Aretha Franklin

Billboard on Broadway Podcast: Cristin Milioti on 'Once,' Covering David Bowie & Loving Pop Music

Noah Benus
Cristin Milioti

Among the rising musical theater talents on and off Broadway right now, Cristin Milioti immediately stood out when she starred as The Girl in the 2012 musical adaptation of the film Once. Her voice wasn't a typical Broadway belt -- in fact, quite the opposite -- but beguiling just the same.

She quickly shot to success outside the theater world, with prominent television roles on How I Met Your Mother, Fargo and more, then returned to the stage last year in the unorthodox David Bowie musical Lazarus -- an apt project, since, as Milioti says on this week's Billboard on Broadway podcast, "Pop music is my favorite type of music." She often sings it in her own concerts (like a recent series at Joe's Pub in New York) and stopped by to chat about her twisting career path thus far.

"I love musicals; I just couldn't book one to save my life," Milioti shares of her life before Once. "In college, my voice never quite fit the classic ones like Music Man or Carousel."  Coming to terms with the unique timbre of her voice "was something I had to grow into," she confesses. "Every time I would try something, it just didn't fit... At auditions, I'd try to mask it a little bit." Though she calls getting Once "the best thing ever, ever," she wasn't inundated with offers to do musicals afterwards.

Milioti goes on to discuss her work on Lazarus, when she had the opportunity to reinvent iconic Bowie songs like "Changes." "I stayed away from that song for a really long time leading up to it," listening only to a demo of the icon's own rearrangement of the song. "We were allowed to find our own way through it which was pretty amazing."  The show was proof to her of why "I love musicals. When they work, there's nothing like it."

In her chat with host Rebecca Milzoff, Milioti discusses her musical upbringing (including her stint as a high school jazz singer!), her love of Fiona Apple, dream Broadway roles, and more.