Before her new arena tour launches March 20, the 2020 Grammy Award nominee talks about starring in Annie Get Your Gun, why Broadway was the hardest job of her life, and if there’s a Broadway cover album in her future.
Reba McEntire hasn’t been on Broadway since she stepped into Annie Oakley’s holster in the revival of Annie Get Your Gun January 26, 2001. But that doesn’t mean Broadway has forgotten about her—or vice versa.
One of the most thrilling performances of the last 20 years, McEntire’s stint in the musical led to the kind of critical hosannas that usually presage an exciting new career. But with the exception of a 2006 concert staging of South Pacific at Carnegie Hall, McEntire’s day job—that of a beloved, globally recognized country music superstar—has taken priority.
Now, with a new Grammy nomination for her 33rd studio album and a brand-new arena tour launching March 20, McEntire took time out of her busy holiday travels to speak to Playbill about how Broadway has impacted her career—and what show tune she thinks would make a great country song.
People still talk about your performance in Annie Get Your Gun. Was Broadway something you grew up listening to?
Pake, my brother, and I would run out of the house singing “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better” from Annie Get Your Gun. We were very competitive!
You’ve been known for highly theatrical concerts for most of your career, even before your stage work. How did doing Broadway affect the way your concerts are staged now?
It’s been a while since we’ve done any of that in concert, but I’ve always loved it! My more recent concerts haven’t been as theatrical because I didn’t want to be off stage changing costumes every five minutes. I wanted to be out on stage, connecting with the audience. I think playing in an intimate Broadway theatre made me realize that. However, we’re working on some new tricks and surprises for my 2020 tour, and I’m looking forward to bringing a little bit of that back!
Country music and Broadway both rely heavily on story songs; has the latter affected how you approach the former?
I always became a character on stage when I was performing on tour and in music videos. Great story songs, like “Fancy,” allowed me to do that. I think because of that I wasn’t as scared to step on a Broadway stage and be somebody other than Reba. But then doing that on Broadway eight times a week really just reminded me how much I love being the storyteller, and how impactful great story songs can be.
Your performance in Annie Get Your Gun is routinely cited as one of the most exciting musical performances on Broadway in recent history. What sticks out most from your your time doing the show?
I loved and enjoyed every minute of my Broadway six-month stay. I love the Broadway community, everyone is so loving and giving. Eight shows a week was the hardest job I ever had in my life, but I absolutely loved it!
How does an arena tour or even your Vegas residency compare to performing on a Broadway stage? Would you have been more hesitant to do Vegas without your Broadway experience?
In both places, you’ve got to really perform and project. You’ve got to try and connect with that person in the back row of the theatre or up in the very top seat of the arena. Vegas, like Broadway, is more intimate than a 15,000-seat arena. I don’t think I would have been hesitant to do Vegas, but I think Broadway certainly helped prepare me for that more intimate space.
You just crushed it at the Country Music Awards with your viral “Fancy” performance that included three different quick changes—any surprises for audiences at the Grammys, where you’re nominated this year?
Thanks so much for saying that—we had a blast coming up with that! I’m not sure who all is performing at the Grammys yet, but I’m thrilled to be nominated and am sure the show is going to be great!
Do you think there might be a show tunes cover album in your future?
That hasn’t been something on the radar yet, but you never know! When we saw Dear Evan Hansen a couple years ago, I loved “So Big / So Small” and thought that would make a great country song!
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Bless Your Heart!