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The Ensemblist is an inside look at the experience of being a Broadway performer- from the first rehearsal through performing eight shows a week and beyond. Whether you’re an experienced theatre professional or a passionate fan, The Ensemblist will give you the opportunity to get to know new performers and the great work they do onstage, while also shedding light on some of the hidden innerworkings of the Broadway experience. Created and hosted by Mo Brady (The Addams Family, SMASH) and Nikka Graff Lanzarone (Chicago, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown), The Ensemblist is the only podcast that shows you Broadway from the inside out. 

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Blog

5 Debut Questions: Chicago's Arian Keddell

Angela Tricarico

Today we welcome Chicago ensemblist Arian Keddell to the Great White Way and learn about her journey to Broadway!

Arian Keddell

Arian Keddell

1. What is your name and hometown?

My name is Arian Keddell and I am from Elmira, New York.

2. What is your role/track in your Broadway debut?

I play Mona in Chicago.

3. How did you find out you had booked the part?

I was hanging out with my family, getting ready to go watch football with my boyfriend, and I received a text message that turned into a phone call with the offer.

4. What's been the most surprising thing about preparing to perform the show?

The most surprising part preparing for the show has been how different the show feels stepping into a new track. I played Annie for the last year in the national tour of Chicago and now playing Mona is an entirely new vibe. It’s an awesome challenge because there are obvious similarities and equally, specific differences.

5. What are you looking forward to most about your experience on Broadway?

I am most looking forward to continuing to uncover new layers of the show in all it’s brilliance. It really stands the test of time and I hope to continue to keep growing and finding new things I love about it every performance.

The Diversity Problem is Alive and Well on Broadway

Mo Brady

by Mo Brady

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Remember when we solved racism on Broadway back in 2016? That’s when a little musical called Hamilton swept the Tony Awards. Alongside Cynthia Erivo’s stunning portrayal as Celie in The Color Purple, all four musical theatre performance Tonys were given to actors of color that year. Collectively, the theatre industry gave ourselves a pat on the back hoping we had entered a new era of color-conscious casting.

Well, that era was pretty short lived. 

There has been no seismic shift in the number of actors of color performing on Broadway. Yes, systematic change often comes with incremental progress. However, the recent crop of Broadway musicals seem to provide few examples of such change. Broadway feels as Caucasian as it did four years ago, only becoming more diverse when “ethnic shows” such as The King and I or On Your Feet! are running. 

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Both theatre professionals and theatre lovers get hype when we see Broadway characters that were originated by White actors performed by actors of color. For example, look to the excitement about Brittney Johnson’s portrayal of Glinda in Wicked or Aisha Jackson as Anna in Frozen. However, these opportunities for actors of color continue to be exceptions to the rule - nowhere close to becoming the norm.

This lack of change seems the case looking forward to the musicals opening in the next season or two. Between the announced casts of Company and The Music Man, one thing seems to be true: Broadway is still going to be the Great White Way. 

For shows that are set in modern-day New York City, this kind of whitewashing gives productions a twinge of inauthenticity. What does it say about Katrina Lenk’s Bobbie in Company that her three boyfriends are all Caucasian? Maybe that’s an issue that the production will explore. But from an outside perspective, one looks at the cast announcement and thinks “Wow, Bobbie has a lot of white friends.” 

Counter to that authentic setting of Company to those with more fantastically settings like The Music Man. While the show famously takes place in River City, Iowa, its energy and story are deliberately more heightened than Company. One could argue that musicals like The Music Man and Hello, Dolly! were never meant to realistically reflect their actual settings. That fantasy gives production even greater opportunity to hire actors of color. However, the entire principal cast of Hello, Dolly! and the six announced leading actors in The Music Man are made up of entirely caucasian actors.

Of course, this has nothing to do with the talented actors who have been cast in these roles. We can assume that they’ve earned their parts and will bring pathos, talent and nuance to their characters. But looking at the larger picture, Broadway’s trajectory toward more diverse storytelling seems to have stalled.

The recent workshop cast of the Broadway-bound production of  The Music Man

The recent workshop cast of the Broadway-bound production of The Music Man





Inside the Beau Album (feat. Saint Aubyn)

Angela Tricarico

In advance of Sony Masterworks’ release of Beau, a new musical by Douglas Lyons and Ethan D. Pakchar, The Ensemblist speaks to Broadway actors featured on the album.

In Beau, eight actor-musicians tell the story of Ace Baker, who spends the first decade of his life fatherless. At 12 years old, a phone call reveals that his grandfather, Beau, has been alive all his life… and his mother knew. Family secrets unravel as Ace rushes to make up for lost time with a man who changes his life and puts a guitar in his hand.

