Pride headliner Megan Mullally talks Nancy and Beth and ‘Will & Grace’

Pride headliner Megan Mullally talks Nancy and Beth and ‘Will & Grace’

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Nancy and Beth — the jazzy, old-timey, punk-vaudeville-cabaret band fronted by actors Megan Mullally and Stephanie Hunt — is making a stop in town to headline Philly Pride. The duo is swinging through our area as part of the tour for its recently released self-titled debut album.

Anyone who caught their recent show at World Cafe Live knows what to expect: a vocally mesmerizing performance backed by a talented band, with witty and raucous banter in between songs.

Mullally’s presence on stage isn’t too far removed from the breakout role people know her best for: the perpetually intoxicated, rich and relentlessly ball-busting socialite Karen Walker on the hit groundbreaking sitcom “Will & Grace,” which coincidentally is coming back for a revival later this year, more than a decade after the series ended.

How the series will resume remains to be seen, as the series finale of the show had a definite feel of finality to it, with the titular characters reuniting after a long estrangement. Karen Walker, through an implied mix of surgery, experimental drugs, a deal with the devil and privilege, didn’t age a day and ended up sponging off a newly rich Jack McFarland.  

Mullally said sitcom revivals are new territory for most, but she’s confident the writers and cast will come through with a plausible way to continue the story.

“Suddenly in the last month every sitcom that has ever been made is being revived,” Mullally said. “No network sitcom has ever been revived; it’s unprecedented. None of us ever dreamed that we would be doing the show again. I just thought Karen is off in some parallel universe doing awful things with Donald Trump. It never occurred to me that we would do the actual show again. It’s just fun. I loved the series finale but so what? Nobody could have known that we’d come back. So you have to give some latitude as well. We’re just going to be focused on make the show as funny and entertaining as it can be.”

We’re glad she brought that up.

Karen Walker back in the day seemed to definitely be the kind of person who would rub elbows with Trump and have him on speed-dial. But now he’s president — something we’re guessing the writers of “Will & Grace” will touch on at some point, right?

“In interviews in the time before any of this revival idea was thought of, people asked, ‘What do you think Karen would be doing now?’” Mullally said. “And I said, ‘I think she’d be married to Donald Trump.’ And this was before he became president, so it’s ironic. They’re writing right now and they haven’t told us anything. I know their first order of business is that the show be funny. I think the reason the show worked so well the first time around is because the characters are so well-drawn and the dynamics between the characters have an infinite number of permutations. Everything else is a jumping-off point. The show was topical at the time and I’m sure it will be topical again. I’m not sure to what extent. The show doesn’t start airing until the end of September. Anything can happen. We could be living on the moon by then at the rate things are going. Who knows what it’s going to be by then?” 

So it’s safe to assume the revival of “Will & Grace” means that Nancy and Beth will have to take a break from the road at some point.

But Mullally said she’s fine with that, because the show will bring some added attention to the musical duo.    

“I think it helps us because of all the hoopla that is going on,” she said. “There seems to be a tiny amount of excitement, which is great. Suddenly after being assiduously ignored for 11 years, everyone likes me. I’ll enjoy that while it lasts.”

Until the lights of the “Will & Grace” soundstage fire up again, Mullally is delighting audiences nationwide on the Nancy and Beth tour.    

“I feel like this show seems to have a very broad appeal for whatever reason,” she said. “We do a little something for everyone and that probably helps. I mean — knock on wood — we haven’t yet found the audience who remains stone-faced and withdrawn for many of our performances. We’ve been really lucky; it seems to be a crowd-pleaser. It makes it a lot more fun for us and for everybody. I think the fact that the band originated from the scene of Stephanie and I just playing little girls having a tea party, there’s an innocence that is a jumping-off point. The fact that Stephanie and I are just amusing as human beings, a lot of humor comes from us talking between the songs. I try to make the choreography kind of witty. We’re not trying to be anything. We’re just having fun. We just sort of do whatever we want, which takes the pressure off. We do what we think is entertaining and makes us feel excited. We just hope that translates to the audience.”

As for recording new material, that might take a while to happen.

“The record just came out and we have a bonus track on our website,” Mullally said. “But we have a whole bunch of new songs in our repertoire since we made the record. I’m sure we’ll do another record soon, but since this record just came out, we’re not running into the studio right this second. “

And who knows? There might be a second revival season of “Will & Grace” complicating her schedule. Not that Mullally is stressed out about the future of the sitcom one way or another.

“If it doesn’t happen, then it will be fun to do 12 episodes,” she said. “But if it does [she starts singing] ‘We’re in the money!’ [Laughs] Drinks all around.”

We’re sure Karen Walker would approve.

Nancy and Beth perform at Philly Pride June 18. For more information, visit www.phillygaypride.org or www.nancyandbeth.com.


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