Laura Bell Bundy Returns to Broadway in ‘The Cottage’—“I Love to Keep an Audience Engaged”

Laura Bell Bundy is a force of nature. Speaking with the actress/singer/songwriter about her latest production, The Cottage, you can sense the excitement and joy she finds in her craft. Bundy stars as Sylvia in the Broadway play, The Cottage, alongside Will & Grace actor Eric McCormack (Beau). Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander (George Costanza) directs the production, which is described as “a tale of sex, betrayal, and love that unfolds after Sylvia decides to expose her affair to both her husband and her lover’s wife.”

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Bundy is no stranger to the Broadway stage. She started out at nine years old, starring as Amber in Broadway’s Hairspray, Elle Woods in Legally Blonde The Musical, and Glinda in Wicked, to name a few.

“I was bitten by the bug, but it wasn’t necessarily like, ‘This is what I want to do,'” Bundy tells American Songwriter. “I just enjoyed making people react. If I think about it, I was really young. I enjoyed being a ham and getting people to laugh or sing and surprise them. I enjoyed that attention and I enjoyed the sense of expression and play.”

In 2022 Bundy released her album, Women of Tomorrow, which ties into the play’s message of empowerment for women. She’s also in talks to turn the album into a play of her own. Could a starring role in said play be in the works for Bundy? She’s not sure about that yet but says it’s a possibility. In the meantime, Bundy chatted with American Songwriter over Zoom, calling in from her home in New Jersey, to catch up and share some insight into her role as well as the empowering female message she is championing today.

American Songwriter: Back to Broadway after 15 years, starring in The Cottage. Can you give me a little synopsis about the play?

Laura Bell Bundy: Well, without giving away any surprises, because there are a lot of surprises and that’s the fun of it and some of the comedy of it, but starts out with these two people who look as if they’re in love. A woman, who I play, is just setting something up, right? She’s setting up to tell this man that she wants to be with him forever. Then you find out this is actually not her husband, she’s married to someone else. And the whole thing becomes really this cast of characters that comes in and everybody’s having an affair with somebody else. There’s all these new things that you find and these surprises. And it’s really like a study on love and marriage and how we function in that way, but the most ridiculous version of it and very, very funny.

It’s set in 1923, England, the English countryside, so we have these upper-crust British accents.

AS: Tell me about your character.

LBB: My character, Sylvia, she’s on the brink of life’s beginning—in the beginning of it—and fully in love. She then sinks to feeling quite heartbroken and bitter about it. And then she kind of finds herself in this process and realizes she’s an independent woman who can stand on her own. So it’s this beautiful evolution for this character of we think we need someone else, but what we really need can be found within. And it’s set up to make it work for her, right? Because at that time, and even now, it can be hard for a woman who has the impulse to be independent, to actually truly be independent in the world.

AS: So it fits your theme of empowering women?

LBB: This project checked all the boxes for me. It was funny. The script is hilarious itself. The character is great. There’s a feminist message to it. And then it was in my backyard. I could get to go back to Broadway and still sleep at the farm.

AS: What made you want to go back to Broadway after all these years?

LBB: I’ve honestly been looking for a project for a while now. There was a project, Honeymooners, that I was involved in and we workshopped it in New York and then we took it out of town and it didn’t make it into the city, but it was very hard to get a theater at that time and we didn’t have a theater owner that was willing to take a chance. So it’s just been about finding the right project, the right timing because it’s also difficult to go back to Broadway when you have an album coming out or you are stuck in a contract on a television show. So it’s a timing thing. For this, it was the right time, the right place, the right script, the right part, and it all worked out. But I had been missing it for a while. I think part of, why I moved back east from living in L.A. was that I was sort of making a deliberate decision that I wanted to do another Broadway show. For me, a live performance, whether it is a musical, a play, or a concert, there is nothing like it.

Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images

AS: How’d you get involved with this with The Cottage?

