Jessie Mueller has been earning rave reviews for starring as Carole King in the new musical Beautiful. The story recounts the early days of King’s career — writing her first hit as a teenager to becoming a songwriting superstar with collaborator and then husband Gerry Goffin to breaking out on her own as a beloved artist. Mueller has appeared on Broadway before, wowing audiences for her Broadway debut in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (for which she was nominated for a Tony). And there was her Drama Desk nominated turn in The Mystery of Edwin Drood. She stopped to answer 20 questions about playing Carole King, her favorite places in the city and her most embarrassing moment on stage.
Full name, neighborhood of residence and how long you’ve lived there.
Jessica Ruth Mueller. Astoria. Almost two years.
What’s your favorite part of playing Carole King?
I admire her, especially her positivity. You always have to love your character, but she’s a really special one.
What is your dream role?
Oh boy. It changes as I change. I’d love to step into Fanny Brice someday.
What’s your warm-up routine like before a show? Do you have any lucky charms or unusual rituals?
It’s different every day. Some days my voice needs more attention than others. Sometimes it’s my body. This weather has been rough on both! I usually get to the theater an hour before curtain, have some tea, and put on my makeup. I like to take my time getting ready.
What’s the most embarrassing (or funniest or weirdest) thing that’s ever happened to you on stage?
I lost it pretty bad onstage once during a performance of Edwin Drood. There was this infamous dinner scene where there were choreographed ‘freezes.’ All of a sudden, everyone’s actions would stop while one character’s continued as internal monologue. One night, something just got to me, and I unfroze to deliver my sung line and pretty much laughed the whole way through. The looks on everyone’s faces were priceless. And of course, they were supposed to be frozen. It was not my proudest moment onstage.
What do you do after a show to unwind?
Lately, I head home and watch Netflix. I’m currently hooked on Parenthood. Every once in a while, after a two show day, I’ll try to head right to bed. But it’s hard! I’m usually pretty tired after a show but my mind is still wired.
What’s your favorite thing about New York?
The energy in the air.
What’s your least favorite thing about New York?
Sometimes the energy in the air! Ha! No, I think it’s the pace sometimes. Every once in a while I look around and see all these people in such a rush, with such an agenda. You can get lost in your own world here. Forget that there’s a bigger picture and other people that need your care and attention. That and the price of rent.
What’s one thing every tourist must do when in NYC?
Walk down Broadway in Times Square. But I would say do it at night. It can be strangely peaceful when it’s late enough and not super crowded. It makes you feel lit up inside.
Favorite only in New York moment?
I think the feeling I just described. That or watching actors on the subway practicing their audition material, and no one even batting an eye.
Best NYC celebrity sighting?
I got to meet Carol Burnett at Joe Allen one night. Amazing! She’s a legend.
Cab, subway, bus or walk and why?
Subway and walking! (Depending on the weather.) It’s so much faster than driving.
What’s your favorite New York restaurant?
I was recently turned on to Mari Vanna. It’s a Russian place that has the most delicious food. And I love the atmosphere. It’s very ladylike. You feel transported to another time and place. And the home-infused horseradish vodka is amazing.
What’s the best pizza in NYC?
I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve found it yet. Suggestions??
Gray’s Papaya or Magnolia Bakery?
I’ve never been to Gray’s Papaya so I guess the sweet treats win.
Brooklyn Bridge or Chrysler Building?
How’s a girl to choose?
Where do you go for a post-theater…coffee, glass of wine, dessert, etc.
Lately we’ve been having gatherings right at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre [where Beautiful plays], which is lovely. The Sondheim was recently renovated so we’re all quite partial to our beautiful dressing rooms.
If family members were coming to the show, where would you recommend they eat around the theater?
I would probably send them to Cafe Un Deux Trois or if it’s just a small group, BXL right across the street.
Is there a special place in NYC you love the most?
I love going up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the surrounding area around Central Park. But it’s been so long! I love sitting in the silence of the galleries. They’re so peaceful. That or my couch with my fella!
What’s your perfect night out in the city?
A great dinner with friends, maybe a play or cabaret, and then drinks and dessert after!
What do you most enjoy doing on a day off?
Being quiet and trying not to give myself grief for doing very little.