Music News & Reviews

Broadway veteran's heart is in the country

Veteran Broadway and cabaret star Linda Eder, best known for her award-winning work as Lucy Harris in "Jekyll and Hyde," will bring her concert of show tunes and pop standards to Wichita Saturday.

But Eder admits that she's still a Minnesota farm girl at heart whose musical sense is more country and pop than the big Broadway numbers for which she has become famous and respected.

"My fans probably think that all I like is show tunes, especially since I've told them that my early influences were Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand," Eder said by phone from her New York home. "But I like country because that's what I heard while growing up in Minnesota. I don't really listen to Garland and Streisand anymore. I'm listening to singers like Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt, Martina McBride, Lady Antebellum — and even Pink."

After nine solo albums blending Broadway and pop standards, Eder, 48, finally recorded "The Other Side of Me!" (2008), a selection of "jazzy country pop" that included some original songs she wrote while picking on her guitar.

"I finally took a chance and made that record, although it chapped some of my longtime fans. I needed to shock them because I was becoming too pigeonholed," she said. "It (country-pop) is the sound that is innately me. It's not a fake thing. It's who I am."

That's why, she said, for the past 11 years she has lived on nine acres about an hour outside New York City so she can preserve her rural roots with three horses and three German shepherds.

"I lived in the city for seven years, but the excitement can drive you crazy. I finally had to have some space to roam around to raise my family."

In Wichita, Eder will perform her refreshed Broadway program backed by the Wichita Symphony Orchestra with guest conductor Michael Krajewski. The pops concert launches the symphony's new season.

"I look for songs with emotional impact, songs with strong melodies and captivating lyrics," she said, noting such examples as "On My Own" and "I Dreamed a Dream" from "Les Miserables," which she said was "my first favorite show and still is today."

Eder grew up on a farm near Brainerd. After high school, she headed to Minneapolis and launched a singing career in local clubs. Her big break came in 1988 when she won TV's "Star Search."

"Those 12 weeks on television really built my fan base," Eder said. "You can be a Broadway star for 20 years and never be seen by the number of people that will see you in one night on television."

That triumph opened doors to a starring role in "Jekyll and Hyde," which she played for 900 performances across the country before it opened on Broadway in 1996 and ran for 16 months. She won a Drama Desk Award, and Regis Philbin and Rosie O'Donnell, who championed her on their TV shows, declared that she was robbed when she didn't win a Tony.

Eder was later considered a shoo-in to star as Marguerite in "The Scarlet Pimpernel," but she declined because she was pregnant with her son, Jake, now 10.

"I enjoyed Broadway but it's not really conducive to family life. With eight shows a week, it can quickly overwhelm any plans to raise a child. I didn't want to be that kind of mother, so I went to the concert stage where I can be more in control," Eder said.

She schedules about 50 appearances a year but concentrates them from fall to spring to spend the summer with her son.

"What's funny is that so many people think of me as a Broadway singer, but I've actually done only that one show," she said. "I'm really a concert performer who does a lot of Broadway music."

If you go>

Linda Eder

What: Pops concert opening 2009-2010 season for Wichita Symphony Orchestra with guest conductor Michael Krajewski

Where: Century II Convention Hall

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

How much: Tickets: $20, $15, $10 and $5; call 316-267-7658 or go to