Call Answered: Rachel Ulanet: "Keep Me Searching" at Feinstein's/54 Below
When I read Rachel Ulanet's (Lovemusik, Beauty & The Beast) show Keep Me Searching was returning to Feinstein's/54 Below this June, I knew I had to find out more about her. Keep Me Searching reflects on the recent shifts within our country, and the profound effect they have had on her as a woman, citizen, parent, and artist. Rachel will tell the tale of one Broadway mama’s journey, revealing new possibilities through timeless music–from Stevie Wonder to Kurt Weill, from Bonnie Raitt to Michel Legrand.
Keep Me Searching plays Feinstein's/54 Below (254 West 54th Street) on Friday, June 22 at 7pm. Click here for tickets!
1. This June you are making your Feinstein's/54 Below solo concert debut with your show Keep Me Searching. What made now the right time to make your solo debut? Well, a couple of things. I had been wanting to do a solo show for quite some time. I had two very personal losses last year - my voice teacher, and my oldest childhood friend. Those losses were a strong reminder that “time doesn’t wait.” Also, we’re living in kind of crazy times. Along with being involved in various acts of peaceful protest/petition signing/calling my reps, doing a solo show with songs that resonate deeply for me felt like another way I could express myself/use my voice right now.
2. What are you most excited about and what is making you nervous? I’m most excited about just getting up there and singing solo after all these years! I’m most nervous about. . . just getting up there and singing solo after all these years :)
3. Press notes state that in Keep Me Searching, one journey always begets another, and who knows where it all might lead? What is one journey you truly feel directly leads to where you are now? I guess I would say Motherhood. It has opened me up to all kinds of experiences and new perspectives. It’s made me more patient. It’s made me "roll with it” more (challenging for a Virgo!). Ultimately, it’s made me “sit” more with the questions of what I want to do in life and how I want to go about doing it.
4. This show tells the tale of one Broadway mama’s journey, revealing new possibilities through timeless music. What new possibilities do you see for yourself now that you are a mother that you didn't feel existed before? Staying home with the kids has made me reframe my concept of what it means to be a stage performer. Over the course of the past several years, I’ve had opportunities to perform in more intimate spaces, including Feinstein’s/54 Below. Much to my delight and surprise, I’ve actually really enjoyed performing in smaller spaces for smaller audiences. I will always love theatre, but I am now also seeing the possibility of pursuing more concert/cabaret style work, which is exciting to me!
5. How do you balance being a mother of two and working as an actress? I’ve actually been “out of the loop” for the last eleven years. The last full time gig I had was when I was in Lovemusik at MTC. My eldest was two, and was my only child at that point. Along the way, and another child later, I’ve done concerts, readings, and recordings, but nothing full time. This show has required my greatest level of commitment outside of family since Lovemusik. I would say what helps it all “work” is having strong support on the home front, whether from our amazing after school sitter or my husband. Also, now that my kids are a little older, I feel I can divide my attention somewhat better between them and things outside of the home.
6. Do you feel you seek out different work opportunities since you became a mother? Oh, definitely. Since I became a Mom, the two main factors I consider when it comes to seeking work are time commitment and a strong personal connection to material. This is why concert/cabaret work appeals so much to me right now; I can choose the amount of time I put in, and I can choose my material.
7. What is one role you gave up auditioning for or had to pass on because it would have caused you to miss something really important in your children's life? What is something you missed out on because of a role you took? When the kids were really little, I was asked to come in very last minute on a final round of auditions for a great featured role on Law and Order. One kid had strep, the other was an infant. My agent was so sweet and insisted I drop the kids off with him. I had two hours’ notice. The audition was all the way at Chelsea Piers (an hour commute for me), it was rush hour, it was pouring rain, and. . .strep! Needless to say, I felt a bit overwhelmed and turned the audition down.
As far as missing out on things with my kids because of roles or jobs, I’ve maybe missed a parent teacher conference or camp performance or such. For the most part, I have really been home with them these past many years.
8. Also in this show, you reflect on how the recent shifts within our country had a profound effect on you as a woman, citizen, parent, and artist. With all the shifts that have been happening, was there one that made you react more into action than another? Well, I am a woman. I am Jewish. I am the mother of two girls. After the election, I felt as if I and my daughters fell within all of those categories that could potentially be marginalized by the agenda of this administration and those who support it. At the same time, I was acutely aware there were many more groups who were at FAR more immediate risk than myself and my family. Bottom line, deep worry for those groups and their fundamental civil rights, along with concern over my daughters' futures, made me act.
9. Some singers you were very inspired by were Karen Carpenter, Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald, and Edith Piaf. If you could sing one song with each of these artists to describe how you are feeling these days, which songs of theirs would you want to duet on? Ooh. I love this! "Top of the World" with Karen Carpenter, "The Man That Got Away" with Judy, "Blues In the Night" with Ella, and "Milord" with Edith Piaf. A little all over the place stylistically and sentiment wise, but - guess that’s how I’m feeling! :)
10. Finally, since this show is called Keep Me Searching, what is something you feel you will always be looking for? A sense of connection to others, along with the things we share in the human experience, rather than the things that divide/make us different.
More on Rachel:
Rachel was born into a long line of musicians. Her grandmother and great Aunt were classically trained singers who (according to family lore) were descended from royal court musicians in nineteenth century Vienna. Her father, a jazz loving, multi-woodwind player, and her mother, a folk inspired guitarist, would often bring Rachel to New York from their home on the Jersey Shore to see theater, concerts, and dance, sparking her musical imagination. When she was five and saw the original cast of The Wiz on Broadway, Rachel knew she was bound for the stage.
Family jam sessions further ignited her passion for performance, as did an eclectic musical diet that included Simon and Garfunkel, Chick Corea, Tchaikovsky and the cast recording of Pippin. Lots of Pippin. She was particularly inspired by the vocals of Karen Carpenter, Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald, and Edith Piaf. Eight years of piano and dance gave way to voice lessons, followed by summers spent at famed theater camp Stagedoor Manor. After a year of conservatory at Carnegie-Mellon University, she went on to earn her BA in English Literature with honors from Barnard College.
Rachel has been seen on Broadway in the Tony-nominated Lovemusik, written by Alfred Uhry and directed by Harold Prince. She has worked with celebrated composers and lyricists such as Stephen Sondheim, Cy Coleman, Sheldon Harnick, Alan Menken, Tim Rice, Paul Gordon, and William Bolcolm, and with renowned directors and choreographers Harold Prince, Pat Birch, Kathleen Marshall, and Rob Ashford. Her notable roles include "Belle" in Beauty and the Beast on Broadway, "Hodel" in the National Tour of Fiddler on The Roof (with Theodore Bikel), "Mildred" in Saturday Night at Second Stage, "Nellie Collins" in Floyd Collins at Actors Theatre of Louisville, and "Fanny Brice" in Funny Girl at American Musical Theatre of San Jose.
Rachel 's original cast recordings include 3hree (DRG), Saturday Night (Nonesuch Records), Lovemusik (Ghostlight Records), and King David (Buena Vista Records). She is also featured on two albums by composer Steve Marzullo: Show Some Beauty, and Kiss Me While We Have the Chance (Yellow Sound Label). Her New York concert appearances include Casino Paradise with the American Songbook series at Lincoln Center, along with many performances at well known venues such as 54 Below, Birdland, The Laurie Beechman Theater, The Metropolitan Room, and The Duplex.