Shoshana Bean (Photo: Bradford Rogne Photography)
By Ryan Leeds
Shoshana Bean is a fearless badass. It’s been more than a decade since her gravity-defying turn as Elphaba in Broadway’s Wicked. Since that time she’s toured internationally as a solo performer and just released her fourth studio album, Spectrum. The big band album includes classics and originals. Fans can see her live when she brings her 18-piece orchestra to Harlem’s world-famous Apollo Theater on July 30.
The Broadway Blog recently chatted with her via phone from while the multi-talented (and multi-tasking) Bean drove through Los Angeles.
In addition to songs on the Spectrum album, what else can we expect to hear at the Apollo concert?
There will be throwbacks to previous albums and some other songs are special guest dependent. I can’t say who those people are yet.
I’m sure some of your fellow Broadway colleagues will join you?
(Coyly) Maybe! (Laughs)
You’ve had some great theater roles (Elphaba in Wicked on Broadway, Fanny Brice in Funny Girl, CeeCee Bloom in the stage adaptation of Beaches). Do you have a preference towards theater or solo performance?
With a gun to my head, I’d say the solo world. Only because every day is different and there is a great, beautiful freedom that comes with it as far as performance choices. In a show, the script isn’t going to change, the music isn’t going to change, and you do the same thing every night. That’s not a bad thing—actually sometimes I miss it.
There is so much responsibility when I’m doing my own thing. That comes at a cost, too. It’s a nonstop “to do” list. In a show, you know where you have to be and what you have to do every night. There is a level of consistency that is comfortable. With a solo show, I’m the producer, artist, music director, band manager, and payroll manager. I do everything.
I found a link on Postmodern Jukebox’s website (with whom you’ve performed) in which you offered tips to aspiring performers. One of them was ‘Develop thick and resilient skin and don’t take anything personally.’ As a young girl growing up, how did you develop that resiliency and strength?
When I first started in community productions, I was a little taken aback. Every kid is the star of their own home, but I kept being cast in the ensemble. So, I began the process of getting cast or not getting cast pretty early. Then, my parents divorced and I moved to Portland, OR. As a fifth-grader and the new kid, I developed a whole new type of thick skin. I’ve always been someone who doesn’t necessarily go with the flow, so being outspoken or choosing my own friends and not going with the crowd caused me to catch a lot of shit. I was strong enough in high school to take it. I wouldn’t say I was bullied although there was this one chic that made my life hell for a number of months.
There’s always that one chic or that one jock, right?
And why are they relentless? They make it their mission to torture you until you break. I don’t understand it!
Neither do I. I was in the band and chorus in high school and was picked on for it. I had an inspiring art teacher who said, “Listen, in 25 years from now, those jocks will be sitting on their couches eating potato chips and doing nothing with their lives. You’re still going to be singing.”
That…is…so…true! It is an unequivocal equation. I see what happened to the kids who ruled the roost. It was such a brief moment in time. They had their four years in high school but it ended. I wish I could go to every high school and spread the word!
You recorded “This is Me” from the movie The Greatest Showman. You gave a portion of the proceeds from that to charity, right?
I gave all of the proceeds to the Los Angeles LBGT Center. People rampantly downloaded it and streamed it. I couldn’t believe the response.
How did the decision to donate profits originate?
It was a suggestion from Jeremy Lewis at Stem music. He does all of my digital distribution and suggested partnering with a nonprofit and I had no question who it would be.
Thank you for supporting the LGBTQ community!
I feel like I need to do more. I don’t know what else to do anymore. I see videos of bullying and problems in our legal system. With social media, everything is in our face. Everyone is aware of the problems, but not many people offer solutions. We’re clear that we’re angry and that these events are f*cking unacceptable. Now someone tell me what to do. The only thing I’ve decided to do is to keep donating money to good causes.
That’s the best thing to do, I think. I believe that putting music into the world, making it accessible where everyone can hear and enjoy it, and keeping positivity in spite of all that’s happening in the world carries so much weight and importance. Just by standing in front of an audience and performing a concert, you might change countless people in one night. Music isn’t a cure-all, but it’s a good start.
I one thousand percent agree. Only because there is a yin and a yang to everything. You have to do more of the opposite force. The opposite force of destruction, negativity, and anger is love, creation, art, and beauty. It’s Sunday in the Park With George: Make more things, give us more to see.
You cite your influences as Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, and Barbara Streisand. What it is about them that you find so appealing?
It’s something different for all of them, but the common thread is that there is irreverence to all of them. Frank basically ran around the world with his middle finger in the air. His musicianship and swagger are emblazoned in my DNA. When Streisand began, there had been nobody else like her before. What she was doing was soulful. She was different and brave. Aretha’s voice gives you unfiltered access to her heart. She opens her mouth to sing and I feel it inside my body. I’d put Whitney in that category, too. It’s rare when someone comes along whose voice you can actually feel.
You certainly keep busy. What do you do in your down time?
If I have downtime, I really like to be alone. It means that I need sleep so I try to keep to myself and watch Netflix. I’m also a nature gal. Whether I take a long walk with my dog or go to the beach, I love being outdoors.
What kind of dog do you have?
She’s a puggle—half pug, half beagle. She heard you ask about her and she sat up in the back seat!
Awww! So cute!
She’s very cute. I think so anyway. One time someone told me she was an ugly dog and I thought, “I will never speak to you again!” (laughs)
That’s pretty rude! Sometimes, people just suck.
(Laughs) It’s true. You’re a doll!
What would you be doing if you weren’t a performer?
I think I’d help develop other artists or something in fashion. I love clothes. I spend hours trolling websites for clothes!
For the Record Presents Shoshana Bean – Spectrum Live
253 West 125th Street, NYC
Monday, July 30
Ryan Leeds is a freelance theater journalist who lives in Manhattan. He is the Chief Theater Critic for Manhattan Digest and a frequent contributor to Dramatics Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @Ry_Runner or Facebook.