“One Night, Two Voices, Three Cheers” at Bay Street

On Saturday, May 26, Bay Street Theatre presents “One Night, Two Voices, Three Cheers” with Ana Gasteyer and Brian d’Arcy James. The hilarious duo will present a night of comedic songs and improvisation.
“It will be a fun, casual kick-off to the summer,” says Gasteyer, who notes that the production will celebrate the duo’s love of song, as it reflects their upbeat personalities.
“The songs really lend themselves to fun,” says James. Both Gasteyer and James are acclaimed actors—James is best known for his work on Broadway, especially with musicals, and he is currently on NBC’s “Smash,” and Gasteyer is a six-year “Saturday Night Live’’ veteran who now stars in ABC’s “Suburgatory.” The two met while attending Northwestern University, but the friends have never performed together—until now.
Aside from the four collegiate Chicago years, which went by all too fast, James and Gasteyer took circuitous and very different routes to where they are today. While James is perhaps best known for his musical talents while Gasteyer is recognized for her comedic timing, the have both shown that they can master their individual arts.
James began his road to acting at community theaters in high school. “I enjoyed the communal aspects of putting on a show,” says James. “It was empowering to feel comfortable on a stage.”
James’ resume includes numerous Broadway and Off-Broadway productions, Tony Award Nominations and Drama Desk nods.
James currently stars on NBC’s “Smash” as Frank Houston, Debra Messing’s husband. (Note that the show is co-produced by East Hampton’s Steven Spielberg.)
“What was most intriguing [about “Smash”] is that it was a television show on Broadway,” says James. “It was my niche.”
James recalls moving to New York and the Broadway scene on April Fool’s Day, which is fitting in that he hopes to expand his acting palate and play more comedic roles.
James is currently working on “Shiny People,” an improv TV comedy that tells the story of the world industrials. While still searching for his big break, James used to perform in corporate theatre, where companies hire actors to amp up the sales force. This actor’s quirky experiences conjure up images of ridiculous lyrics to classic songs (think “Yasmin is a Girl’s Best Friend” to the tune of “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”), ill-fitting clothes and a general sense of embarrassment that would make the perfect backdrop for a comedy series.
“It’s about the pursuit of this tremendous culture between commerce and art,” says James of the show.
Gasteyer also knows about merging comedy and art in a wide range of situations, as she got her big break in improvisation. She majored in voice at Northwestern, but she quickly found her comedic niche.
“If you’re a funny person, you’re always going to be drawn to comedy,” says Gasteyer.
Gasteyer moved to Los Angeles to perform with the acclaimed improv group The Groundlings. From there, she became a part of the “Saturday Night Live” cast, and she has impersonated such celebrities as Martha Stewart, Joan Rivers and Hillary Clinton. Her screen roles include performances on “Seinfeld,” “Law and Order” and in the popular movie Mean Girls. Gasteyer has also performed in Broadway musicals, and she originated the role of Elphaba in a Chicago performance of Wicked.
However, Gasteyer likes to use song to further develop her characters, and she often marries her passion for comedy with her love for music.
“I like to sing comedically,” says Gasteyer. “Music is such a great way to give a character another dimension.”
Gasteyer currently plays Shelia Shay, an overbearing mother of lead character Tessa’s best friend, in Suburgatory. “The writing [in “Suburgatory”] is exceptional,” says Gasteyer, who also notes that, when acting, it’s important to have a solid relationship with the writers and producers, so that as an actress you can trust that the character will be well-written and fully-developed.
“It’s been a pretty great experience to be cast into a situation where you really have fun and trust is established.”

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