Quick Q&A With Laura Benanti

Famous for her Melania Trump impersonation on <em>The Late Show with Stephen Colbert</em>, the diva drops by the Cabaret July 27-28.
You’re on Broadway and television, yet you’re coming to Indianapolis to perform at The Cabaret. What does that venue offer that larger ones don’t?
My favorite thing in the world is to connect with people, break the fourth wall, improvise, make people laugh, and talk directly to the audience. Cabaret is basically everything I like to do, all in one.

As a new mom, you must be pretty busy. Any parenting tips?
Be here now. If I start thinking about stuff I have to do instead of what I’m doing with Ella right now, I miss things. I keep reminding myself that she’s not going to be this age forever. One day she’s going to grow up and I’m going to miss this time. So I try not to wish it away, even though I’m exhausted.

When you were a kid, your parents wouldn’t let you audition for professional theater productions, even though you grew up right outside New York City. Why not?
They wanted me to be a normal kid. Also, I was really tall, and looked a lot older than I was. I was as tall as I am now (5-foot-7) and looked like a woman when I was 11. I couldn’t have played, say, Annie. I would either have been asked to play adult roles that were beyond my understanding, or I would have been rejected. I think they were trying to spare me that.

Were you the queen of your high school theater department?
There were no theater kids at my high school. I had 89 kids in my graduating class, and nobody cared about theater except me. When I was a junior, the principal suggested that I do a half-day at school, and then take a bus into New York City and go to acting class. So as a senior, I started working at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey. It became a lifeline for me.

Who told you you’d make a great Melania?
I was on The Late Show before the election, and they put up side-by-side photos of Melania and me. Then after the Republican National Convention, I got frantic calls and emails from them, asking if I could do a full impersonation—like, right away. At the time, it was scary because I’d never really heard her talk. But five hours later, I was doing it.

What’s your take on her?
I try not to be mean to her in my impersonations. Instead, I use her as a vehicle to satirize her husband. I don’t want to be cruel to her, because I think of her as America. We’re all reluctantly married to Donald Trump now. She is us, and we are her.