Shoshana Bean has originated a role in “Hairspray” and replaced Idina Menzel as Elphaba in “Wicked.” She’s won stage awards in Chicago and Boston, and she’s performed with artists like Ariana Grande and the Postmodern Jukebox.
But throughout her time as a performer, she’s felt comfortable on her own, as well, creating four solo albums. Her latest, “Spectrum,” is a work of mostly covers, re-imagined in a big band style reminiscent of Frank Sinatra or Barbra Streisand.
“If you held a gun to my head and said, ‘You’ve got to make a choice for the rest of your life,’ then I’d be a solo artist,” she said. “The beauty is I get to do both, you know?”
amNY caught up with Bean to chat in advance of her performance at the legendary Apollo Theater.
The album primarily consists of covers. What were your requirements for a song to make it to the album?
Really, the main bar, as we [she and David Cook, her musical director and producer] were making decisions, was the depth of content of the lyric. What are we saying? What does this say? Is this concept lyrically meaty enough? Is this mature enough? Things got checked off the list and we’re like, “This song doesn’t really go anywhere. This song doesn’t really do much.”
That’s a pattern in your stage life as well, right? Songs that don’t go anywhere don’t get into musicals. If the plot’s not moving forward, the song’s probably getting cut.
I think I’ve been blessed and cursed in that way. I can’t look at songs that don’t tell a story. I can’t look at something that I can’t speak from an authentic place. I find that I write in that way. It’s just in me to tell a story when I write music because you’re right, in musicals, the song has to forward the plot, otherwise it’s pointless. I think that that’s in me, whether I recognize it or want to acknowledge it or not.
Is there an adjustment period when you switch between your solo music career and Broadway?
It’s definitely a weird transition because I’m used to doing each one a certain way. I even just struggled with this when we did “Songs for a New World,” which is one of those pieces where you can bring yourself to the piece and be yourself, you know? There isn’t a restriction of character, necessarily, or the constraints of the script, or anything like that. It’s just telling a story and sharing your heart, being vulnerable and authentic. I still found myself going back to this old paradigm of, “You’re doing theater, it must be perfect. You must place it here vocally, and you must sing it this way because you’ve been hearing this since you were in college.” I got back into this groove of this need for perfection. I really had to do a lot of self talk and have a lot of friends around me being like, “You spent all this time finding this freedom of expression, this is no different.”
If you go: Shoshana Bean performs at the Apollo Theater Monday at 7:30 p.m., 253 W. 125th St., $35-$85, 800-745-3000.