic side eight shows a week at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on Broadway.
“It’s so much fun,” Blanchard says. “It’s such a great musical comedy and I’m having the time of my life.”
“How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
302 W. 45th Street
For Tickets: Call Telecharge at 212-239-6200
Note: A limited number of General Rush Tickets are available for $30 each on the day of the performance.
They are available at the box only beginning at 10 am.