Beau's World Premiere Recording features Tony Nominee Jenn Colella (Come From Away), Mykal Kilgore (Motown), Aisha Jackson (Frozen), Saint Aubyn (Ain't Too Proud), Charity Angél Dawson (Waitress), Gerard Canoninco (Be More Chill), Ben Roseberry (Hercules), John Krause (Hadestown), Max Sangerman (Smokey Joe's Cafe), Jeb Brown (Beautiful), Matt Rodin, Katie Thompson (Oklahoma!), Olivia Griffin, Marlene Ginader (Once Tour), Amelia Cormack (Kinky Boots Tour) and Jeremy Sevelovitz (Chasing The Song).


Saint Aubyn

Saint Aubyn

What do you think is unique about Lyons and Pakchar’s sound?

One of things that is unique about their sound is their chord structure. For me and my ear, you can’t assume what the next note is going to be. I always get to a place in their music where I say something like “my, my, my, that’s where we’re goin’.” It makes me giggle as a singer.

How were you connected to Beau, or Lyons and Pakchar, prior to working on the album?

I was blessed to work with Douglas Lyons on Beautiful: the Carole King Musical.

What was the recording process like?

I received the song maybe a month before the actual recording. During that time I rehearsed myself so that I became familiar with the song (a.k.a. bring in options and make it my own. because as Sammy Davis Jr said “I gotta be me”) but I only had one rehearsal with the fellas.

We recorded the song in one day. I had to be ready cause once I left the studio that was it!

What did Lyons and Pakchar tell you about the song or character that you tried to bring to the recording session?

The song I recorded truly spoke for itself. Everything I needed was right in front of me. The feel and lyrics of it allowed me to see where the song wanted to go. I let that take me on the ride and the fellas gave me permission to let the song have it.

Do you approach a character when you’re recording a song differently than a character onstage?

I believe if you allow the material to speak to your soul and let it take you on a journey, the results would be the same.

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Inside the Beau Album (feat. Aisha Jackson)

Angela Tricarico

In advance of Sony Masterworks’ release of Beau, a new musical by Douglas Lyons and Ethan D. Pakchar, The Ensemblist speaks to Broadway actors featured on the album.

In Beau, eight actor-musicians tell the story of Ace Baker, who spends the first decade of his life fatherless. At 12 years old, a phone call reveals that his grandfather, Beau, has been alive all his life… and his mother knew. Family secrets unravel as Ace rushes to make up for lost time with a man who changes his life and puts a guitar in his hand.

Beau's World Premiere Recording features Tony Nominee Jenn Colella (Come From Away), Mykal Kilgore (Motown), Aisha Jackson (Frozen), Saint Aubyn (Ain't Too Proud), Charity Angél Dawson (Waitress), Gerard Canoninco (Be More Chill), Ben Roseberry (Hercules), John Krause (Hadestown), Max Sangerman (Smokey Joe's Cafe), Jeb Brown (Beautiful), Matt Rodin, Katie Thompson (Oklahoma!), Olivia Griffin, Marlene Ginader (Once Tour), Amelia Cormack (Kinky Boots Tour) and Jeremy Sevelovitz (Chasing The Song).


Aisha Jackson

Aisha Jackson

What do you think is unique about Lyons and Pakchar’s sound?

Lyons and Pakchar think out of the box rhythmically, melodically, and lyrically! Their music is challenging, fun, and so exhilarating to sing. I also love how their music highlights so many different genres.

How were you connected to Beau, or Lyons and Pakchar, prior to working on the album?

Mr. Lyons and I met when I made my Broadway debut in Beautiful in January 2015. Since then, I've worked on a few projects of theirs. I was overjoyed when Doug asked me to sing “Crush” because I used to watch Mykal Kilgore sing it all the time!

What was the recording process like?

I received the sheet music about three weeks prior to recording it. But, as I said earlier, I'd listened to Mykal Kilgore sing “Crush” on repeat long before Doug ever asked me to sing it, so I was pretty familiar with the piece. We rehearsed once before going into the studio. During our rehearsal, I appreciated how Doug focused on making the song mine. Since there is already a recording of Mykal singing it, they took this opportunity to switch it up a bit. There's also a full musical to go with the song now, so there were lyric changes that had been made since the last time they recorded it. During the recording session, I think I sang it two or three times all the way through, but then we went through the song section by section to work little notes and get a few options recorded. The session was an hour long.

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What did Lyons and Pakchar tell you about the song or character that you tried to bring to the recording session?

I made sure to focus in on the joy and excitement of the piece and really bring that to life! They also gave me free reign to try new things melodically, so I took advantage of that!

Do you approach a character when you’re recording a song differently than a character onstage?

