Directed by Jason Alexander, Sandy Rustin's farce, inspired by the works of Noël Coward, casts Bundy as Sylvia, who decides to come clean about her affair to both her husband and her lover’s wife. The limited engagement, which continues through October 29, also features Eric McCormack, Lilli Cooper, Alex Moffat, Dana Steingold, and Nehal Joshi.
Bundy, whose Broadway credits also include Amber in the original cast of Hairspray and Glinda in Wicked, received Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk nominations for her performance as Tina in Off-Broadway's Ruthless. The Billboard Top 5 recording artist has been seen on screen in Anger Management, Fairly Odd Parents, Call Me Kat, How I MetYour Mother/Father, Hart of Dixie, Perfect Harmony, The Guest Book, American Gods, Jumanji, Dreamgirls, Huck Finn, and Snow Day.
In the interview below for the Playbill series How Did I Get Here—spotlighting not only actors, but directors, designers, musicians, and others who work on and off the stage to create the magic that is live theatre—Bundy shares how a Radio City audition led to a breakthrough role, the teachers who have guided her throughout her career, and her deep appreciation for both her mom and theatrical producers.
Where did you train/study?
My training experience was a bit different than most. I did not go to college for acting or musical theatre. I was a child actor who came to NYC for the summers from Kentucky starting at the age of six. It was here where my mom fearlessly sought out teachers for me to study with privately. I learned mostly from them and the directors or fellow actors I worked with. Prior to that, I began dancing at 2.5 years old at Town & Village School of Dance in Paris, Kentucky—Luanne Franklin and Pat Bell. My most notable vocal training was with Jackie Roberts in Kentucky, Gene McLaughlin in NYC starting at six years old until I was 11. Then Franco Iglesias in opera training at 12. Went to School of American Ballet for a year from 11-12 years old. Studied tap with Charles Kelley in NYC from 8 to 13 years old. Flo Greenberg in acting as a child. I was spoon fed comedic timing by Joel Paley and Marvin Laird when I did their Off-Broadway musical Ruthless at 10 and 11 years old. Adult vocal teachers: Liz Caplan, Joan Lader, and now Andrew Byrne. Current acting gurus Shari Shaw and Warner Loughlin. In many ways, I have been trained by mentors in a form of paid apprenticeship, learning from every actor and director I had the honor of observing. Every experience I have ever had informs the why's of human behavior, the root of emotions, and the truths in life where comedy springs forth from. And every audience continues to teach me what’s funny and what’s not. I am a big believer that as an actor “you have never arrived.” There is always something to learn. Keep observing, keep playing, and live.
Was there a teacher who was particularly impactful/helpful? What made this instructor stand out?
Truly, they have all made an impact. But my first teacher, Luanne Franklin, instilled a sort of confidence in me that carried me to NYC. Gene McLaughlin taught me to sing properly. Joel Paley showed me what comedic timing was. My father encouraged me to be a student of myself and human behavior. Understanding why people do what they do has been a great teacher.
The Cottage is your first non-musical on Broadway. What has the experience been like for you? Would you like to do more comedy?
I have loved doing this play. It’s so much fun. It’s less physical maintenance than a musical, but required more mental focus to learn it. I love the farcical elements, and I wish there were more comedy plays like this. I would like to be in every one of them!
Can you share a favorite memory or two from starring in Legally Blonde—maybe a memorable stage mishap or a fan interaction?
HA! Well, once I bent and snapped so hard my wig flew off. The entire audience gasped! There I was on stage in a wig cap that made me look bald. I just broke the fourth wall and said, “I want to thank everyone for coming to see Legally Bald, please give me a moment while I sit in Paulette’s hair chair.” The actors on stage and the audience couldn’t stop laughing for 20 minutes.
Once, a person came back from intermission and sat in the front row with a bucket of Popeye's chicken. I always thought that was a classy move.
What do you consider your big break?
Legally Blonde. Or...See below.
How did you get your first job in the theatre?
They were casting the children in Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular. The breakdown was for a little girl who was 11-12 years old. No agent would send me in because I was nine. My mother kept petitioning in her southern Momma Rose way: “There is nothing an 11 year old can do that my child can’t do.” She finally convinced an agent to get me an appointment. I get to the audition, and they do not even have my name on the list, but they saw me anyway. I got the part, and the musical director, Marvin Laird, came out to talk to my mom saying there was a musical he was writing, and he had been looking for a little girl like me. That musical ended up becoming Ruthless, which I starred in Off-Broadway at 10-11 years old. That job taught me comedic timing and as a result led to every other job. Everyone needs a mother like Lorna Bell Bundy to knock the doors down. I could never fight for me like she did.
Is there a person or people you most respect in your field and why?
I have so much respect for producers. It’s a risky business. It takes so much belief, persistence, diplomacy, and patience to get a project off of the ground—to find the creative team, to get investment, and then to get a theatre. Producers don’t get the applause every night; they get the phone calls when things go wrong. It can be a thankless job, but they are absolutely doing the dirty work to bring this medium to life on stage, and to give performers like myself an opportunity to do what they love.
Tell me about a job/opportunity you really wanted but didn’t get. How did you get over that disappointment?
There are too many to count. Someone once told me you don’t get 80% of the jobs you audition for. And, honestly, you couldn’t possibly do all of them anyway. The one season that stung the most for me was when I was 24 and I had screen-tested for 10 TV pilots in two months, and every time it got down to me and the other woman who got the job—including My Name Is Earl and others that went on to be hits on TV. I thought I must be doing something right to get that far but also something wrong to not actually get any of these! Then, the last one I didn’t get called me a few weeks later and said they had made a mistake, and I was on set the next day.
This business and life is crazy. I look at it very spiritually. If I had gotten a few of those shows that were on the air for years, I never would have done Legally Blonde. We get the jobs we are supposed to get. I have made too many lifelong friends who made a real impact on me from the jobs I have gotten not to believe that. I am either supposed to have a journey and grow with the people on a project or someone else is. If I don’t get an opportunity I want, I am meant to be somewhere else. It requires a level of trust to know the universe has your back. Don’t stand there looking at a closed door, turn around and walk through the open door with the gifts you got. There’s so much more fun to be had!
What advice would you give your younger self or anyone starting out?
Get to the root of why you love performing. Is it to be creative? To express yourself? To escape yourself? To connect? To be fearless? To make people laugh? Whatever it is, show up to every audition, every class, every rehearsal, and every performance fully committed to getting that thing you love out of it. It won’t feel like "work" or “trying to get a job.”
For me, it is because I love to play—to do plays, play music, use my imagination, etc. I don’t show up to “get a job” or “go to my job” or even “to get a paycheck.” I show up to play. And that keeps me happy even in the hardest of times.