Lauren Marcus talks The Jonathan Larson Project and Be More Chill

Lauren Marcus is no stranger to musical theater. This rising star recently performed on Broadway in the hit show Be More Chill. In fact, Be More Chill is now available on vinyl and will soon be performed in London! Now, Lauren can be heard in The Jonathan Larson Project – the first-ever recording of never-before-heard early works by Rent’s Pulitzer Prize winning songwriter, available from Ghostlight Records. YEM spoke to Lauren about her career in music and what it’s like to be in a Broadway show!

Young Entertainment Mag: How did you first get involved in music?

Lauren Marcus: I think music’s always kind of been involved with me, haha. I just never remember not having a song in my head, not singing to the radio in the car, not desperately wanting to perform on a stage and communicate something through music to an audience. I even remember my sixth grade classmates betting me that I couldn’t go ten minutes without singing…I thought I’d win that bet for sure. Ten minutes? Please.

I for sure lost.

When I was in sixth grade (coincidence? Maybe not), I auditioned for my first musical–Bye Bye Birdie. I think my parents were secretly waiting to see if I actually had any talent in that area–besides being an insane fan–before full-throttle climbing onboard to my dream. Once I got cast and they could see how much that world meant to me, they gave me all the encouragement they could towards pursing music (and theatre) as a passion and career.

Writing-wise, I started attending open mic nights and performing my own material when I was about 25. It was a huge shift for me mentally–and terrifying to put my own thoughts into a song and release them into the world. I eventually got over that fear (…it took a while), and now I’m doing regular gigs around the city with an 11-person-band. I write mostly retro pop with a touch of country, and I’ve found a whole new passion for performing my own music as well as other people’s.

YEM: You recently starred on Broadway in the show Be More Chill! What was that experience like?

Lauren: Um…insane. Getting to Broadway was my dream since I was five-year-old and saw Les Miserables on tour. I was obsessed. It definitely took longer than I envisioned as a child, but I truly feel like it made the whole experience sweeter. And to make my Broadway debut alongside my husband and best friends? HOW DOES IT GET BETTER?!

It was definitely one of the harder jobs I’ve had–both physically and mentally–but it’s 100% been the most rewarding. The amount of people we connected with every night and the level of emotional intensity we felt from the audience was astounding and, some nights, unbelievably moving to the point where I’d cry. I can’t believe our little show meant so much too so many people.

YEM: How does it feel to have the Be More Chill Broadway cast album being released on vinyl?

Lauren: It’s an honor. Being on an original Broadway cast recording is an absolute honor, and having it released on vinyl is just really cool. I like music you can hold. I like that you can hold that album in your hands and look through enormous liner notes and cast photos and imagine what the show looked like live–one of my favorite past times as a kid.

YEM: What is your favorite Broadway show of all time?

Lauren: Oh man. I have trouble picking absolute favorites. I love love love Little Shop of Horrors, and I so love Merrily We Roll Along. My answers will change day-to-day, but I’m sticking with those two at this moment in time.

Oh! And I loved the recent revival of Once on This Island, a show I wasn’t very familiar with before seeing it. I’m gonna add that in, too.

YEM: You’re also participating in The Jonathan Larson Project. Can you tell us a little bit about it and how you got involved?

Lauren: So Jennifer Ashley Tepper (the genius herself) is a good friend of mine, in addition to being a theatre historian, producer, avid theater-lover, author–basic all-around Renaissance Woman of The Arts. I knew she’d been doing some research on Jonathan Larson for years leading up to The Jonathan Larson Project; she’d take trips to DC and come back to NYC with all sorts of crazy stories about his career and life, never-before-heard songs of his, etc. etc.

One day she told me she’d be directing and producing The Jonathan Larson Project at Feinstein’s/54 Below, and asked if I’d be in it. I was so unbelievably honored, because I know how much time she’d spent doing the research, curating the set list, deeply immersing herself in his work and influences…besides the fact that I’ve always loved Rent and adored Jonathan Larson as a writer, I knew this was going to be a special project.

The Jonathan Larson Project is technically a collection of Larson’s lesser-known works from other musicals and stand-alone songs, but to me it is a deeply moving look and listen at what we didn’t know about Larson himself as well as what could’ve been if he’d lived. The songs are all unbelievably entertaining to listen to, but I still find myself thinking about the fact that I never knew he was such a prolific and political writer. He wrote about all sorts of topics and in all sorts of styles, and I still listen to our album and find myself daydreaming about all the musicals he didn’t write.

YEM: Do you have a favorite song from the album that you like to perform?

Lauren: “Hosing the Furniture.” Just…go listen to it. You’ll get it. 

YEM: Finally, what advice would you give to young performers that are interested in musical theatre?

Lauren: Having favorite performers and loving what they contribute to the art form is so fun and inspiring, but I promise–the best asset you already have is that you’re yourself. You can’t be any other performer! Look at all the weird and cool things your favorite performers are and do, and let that inspiration help you develop what you are and what you do. It’s what makes the work so fun, and it’s what will make you stand out as a performer.

Also–TAKE DANCE CLASSES, hahaha. I’ve learned that the hard way.

For more info on The Jonathan Larson Project, click here:

And to purchase the cast album of Be More Chill on vinyl, click here: