By Sarah Toce
Impeccable performer Jane Lynch is bringing her shtick to Chicago Friday-Saturday, June 17-18 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, 20 N. Upper Wacker Dr. The Windy City is one of the 14 U.S. city tour stops during her new summer cabaret show, See Jane Sing. Other cities on the stop include Seattle, Dallas and Nashville.
The musical undertaking is a departure for the actress, talk-show host and comedienne.
"Never done it before. Excited as heck," she said. "I love these folks I work with and I'm thrilled at the prospect of doing this show with them night after night all across America."
She has developed a worry worth noting, however.
"I find I'm spending way too much time thinking about how I'm gonna pack all I need in a carry-on," she said. "I do not like to check luggage."
Not your typical Broadway narrative, Lynch, accompanied by a five-piece band, builds the evening around her musical chops and comedic wit and charm. Joining her on stage for a portion of the show are special guests Kate Flannery of The Office, who plays Lynch's mischievous vocal partner and Tim Davis, Glee's former vocal arranger.
During the live performance, the Emmy and Golden Globe winner takes audiences on a musical journey through a world of songs from Broadway to cabaret with new takes on "If Wishes Were Rainbows," "Mr. Monotony" and "Far From the Home I Love." New to this tour is Lynch's epic take on Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda" and a medley of songs that made her cry as a child, including "Puff the Magic Dragon."
Lynch has long held a secret desire to perform "Anaconda."
"Picture, if you will, three middle-aged pasty white folks with limited movement skills and oodles of undeserved confidence," Lynch said. "Buckle your seat belts."
Lynch first cut her theatrical teeth at The Second City, Steppenwolf Theatre and in many church basements all over the greater Chicagoland area. In addition to hosting Hollywood Game Night, Jane's recent film and television credits include A.C.O.D, Three Stooges, Wreck-It Ralph, Julie & Julia, Shrek Forever After, The Post Grad Survival Guide, Paul and Brownie Masters, Glee, and Angel from Hell.
Lynch came about the concept of See Jane Sing on somewhat of a whim.
"I was invited by 54 Below, a cabaret space in New York City, to perform 'my show.' I didn't have one, but I accepted anyway and came up with one," she recalled. "I started choosing some fun music and worked on it while hiking Nichols Canyon in L.A. Then Kate Flannery, my pal of decades and Meredith the drunk from The Office, agreed to join me. I got myself a kick ass five-piece band and grabbed Tim Davis, the Glee vocal arranger/crooner, and we took it on the damn road."
Ballsy, brassy, no-nonsense: it's what we've come to know and love about Lynch. Her characters in Glee and Angel from Hell depict the star in a certain, how shall we say, unflattering light. Lynch said she could relate to these adversarial traits in her own life.
"Yes, I do identify with those traits in real life," she said. "And of course, when challenged, I am their opposite: a nonsensical and cowardly, unimaginative and whiny apologist."
If she could've given Sue Sylvester one line of advice throughout her tenure playing her, it would have been to "chillax, sister. Get back into your heart and call a truce with the world. That's two lines. You asked for one. I took a liberty," she said.
Chillaxing might not be all that easy anymore for the busy beaver. Lynch currently juggles her film career with Hollywood Game Night and, now, this cabaret show. How does she manage to do it?
"The scheduling just works," she offered. "I don't know how! The less I try to control anything the better. I leave it to the gods. We are so excited to start this monster June tour that will go from Seattle to Dallas to the Kennedy Center to The Lyric Opera House of Chicago and points in between."
Tickets for Lynch's shows at the Lyric Opera of Chicago are available online at LyricOpera.org/JaneLynch, by calling 312-332-2244 or visiting Lyric's box office.