LBB: The writer actually shares my new agent with me. They had been developing this and prior to COVID, they thought they had had a theater. They were trying to attach actors to this project, a year ago, to come in sometime in the next season or two. Jason Alexander was the director and we had met and worked on a benefit in 2011 where I did a medley of singing impersonations and we remembered each other from then. He had offered me something years ago that I couldn’t do.

So I ended up having this meeting with him and the writer. I read the script, I thought it was so funny, I was laughing on page one. Like, “This is really going to be fun to do.” We had this meeting about the project and we all left it going, “Yeah, I think this is going to work.” I got attached to it. And at that time we didn’t have a theater and like I said, if you don’t have a theater, it isn’t really real. You can be attached to a project and you’re like, “Yay, you need your money and you need your theater.” So I guess they had the money and then they were waiting for the theater and we got a theater a lot sooner than we thought we were going to have it. In fact, I thought that I could go and do IVF and get pregnant and have a baby before this whole thing was going to work out. I went and did IVF. It wasn’t successful. I was really down in the dumps about it. Then a week later, Jason sends me a text, “Get your English accent ready. We’ve got a theater and you’re going into rehearsal in May.” I would’ve been seven months pregnant.

AS: So are you singing in The Cottage?

LBB: No. This is the first time I’ve been on Broadway and not had to sing and dance.

AS: How does that feel?

LBB: I love it. I love telling stories with music. It’s my favorite thing to do, whether that’s in a musical, or writing a song on a music video, I just love it. I love how it can work and touch in a way that other things, just straight words, can’t. But this has been really so lovely to try and I just really enjoy it. I’ve done so much TV and multi-camera in the years that I’ve been away from Broadway that it’s a very natural sort of extension. It’s different.

I love to keep an audience engaged just with words, storyline, and intention for two hours. And it’s nice because there’s a level of maintenance when you’re doing eight shows a week and you’re singing and you’re dancing that we don’t have to have in this. If me and the cast want to go next door and have a drink after the show, it’s not going to kill us for the next day.

AS: You think you’ll do more musicals?

LBB: Oh yeah.

AS: The album Women of Tomorrow, which you released in 2021— Tell us about it and how its message ties into the play that you’re doing now.

LBB: That kind of thing happened to me with my desire to understand why women were not valued the way they should be in society and not supported. The double standard felt just so overwhelming to me. At one point it was like I was struck by lightning and I was like, “This is crazy. This is wrong. I was told I could do anything and I can’t? They’ve lied.”

So I ended up doing this concert for women’s rights, called Double Standards, where two Broadway stars, entertainers, comedians, and recording artists came together to sing a duet on a jazz standard at the town hall in New York in 2017. We raised over a hundred thousand dollars for female causes. This is not something I ever did, ever thought I would be doing. Activism wasn’t something that was a part of the mix.

But I suddenly started to realize that, “Wow, if we want to change minds, we must open hearts first.” And the way to open hearts is through entertainment. It’s through song, it’s through making people laugh. We laugh at what is true, then our heart is open. We can hear the information and the mind starts to see something new. The arts have this opportunity to portray a character’s journey and make you care about it. This is where we have the opportunity to tell stories about women and to talk about what we go through, but do so in an entertaining way so people listen. The concert was step one. Then I did the album, Women of Tomorrow, where I delve into different issues that women are facing today through a bit more of a personal lens or a wink-at-you comedic lens, and a poetic lens.

It was very much a form of activism, but it was just what was on my mind. it is like they say, write what you know or write what you’re feeling or you’re inspired by. At this time I was inspired by this and I still am. And from then, the issues that we discuss on the album, whether they be equal pay or motherhood or the mental load of motherhood, breaking the glass ceiling, a need for approval and how that extends to social media, the targeting women for marketing in terms of keeping our capitalistic society going, which is very much what ‘American Girl‘ is about, telling us that we can do anything and then maybe we can’t and over apologizing and why we apologize. I go deeper into those issues on our podcast, Women of Tomorrow—we go deeper into things like over-apologizing and why we do it. The reality is that violence against women has been one of the main reasons why we need to feel as if we can disarm and we do so through over-apologizing.

Check out our interview with Laura Bell Bundy below.

Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images

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