I don't believe the approach is that different. In both instances, I take the time to figure out what the character wants and map out the journey they go on to get that very thing. I think it's important to always tell a story. Choose someone to sing to or about. Choose an objective. Choose an end goal. Make a choice and take the listeners on a journey!

The Strength to be Generous

Mo Brady

by Angela Tricarico

Sasha Hutchings (Photo by Jacob Smith Studios)

Sasha Hutchings (Photo by Jacob Smith Studios)

Whenever Sasha Hutchings takes the stage as Ado Annie in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!, she works hard to give a performance that is “grounded, honest, and exciting for [her] and [her] audience.” This has been her process and approach to standing by for Ado Annie since the musical opened at Broadway’s Circle in the Square Theatre in April. Yet, she does admit that following Ali Stroker’s Tony win there is a certain pressure she feels when she goes on in that track. 

“Ali’s historic Tony win brought a lot of deserved recognition to the show and her groundbreaking performance,” Hutchings said. “In that regard, I have an increased awareness that many theatregoers come to the show excited to see Ali Stroker’s Tony Award-winning performance, as they should, because it’s awesome.”

She explains that rather than feeling pressure to change the audience’s mind or win them over following an understudy announcement, she tries channeling it into something more productive for her performance. 

“I already have the audience's attention because I am not what they expected, so for better or worse they’re invested in what I bring to the stage,” Hutchings said. “It keeps me focused as I bring all of myself to the role. I’ve had a really wonderful experience as a standby. Everyone from audience members to ushers who hear lobby gossip are kind enough to let me know that while they may have come expecting Ali, they thoroughly enjoyed my performance.”

When Hutchings goes on as Ado Annie, which, as of October 1, happens weekly during the matinees, some of the choreography and blocking for the entire show changes to work for Hutchings, because Stroker is a wheelchair user, and Hutchings is not. Even then, she says a lot of the changes are slight, because “Ali is incredibly able in her chair.” 

Prior to her first performance, which happened the first Saturday matinee after opening the show, Hutchings had to work with her scene partners to develop blocking because she had yet to have rehearsals for the track. She described the experience as “a feat, and quick thinking on everyone’s part.” 

More parts of the role began to develop the more Hutchings went on as Ado Annie. 

“I found that some of the character and physical comedy Ali can create with her body does not work on my own,” she said. “Ali and I are different in many ways from our physicality to her long blonde hair and my big afro. I had to explore my own body language while maintaining the set blocking.”

On that experience, she also remarked, “It was a challenge, but also such a lesson that given the thought and creative investment, literally any body can tell any story. I feel so grateful to be in a creative show and space that is interested in every possible option. We are all different but it all works.”

Sasha Hutchings (Photo by Jacob Smith Studios)

Sasha Hutchings (Photo by Jacob Smith Studios)

For some of the bigger dance sequences, such as “The Farmer and The Cowman”’s square dance, Hutchings has found that reverting to the other actors’ choreography works to translate the kinds of dancing Ali is able to achieve in her wheelchair. In cases where that didn’t work, she worked with the show’s choreographer (John Heginbotham) and dance captain (Demetia Hopkins-Greene) to “adjust movement further while maintaining the integrity of John‘s staging.”

Hutchings describes Ado Annie as a fearless character, and says that her favorite part of playing her is getting to embody the unapologetic spirit and strength she possesses. 

“I think about the kind of strength it takes to be as open, available, and generous as her,” she explained. “I think about the strength it takes for women to face the challenges we do and continue to say yes to going after what we want. I think about what that means for Ali Stroker who never took no for an answer to her talent and her ambition. 

“I think about what that means for me, as a Black woman, and the women of color before me who didn’t take no for an answer to civil rights or women’s suffrage, as we still fight for equality today. I think about what it means for women to have agency over our bodies, to be empowered, to have the freedom to choose who we love with no judgement.”




Inside the Beau Album (feat. Charity Angél Dawson)

Angela Tricarico

In advance of Sony Masterworks’ release of Beau, a new musical by Douglas Lyons and Ethan D. Pakchar, The Ensemblist speaks to Broadway actors featured on the album.

In Beau, eight actor-musicians tell the story of Ace Baker, who spends the first decade of his life fatherless. At 12 years old, a phone call reveals that his grandfather, Beau, has been alive all his life… and his mother knew. Family secrets unravel as Ace rushes to make up for lost time with a man who changes his life and puts a guitar in his hand.

Beau's World Premiere Recording features Tony Nominee Jenn Colella (Come From Away), Mykal Kilgore (Motown), Aisha Jackson (Frozen), Saint Aubyn (Ain't Too Proud), Charity Angél Dawson (Waitress), Gerard Canoninco (Be More Chill), Ben Roseberry (Hercules), John Krause (Hadestown), Max Sangerman (Smokey Joe's Cafe), Jeb Brown (Beautiful), Matt Rodin, Katie Thompson (Oklahoma!), Olivia Griffin, Marlene Ginader (Once Tour), Amelia Cormack (Kinky Boots Tour) and Jeremy Sevelovitz (Chasing The Song).


