When Jane Krakowski gets onstage, she’s on it. Just ask anyone who’s seen her doing splits in her recent return to Broadway, as seductive (and remarkably flexible) Ilona in “She Loves Me,” the hit musical revival now playing at Studio 54. Her performance has earned the Tony Award winner another Tony nomination (for best featured actress in a musical).
Created by Jerry Bock (music), Sheldon Harnick (lyrics) and Joe Masteroff (book), the musical is an adaptation of a Hungarian play oft remade by Hollywood (“The Shop Around the Corner” with Jimmy Stewart, “In the Good Old Summertime” with Judy Garland, “You’ve Got Mail,” with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan). In it, two rival shop employees (Laura Benanti, Zachary Levi) are unknowingly longtime pen pals — meanwhile, two daffy co-workers (Krakowski, Gavin Creel) seem smitten . . . yet soooo wrong for each other.
Krakowski, 47, is best known for her daffy TV roles (on “30 Rock” and now as Jacqueline White in the Netflix series “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” — both from co-creator Tina Fey).
I’d never seen “She Loves Me” and thought it might be dated . . . but it totally sweeps you away.
It’s fun watching a modern audience — driven by social media — watch this show and relate to it. Even though it’s about an old-fashioned romance. But they get it. We’re talking about love letters but that idea lives on with Twitter, Facebook, Tinder . . .
Yeah. We were trying to think of the modern-day equivalent. He almost kind of “catfishes” her, you know?
Like when someone creates an online persona to trick someone else?
Kind of. Because he knows about her before she knows about him. Honestly, I find such joy in doing a so-called old-fashioned musical, giving yourself over to the Champagne fizz of it all.
And those splits? Is this a talent you whip out when needed . . .
Well . . . [she laughs] I don’t regularly pull that trick out at parties. [She pauses, chuckling some more.] Depends how good the party is.
Or did you have to practice a lot?
That number came out of a joyful collaboration. First . . . Gavin [Creel] called me months before rehearsals and said he had this idea that his character should seduce all his women through dance. So would I be up for dancing? I said sure, and [choreographer] Warren Carlyle and [director] Scott Ellis were on board, but it was Gavin who got that ball rolling. In rehearsal, I was just goofing around, jumped into the splits and told Gavin to pull me across the stage. Everybody loved it and suddenly it was part of the dance. It’s fun when that happens — when we’re having a great time, trying to make our friends laugh, and it turns into something.
Well, you’re certainly very fit.
I’ve been doing hot yoga. Have you ever heard of this thing called “Modo”? It’s my new favorite — it’s not Bikram yoga. But it’s hot. Like 101 degrees instead of 105.
So . . . slightly more temperate.
Speaking of hot . . . working on “Kimmy Schmidt” with Tina Fey must be a blast.
I don’t know what good luck was bestowed on me the day I met Tina for “30 Rock” 10 seasons ago. How could that day have turned out to give me two of the best roles I’ll ever have? Tina is so great to work with. And the writers’ room at “Kimmy” — they pack so many jokes per page. I’ve always loved our table reads for “30 Rock” and “Kimmy.” We don’t get a script ahead of time. It’s usually hot from the copier. Nobody knows what’s in it. It’s basically a cold reading — and I’ll be in the middle of a sentence, saying it as Jacqueline, but laughing as Jane. We couldn’t be in better hands with Tina and [co-creator] Robert [Carlock]. I hope they’ll have me till my dying day. I’ll do anything — if they need someone to work craft services, I’m there.
Were you always funny? Always the class clown?
No. I feel like I found my way into comedy almost by accident. I’d be playing scenes for all their truth, and people were laughing. So I thought, “Ohhh, maybe I should go into comedy.” I still approach comedy that way — I play a scene sincerely. I don’t think you can . . . play funny.
Have you passed on the funny gene to your son, Bennett?
He definitely knows funny. He’s 5, but I feel like he gets what the joke is. The other day he did his first spit-take . . . and honestly, I was beaming with pride. [She laughs.] I said, “Honey, that’s hilarious, but next time lets do it by the sink.”
So he’s a performer.
Yeeeeahhh . . . . He’s a little theatrical. I love it, though.