Shoshana Bean may be winding down 2023 in the cast of one of the year’s most buzzed-about musicals, but she’s still making time to usher in the holiday season in spectacular style.
On Monday, the Tony- and Grammy-nominated actor and singer will take the stage of New York’s Apollo Theater for her holiday concert, now in its fifth incarnation. The 2023 show will feature an array of classic songs as well as a bevy of guest performers including pop artist Betty Who and Bean’s “Wicked” co-star Kristin Chenoweth.
“I feel like it’s one of my superpowers, to be able to crack my heart open in a way that allows me to usher other people into whatever emotional experience they’re needing,” said Bean, whose Broadway credits include “Hairspray,” “Waitress” and, most recently, “Mr. Saturday Night,” starring Billy Crystal. “I like to take people for a ride that’s going to have them releasing on an emotional level, whether that’s in praise, sadness, healing or gratitude. That’s my greatest joy and greatest pleasure.”
As Bean’s longtime fans can attest, her concerts have always been world-class affairs. She made her Apollo debut in 2018 with a one-night-only celebration of her solo album, “Spectrum.” (Read HuffPost’s review here.)
Two years later, she unveiled “Sing Your Hallelujah,” a concert film and live album recorded at the otherwise-empty theater during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic that was a poignant reminder of her soulful voice and artistic versatility.
As she prepares to take the Apollo stage for a sixth time, “just the mere fact that I can walk into a legendary theater and be like, ‘Yeah, this is my home’ ― that’s crazy to me,” she said. In keeping with tradition, she’ll be dressed for Monday’s show in a series of custom looks by Christian Siriano.
“He has a huge imagination and his pieces are unique and singular and fun,” she said. “He builds for a woman’s body; he’s not dressing stick figures. He’s so lovely and kind and generous and patient and professional. That’s not something you find very often in this world.”
Bean’s return to the Apollo comes amid a professional hot streak. Her portrayal of Susan Young, the daughter of aging comedian Buddy Young Jr. (Crystal) and a recovering alcoholic, in 2022’s “Mr. Saturday Night” nabbed her a Tony Award nomination. She can currently be seen in Alicia Keys’ “Hell’s Kitchen,” which opened to critical acclaim at New York’s Public Theater last month.
The musical is a loose retelling of Keys’ pre-fame adolescence and features a number of her biggest hits, including “If I Ain’t Got You” and “Empire State of Mind,” along with new songs. Bean stars as Jersey, a character based on Keys’ real-life mother, Terria Joseph.
“The coolest part is just observing how she maneuvers in the room, how she communicates with people, how she listens, what she hears, what she’s particular about, how well she knows her music and the energy that she brings into a room,” she explained. “As someone who writes and produces and has a team of people that make my visions come to life, it’s always interesting to see how other people do it, whether it’s their tempo, their communication style, their energy. She and I are so different, but I’ve definitely learned a lot.”
As for the character of Jersey, Bean looked to her own mother for inspiration.
“Luckily, I’ve never really had to sacrifice my dreams. I’ve always sacrificed other things,” Bean said. “So to be approaching a character who sacrificed what she came to New York to do, navigate single motherhood and figure out how to be both the disciplinarian and the comforter was really interesting to me.”