A dynamic duo presents a dynamic duo in We Just Move On – The Songs of Kander and Ebb at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, May 19, at 2 pm. Broadway mavens Jana Robbins (Gypsy, I Love My Wife) and Tampa’s own Haley Swindal (Jekyll and Hyde, White Christmas) stage the ultimate showtune cabaret, crooning and belting out the greatest hits of one of the greatest music-and-lyrics pairs to ever work the Great White Way. Weaving in their personal stories of success and struggle, Robbins and Swindal create a spellbinding evening of song that includes Kander and Ebb’s unforgettable tunes “Maybe This Time,” “How Lucky Can You Get,” “All That Jazz” and more.
It was a pleasure to sit down with Haley and Jana for this exclusive Hotspots interview:
At what age did you begin performing, and how did it happen?
Haley – I fell in love with performing at a very young age as my parents and grandparent were season subscribers to the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center (what the Straz Center is now). My grandpa was George Steinbrenner, and when we would come into NYC for baseball season I would run off to Broadway. It’s all I ever wanted to do.
Jana- My mother used to take dance lessons in Pennsylvania with Gene Kelley and sent me off to dancing school when I was 4 years old. I started doing solos when I was 6, and did theater all through high school and college and then came to NYC. Since my first dance lesson I never wanted to do anything else but entertain.
What was your first professional role?
Haley – My first paid gig was when I was in college and played Antonia “Man of La Mancha.” In New York, my first role was the understudy to Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar in the national tour.
Jana – My first real professional job was in the chorus of “South Pacific” at the Jones Beach Marine Theater. Out of 600 girls I was one of three to be hired. However, my first paid job was in my teens when I was paid to be in the chorus in the Mountain Playhouse.
When and how did the two of you meet?
The whole story is in our show, so your readers will have to come see the show to find out. However, the quick version is that somehow we had never met, but then both got cast in “This One’s for the Girls.” Now we are best friends, and partners on many things.
How did this show We Just Move On – The Songs of Kander and Ebb come about?
We were in rehearsal for “This One’s for the Girls,” and we both love Kander and Ebb, and we both gravitated toward them because they write for very strong women. At first I (Hayley) said let’s do the show “The Rink” together, and then Jana said let’s do an evening of Kander and Ebb together, and include songs from the “The Rink,” and the rest is history!
What has been your favorite to play?
Haley – I fall in love with everything that I am doing when I am doing it. So now it’s Mama Morton in “Chicago” on Broadway.
Jana – I have done so many roles, but the one that stands out is playing Mama Rose in “Gypsy” on Broadway. I joined the company when Tyne Daly was the lead and it was touring in Tampa before it went to Broadway.
Currently, I am the lead producer on “Fiddler On The Roof in Yiddish” in NYC….as much as I love being on stage, this show is the crowning glory of my career.
What is your fantasy role?
Haley – There are two: Eva Perone in Evita, which I have been chasing after to play my entire life and eventually I will play her. I also would love to play Mama Rose in “Gypsy.”
Jana- Because I am a producer now I have less opportunity to be on stage, but I would love to play Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard.”
What should our readers expect from We Just Move On – The Songs of Kander and Ebb?
Jana – They are known as powerhouse writers…for example “Chicago” has been a huge Broadway hit forever! When your readers come see this show they are going to see a real song and dance show, and be moved by the vulnerable and playful conversation between Hayley and myself. It’s a show for everyone and one of our major reviewers called this a “Mini Broadway show in under 75 minutes.”
Haley – I am a Tampa girl at heart, so for me it’s all about coming home to Tapa after making it on Broadway.
For more information on Jana, you can check her website out at: Janarobins.com. You can also Youtube either Jana or Hayley and so much will pop up including stuff from We Just Move On – The Songs of Kander and Ebb.
Regularly priced tickets are $25-$95. Tickets may be purchased by calling 813.229.STAR (7827) or 800.955.1045 outside Tampa Bay, in person at the Straz Center Ticket Sales Office or online at Strazcenter.org. Handling fees will apply.