Nancy And Beth: Expect the unexpected

Megan Mullally and Stephanie Hunt are twinning. True, they are not sisters and have a 30-year age gap between them but they are so in tune with each other, it’s almost spooky. This makes them a great duo on tour — they will be at the Ridgefield Playhouse May 10 — which sees them assume their music alter egos, Nancy And Beth, in a punk-vaudeville act where they harmonize and offer unique takes on great songs, dance with Fosse-like choreography and wear matching costumes. The two actresses were singers long before achieving fame on stage and the small screen (“Will & Grace” and “Friday Night Lights,” to name but two) and this promises to be a night where anything can happen on stage and audiences should expect the unexpected. Backed by a five-piece band, the avant-garde performance (for mature audiences) will be quite a show.

Andrea Valluzzo: It’s 2011, you’re both on a hot movie set in Austin, Texas. What prompts you to start singing together and what did it feel like when you first harmonized?

Stephanie Hunt: I was carrying my ukulele around with me on set. I sang Megan a song and asked her to sing along with me and we sang a round. I knew she was a great singer and we had a sympatico and it was super fun and we just heard a great blend in our voices. It kind of fell into place in an effortless way. We didn’t intend to start a band or —

Megan Mullally: Win a Grammy.

SH: or conquer the music industry but —

MM: That’s what happened.

AV: How would you describe your show?

Nancy And Beth

MM: It’s very celebratory, it’s a little bit of something for everyone. We do songs from all different eras and genres and every song is fully choreographed from top to bottom. Stephanie and I sing in harmony and the band — we have five pieces behind us — and they all sing and play. It’s kind of different from any other band, it’s hard for us to put it in a specific category because it does not fit into any existing category so we’ve made up some categories, like punk vaudeville, sometimes we call it our travelling tent show, sometimes we call it a buddy act. It’s probably not what you are expecting. It’s better than what you are expecting. You will leave a changed man or woman.

AV: Who should come to this show?

MM: We’ve played every kind of venue imaginable from dive bars to the Royal Festival Hall in London and everything in between. And in every place we have played, audiences seem to love the show so I guess ‘anybody?’ would be my answer. I think everybody magically loves the band and that’s kind of why it’s my favorite thing to do. It’s so fun creatively for me and Stephanie because we have complete autonomy and we can be like two little girls playing in our room and then the other side of it is that it really is a crowd pleaser so we feel like ‘Oh, OK not only are we having fun but we are actually making people happy,’ so it’s a great privilege. The night before we play in Ridgefield we are playing in Bay Shore N.Y., and we played there last year at the Boulton Center and during our last song, a fight broke out in the audience. Of course, we were thrilled because we thought, well, we’re punks. However, I am just warning you that we may be wheeled into the Ridgefield Playhouse on stretchers because if another fight breaks out and spreads across the stage, we just don’t know. We might be crowd-surfing. There was also a trail of ants three abreast strolling across the stage so we might be covered in ants. Anything is possible but we will be there.

AV: You have a “freakout list.” What is that and how does a song make it on the list?

SH: The freakout list is our list of songs that, simply put, make us freak out and that’s the feeling we both instinctively understand. We will look at each other and stare wide eyed, excitedly, lots of screaming. Sometimes that will be because Megan has thought of some sort of choreography and is already dancing while we are listening to it or pitching an idea for what we can do … and we are just laughing and seeing the whole thing come together. It’s pretty clear to both of us when something is on the freakout list. It is kind of the whole template for where our show comes from.

AV: Where did the name Nancy And Beth come from?

MM: From the ether. We had made a list of potential band names. I was visiting Austin. Stephanie lives in Austin, and when I got back to L.A., I put the list together and for some reason when I was compiling it, I thought oh, wait, I know. Nancy And Beth. It just sort of came out of nowhere. I kind of buried it in the middle of this long list and she immediately emailed me back and said Nancy and Beth. So we were, as usual, on the same wavelength. That’s the thing — there is a kind of psychic twins element because Stephanie and I are very much in tune with each other. There’s a lot that we don’t have to verbalize because it’s just we both have an automatic unspoken understanding. That’s why we have a band.

AV: Does this feel like work or is it more like spending a night with your best friend?

MM: Definitely the latter. It’s never work, it’s just pure joy. We love the band and we love performing. The songs are very well-rehearsed and broken in shards and put back together and in between songs it kind of falls apart because that’s when Stephanie and I just start talking about whatever is happening. So it’s a good balance of ‘Oh ,they know what they are doing’ and ‘Oh, wait, no, they don’t.’ Kind of like you are witnessing us having a slumber party on stage.

AV: Your new single, “I Don’t Hurt Anymore,” is great! Were you inspired by Dinah Washington’s or Johnny Cash’s version?

MM: There are so many great versions but I guess if I had to pick, I would say the Dinah Washington version. We’ve been playing that song with the band for years and we just hadn’t recorded it yet. We recorded it in a little bit of a different way, we got that great horn arrangement.

SH: We slowed it down a little and made it bluesier

MM: And we do a different kind of vocal on that song than we normally do. It’s a little messier and looser than our normal vocals but I love it.

AV: What’s next after this tour and is there a new album in the works?

MM: We have an album that the single is from that is going to come out next year in 2020. We’ve partnered with a record label so they are helping us with our next record and everything else. We want to keep touring and getting the word out and making videos. It really is the most fun and satisfying thing that I can think of.

AV: Both of you were into music before acting, if you had to choose one to do the rest of your life, which one would it be?

MM: Honestly, I’d pick music, I know that is controversial but I’ve been singing way longer than I’ve been acting and even dancing way longer. I didn’t start acting until college. I was singing since I was little, 4 or 5 years old.

SH: I would also go with music even though it’s hard to say because they both satisfy different realms and creative thirsts. With music you can get instant gratification even just sitting in your house playing a song on your guitar or ukulele with friends. With acting there is a whole thing that is necessary. You have to have an audience and it takes a lot more to get the feeling of the satisfaction of acting.

AV: Favorite song to perform?

MM: I don’t know if we have a favorite. I feel like that is a “Sophie’s Choice” kind of situation. I think our favorite might change from night to night or year to year. We love them all.

Facebook Comments

Leave a Comment