With a role on hit televisions shows like Nashville and Super Girl, a Tony award on her mantle (and three more nominations to her name), and a starring role in the upcoming Broadway revival of She Loves Me, it’s hard to imagine anyone being happier than Laura Benanti right now. But the actress and singer admits that in high school, things were very different.
“I have a pretty awesome life, which I’m so grateful for, but in high school, I was not cool,” Benanti tells PEOPLE. “I envied the cheerleaders, I wished that I was a jock – all I wanted was to fit in.”
That experience inspires her hilarious new single, I Like Musicals, featuring lyrics revealing how she would much rather listen to My Fair Lady than whatever is currently on the radio.
“I guess I was just thinking about what I felt like as a teenager versus what my life is now,” she explains.
For Benanti, adult life is a lot more fun. “I like to approach things through humor,” she admits. The singer mixed those feelings with a variety of musical styles, including rock and roll-inspired guitar riffs, operatic high notes and spoken-word interludes worthy of the cheesiest boy band slow jam.
Though Benanti didn’t originally plan to release the song as a single – it was her friend and guitar player Ann Klein who encouraged her to record “I Like Musicals” after she played it during a concert at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center – she hopes that the message will connect with other people who have felt like the odd ones out at some point in their lives.
Especially if those people happen to be fellow theater kids themselves.
“That’s my dream!” she exclaimed when asked if she could picture kids across the country using her song to profess their own love for musicals. “We’re gonna release a karaoke track so that anybody who wants to sing it at their talent show or their recital will be able to do that, complete with backup vocals so that it would be a full track.”
VIDEO: It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Supergirl!
“I Like Musicals” will also give back to young people in another way: All of the proceeds from the song will benefit Save the Music, which is committed to keeping music education in schools.
“The thing that got me through school, was having chorus and having band and having theater, and that is rapidly diminishing, so I feel like that is an organization that we need to support,” Benanti says.
The other thing that helped Benanti get through her school years? Musicals (duh) – in particular, The Sound of Music and its iconic star, Julie Andrews, who receives a hilarious shout out in the chorus of “I Like Musicals” with the line, “I like Julie Andrews more than Britney Spears“.
“I would say The Sound of Music has had a tremendous effect on my life in general,” Benanti says. “It was my favorite musical growing up, I only ever wanted to be Julie Andrews – as I say in the song.”
Just in case Ms. Andrews happens to be reading this, Benanti admits that while she’d love to play her daughter, she would also be happy to “be her dresser, I’d bring her tea, anything that she needs, I would be there for her.” (So, think about it, Julie.)
The release of “I Like Musicals” couldn’t come at a more “perfect time” for Benanti: After spending the last 5 years working on TV, she’s returning to Broadway in the Roundabout Theater Company’s revival of She Loves Me. She’ll play Amalia, a parfumerie clerk who spends her days bickering with her co-worker Georg (Zachary Levi), unaware that he and the man she’s been exchanging anonymous love letters with are the same person.
“Broadway is hands down my first love, it is the thing that I love most in the world,” Benanti says, “and to be able to be on stage with this remarkable cast and sing these songs I just feel so lucky.”
Between a dream role on Broadway, life as a newlywed, and a new single – not to mention a book on the way and the reigning title as one of the funniest people on Twitter – is there anything that can bring Benanti down right now?
“Do you think that Britney Spears fans are going to come after me, and try to hurt me?” she asked during our interview. “That’s the only thing I’m worried about, but I put in that spoken line – [“Don’t get me wrong, I still like Britney Spears”]. That’s the only thing I’m worried about.”
Something tells us they’ll find the whole thing just as funny as we do.