The term “Lynchian” tends to evoke the dark, off-center sensibility of its carefully-coiffed namesake. It’s an adjective that could be used similarly to describe the indomitable comic stylings of a fellow Lynch named Jane. In this sense, “Jane Lynchian” refers to a no-bullshit, straight shooter always willing to share what’s on her mind (from Guatemalan ex-lovers to cocaine breakfasts). More recently, Lynch – as the jumpsuit wearing, draconian coach Sue Sylvester on Glee – added “songstress” to that list. But don’t take my word for it. Next week at Joe’s Pub you’ll be able to experience all that is “Jane Lynchian” courtesy of her new show, “See Jane Sing.”
Having begun her career on stage, Lynch’s tiptoe back toward theater was inevitable. Following her successful portrayal of Sue Sylvester, Lynch was cast as the equally villainous Miss Hanningan in last year’s Broadway production of Annie. Soon after, Lynch was invited by 54 Below, a local cabaret club, to perform her “act.” Though she had nothing prepared, Lynch accepted, improvising with a handful of what she says are “songs I just liked.”
Since then, “See Jane Sing” has been on tour throughout the country. With its return to New York, the journey has come full circle. From “humble beginnings,” the show is now backed by the talented trumpeter Tony Guerrero and his five-piece band, performing under the capable musical direction of former Glee musical arranger Tim Davis. If further convincing is required, try Kate Flannery (the beloved hot mess Meredith from The Office) joining Lynch on stage in a performance that sees the lines between the actors and their on-screen personas blurred. In Lynch’s own words.
“I sort of tap into a certain part of myself and blow some air into that,” she told us over the phone. “So I won’t be boring you with the real me because, you know, seeing someone behave as themselves on stage is about as exciting as watching paint dry.”
Along with that tidbit we learned a couple more things from Lynch about her love of stage, the show and her philosophy on the drug connotations behind “Puff the Magic Dragon.”
I began doing plays in my hometown of Chicago. I auditioned for the Second City touring company and I got in. It turns out I love sketch, not necessarily improvising — I don’t know if I’m that great at that. It started in the Second City show where there was always three or four songs – funny little ditties – and I really loved that, it kind of opened up a whole new world for me.
Exactly and yeah, since then I hadn’t [sung on stage] in years so doing Annie was a chance to revisit that. I didn’t think I wanted to go back to the theater — not that I hated it or anything, but I thought, “Oh well, I’ve done that.” But man, I love it. It’s the best.
Yeah, it’s an ephemeral thing — you’re there, it’s in the moment, and the audience plays a huge part in it. They are 50 percent of this experience and we have such a blast with the Tony Guerrero Quintet, Tim Davis, and of course Kate Flannery, the best scene-stealing sidekick a girl could ask for.
Yeah, Kate’s persona is so funny – a slightly inebriated, kind of messy “I’m looking for a drink” thing – but in real life she’s like the cleanest person I know, 100 percent pro. Just wait till you hear her voice, she’s outrageously talented.
I think it’s because the show’s not sappy and biographical and I don’t sing a song to my inner-child. I think I say once, “When I was a little girl.” But you know, when someone starts off their show with “When I was a little…” –buckle in because you’re likely in for some sort of self-indulgent ride and I certainly, hopefully, don’t provide that.
It kind of set the tone for the whole thing, it’s called “Slappin’ the Cakes On Me,” a song by a guy named Dave Frishberg. Before this all started my good friend Brad Ellis, a wonderful piano player on Glee, asked if I’d picked any songs yet and I hadn’t, so we went to a music room and he played that tune and I was like, “That’s my song.”
I didn’t consciously pick the rest of the songs for any other reason than I loved them. I don’t add a song just for the sake of it, it has to come to me, it has to be something I love, I have to have a particular take on it and yeah, that’s what happened. Last week we added a medley of songs that made us cry as a kid.
The lyrics go, “One grey night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more” — it’s about a little boy who grows into a man and puts away childish things which means Puff is left by himself and I mean, oh my God, I could cry even talking about, it breaks my heart. I felt so bad for Puff.
The drug connotations? Yeah, I said once in an interview: when you’re high, you’re tapping in to that great unconscious anyway, so it might have been about Puff smoking or about someone giving him marijuana but whatever — these mists are deep in us, our human psyche, and they can become unearthed through marijuana, LSD who knows…
It’s funny to think you’ve got this song, “Puff the Magic Dragon,” and it gets associated with those things but in a way it does tap into some deeper truth, the two totally overlap with each other and there is at the core this sadness. But I guess that’s good — kids need to be sad sometimes because I guess life isn’t all just rainbows?
Yeah, I think it taps into that – and I don’t want to get too deep here – but you’re right, it does resonate with us as we get older, there is something in people where we don’t want to leave behind that beautiful heaven we experienced when we were kids and it can be very sad. I know, I went too deep, I went too deep — you shoulda stopped me…
No, definitely not. If anything it contextualizes why you’d have a medley of songs that made you cry as a child. And as an adult I guess you bring something new to the songs with the addition of worldly experience?
Absolutely, and unless you don’t think I’m completely self-indulgent there’s only one song that made me cry in this medley, the rest of the songs are everybody else’s. I will be singing them all, though.
I read you were trying to memorize the entire rap to Nicky Minaj’s “Anaconda,” please tell me you’re including that in the show?
Well, that was kind of going to be a surprise but we might as well let the cat outta the bag – anaconda out of the bag – we are doing “Anaconda.” I think Nicki Minaj is a genius, I think she hits on a particular thing in a particular culture, a girl in that culture and just gets inside of her — it’s hilarious. It took some effort to learn but most of the songs in this show were written before 1960 so I wanted to give the kids something that they would enjoy.
I am, yes, but I’ve been deaf in one ear my whole life, so I didn’t have anything to adjust to. I hear harmonies quite well, I’ve got a good ear, literally one ear. So the one I ear I have is a damn good one.
“See Jane Sing” at Joe’s Pub from Sunday August 16 – 19. Shows are at 7 pm and 9:30. Tickets range from $25-75 and can be purchased here.