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ShowTickets Q&A: Robyn Adele Anderson of Postmodern Jukebox

Category Broadway

|by Danielle Moore |

The Postmodern Jukebox alumna on her new solo show: “It shows how versatile music can be.”

As the former lead singer of the internet sensation Postmodern Jukebox, Robyn Adele Anderson learned the first rule of going viral the hard way. When her first collaboration with pianist and arranger Scott Bradlee - a ragtime cover of Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” - gained over 1 million views in one week, Anderson committed what she characterizes as a beginner’s error. “I made the mistake of reading the comments, which you’re never supposed to do,” she says, laughing. 

Occasional negative comments aside, YouTube has proven an auspicious launching pad for the singer and pinup model, landing her solo gigs at New York City venues like 54 Below, Sleep No More’s Manderley Bar and, this weekend on Saturday, Feb. 29, The Green Room 42. According to Anderson, the set list will include a “nice little mix” of her signature jazzy covers of pop tunes, as well as some original music that she’s never played live before, and even contributions from special guests like fellow YouTuber Von Smith. 

Robyn Adele Anderson will perform her new solo show at The Green Room 42 on Feb. 29 (Photo: The Green Room 42)

Robyn Adele Anderson will perform her new solo show at The Green Room 42 on Feb. 29 (Photo: The Green Room 42)

“My last few shows, I was kind of doing more or less the same set list, so this show I’m actually doing some new songs that I’ve never performed live before. It’s fun to try them out and see how people like them.” 

Anderson’s collaboration with Bradlee began in 2011 when, having just moved to the city, she met the jazz musician after one of his sets at the Manderley Bar of the Off-Broadway show Sleep No More. During the set, Bradlee would take requests from audience members, mashing up the songs and translating them into old-timey musical arrangements in real time. 

“I had never seen anything like that before. When I first saw him perform, I was flabbergasted. I was like ‘I have to meet this person, he’s so cool.’” 

A karaoke session led Bradlee to invite Anderson to sing in a video on his still-nascent channel. The “Thrift Shop” cover heard ‘round the internet soon followed. “And it just happened to go viral overnight,” she said.

Neither she nor Bradlee anticipated the amount of attention the video would receive in the coming months and years (at the time publication, the video has over 16.2 million views). 

“I was not prepared for it. It’s funny, Scott even tried to warn me. He was like, ‘This might get really popular, you know. It might get like 10,000 views,’ which was a lot at the time, and even that was exciting. He tried to prep me a little bit for it, because he’d had semi-viral video before that, but nothing could have prepared us for it. It was the first video on his channel to reach a million views, and we just couldn’t believe it, seeing the numbers go up.”

Since then, Anderson has also dabbled in the New York theater scene, playing Lilyan Tashman in Speakeasy Dollhouse at the Liberty Theatre and Lucile in The Flying Doctor at the Central Booking Art Space. Given her involvement in these projects, and the fact that the jazz-inflected genres she specializes in often cross over, sonically, with musical theater, is there a particular theater role – musical or otherwise – Anderson would like to play? 

While her dream role “since middle school” has been Elphaba in Wicked, she recently saw Hadestown and was drawn to the style of the singing Fates. “Harmonizing, singing jazzy music, wearing those kinds of clothes…” she quips, “That is my new – current – dream role.” 

As for what she hopes audiences will take away from her Leap Day performance at The Green Room: “It shows how versatile music can be. And I think for people who are musicians, they can appreciate that, and that's really cool. And for people who aren’t, it’s kind of a cool magic trick. They don’t know how I’m doing it, but it’s not as hard as it looks.”

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