by G.W. Mercure
Jessie Mueller is best known as the Tony-Award-winning star of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, but Mueller’s career reaches into film and television and beyond, including an upcoming animation project, a live musical version of the popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid books series, and much more. She still considers herself Broadway, though, and looks forward to bringing that ethos to Provincetown this Sunday, when the Art House anoints the 2023 summer season with a dynamic one-night-only performance featuring Mueller at Town Hall.
“The structure of this show is Broadway,” she says. “To me, I think it’s the fun thing about the show. It’s fun and relaxed and off the cuff; I really feel like the audience has the fun that we’re having.” Listening to Mueller as she anticipates the show is charming. Especially as she talks about collaborators.
“I’ve known Seth Rudetsky for a long time now,” says Mueller of her accompanist and collaborator on this show. “I look forward to the show because he’s just crazy in the best ways, both in his talent and in the way he controls a room. He’s so fun to watch and he’s so fun to be around.” Rudetsky is a popular radio performer and Broadway staple who The New York Times has called “The Mayor of Broadway.” And Mueller is no slouch, either. In addition to her Tony Award win, she has been nominated two other times, for Carousel, and for Waitress. She’s also won two Drama Desk awards, and a Grammy,. Mueller is a singular talent, a powerful voice, and a versatile actress, so one suspects that trophy will gain some more company in the coming years, especially with her devotion to Broadway.
“I think Broadway is many things,” she says. “It’s certainly my connection with my community. I know that we are sort of all over the place and some people leave for a bit and go to L.A., or do something different and then come back to the City, but it’s sort of this community, and I guess also a place we all sort of come back to from time to time.”
What she describes sounds like home. She doesn’t disagree, but home is a tricky concept in her business.
“I’m in a place in my life where my home—or at least my home base—keeps shifting, depending on work, which just sort of goes with the gig,” she says. “I think, to me, though, I grew up just outside of Chicago, so I grew up around Chicago theater. So, the theater feels like home for me, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Broadway for me; that can be, like, I can get into a darkened theater anywhere in the world and feel like I’m home.”
Another town has been growing on her, as well. “I didn’t really ever have a connection to the Cape before,” she says, until Rudetsky brought her around for a performance in 2017. “‘You’re gonna love it, you’re gonna love it!’ And, sure enough, I got there and I was like, ‘Oh, I get it, absolutely.’”
Like many others, Mueller will be on and off the Cape much too quickly. Work beckons, as does Broadway.
“I’m working on some cast recordings of new musicals,” she says. “One that’s out now is by this brilliant young man named Jorge Rivera Herrans. It’s called My Heart Says Go. They just released that. And then I just worked on another new musical.”
Another project that Mueller is particularly excited about is a little off her trodden path, or maybe it isn’t. It fulfills a lifelong ambition. “Ever since I was a little girl, all I ever wanted to do was a cartoon, either draw cartoons or be a cartoon,” she says of the animated project she’s working on. Mueller has previously appeared in television animated series such as Netflix’s Centaurworld, but this one is different for her. “That is huge for me…My younger self is geeking out about that. It’s sort of in the pilot stage right now, so I’m hoping that it moves forward,” she says.
In addition to being two-dimensional and vividly colored, Mueller is passionate about collaboration with friends, especially in her work on Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Musical. “It’s written by two of my dearest friends from Chicago, Michael Mahler and Alan Schmuckler…I was just in New York to do that.”
And now, Mueller is looking forward to returning to post-pandemic Provincetown.
“I think I’ve been there twice now: once at The Art House and once at Town Hall. It was, you know, ‘The Before Times;’” she says of her last visit to Provincetown. “So I’m really looking forward to coming back.”
Jesse Mueller will perform at Provincetown Town Hall, 260 Commercial St., presented by Art House on Sunday, May 28, 6:30 p.m. For more information call 508.487.9222. Visit provincetownarthouse.com for tickets ($50 – $200).