Charity Angél Dawson

Charity Angél Dawson

What do you think is unique about Lyons and Pakchar’s sound?

What I love about their sound is how contemporary it is. The way they infuse pop and R&B into the musical theater medium is spectacular. I feel like you could hear any of their songs on the radio. They are a new and refreshing voice that is much needed.

How were you connected to Beau, or Lyons and Pakchar, prior to working on the album?

I’ve known Douglas Lyons since college. We met and became fast friends!

What was the recording process like?

I received the song about a month before recording. We had one rehearsal, and if i remember correctly, we recorded it about four times.

What did Lyons and Pakchar tell you about the song or character that you tried to bring to the recording session?

They said they wanted cool and bluesy. It was a cool experience to sit and watch them vocal direct and craft the song.

Do you approach a character when you’re recording a song differently than a character onstage?

I try and use the same approach to make sure the character’s heart is heard and fully expressed on the recording, but I also shift a few technical aspects to suit the studio.

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Inside the Beau Album (feat. John Krause)

Angela Tricarico

In advance of Sony Masterworks’ release of Beau, a new musical by Douglas Lyons and Ethan D. Pakchar, The Ensemblist speaks to Broadway actors featured on the album.

In Beau, eight actor-musicians tell the story of Ace Baker, who spends the first decade of his life fatherless. At 12 years old, a phone call reveals that his grandfather, Beau, has been alive all his life… and his mother knew. Family secrets unravel as Ace rushes to make up for lost time with a man who changes his life and puts a guitar in his hand.

Beau's World Premiere Recording features Tony Nominee Jenn Colella (Come From Away), Mykal Kilgore (Motown), Aisha Jackson (Frozen), Saint Aubyn (Ain't Too Proud), Charity Angél Dawson (Waitress), Gerard Canoninco (Be More Chill), Ben Roseberry (Hercules), John Krause (Hadestown), Max Sangerman (Smokey Joe's Cafe), Jeb Brown (Beautiful), Matt Rodin, Katie Thompson (Oklahoma!), Olivia Griffin, Marlene Ginader (Once Tour), Amelia Cormack (Kinky Boots Tour) and Jeremy Sevelovitz (Chasing The Song).


John Krause

John Krause

What do you think of the Lyons and Pakchar sound?

I think there’s something so current about Lyons and Pakchar. It’s beyond just “contemporary musical theater.” It is folk, it is pop, it is rock, it’s got some gospel up in there. You can just tell it’s a perfect blend of these two artists styles and the kind of music they like. It also helps that Douglas Lyons is a singer and that he writes what feels good to sing, which is a tremendous gift for an actor/ singer.

How were you connected to Beau, or Lyons and Pakchar, prior to working on the album?

I actually wasn’t connected at all. I was so pleasantly surprised to be contacted by Douglas (via Instagram) to see if I wanted to participate in the recording. It was a very easy yes. I didn’t know until I got in the studio that he reached out because of a video Khaila Wilcoxon had posted on Instagram of me singing a song from Hadestown. That blew my mind. It reminded me to keep creating videos and posting things online because you never know who will see it or where it could lead!

What was the recording process like?

I got the song a week before I had a rehearsal. I listened to it a bunch leading up and then we rehearsed it the day before we were supposed to get in the studio. What I wasn’t prepared for was to create my own riffs... something I’m not super adept at. When we got in the studio we really played around with things and found something great together. However, I wasn’t totally satisfied with what I laid down and knew I could do better for them, so I asked to come in again. I came in the next session they had and laid it down. I’m so happy I did because the second go around felt so good. It’s the first song on the album so we wanted it to be just right!

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What did Lyons and Pakchar tell you about the song or character that you tried to bring to the recording session?

We really focused more on the characters relationship to Beau than the character itself. In this setting, it was just most important to connect to the lyrics and tell the story of the song. I tried to bring that love of and reverence for this complicated man and how much he meant to me and relate him to a very real person in my life. There’s a somberness but also a joy and celebration I tried to bring into the studio.

Do you approach a character when you’re recording a song differently than a character onstage?

It depends. In this case I definitely tried to connect it to my own personal experiences, rather than craft a character to sing from. Since it’s just one song and not an entire production, I decided to approach it as if this was my own song so that the vocal performance is rooted more solidly within myself. The added layer of the “character” would come in if we were recording an original cast album.

A Fractured Reflection

Mo Brady

Soft Power at The Public Theater

Review by Mo Brady

The company of  Soft Power  (Photo by Joan Marcus)

The company of Soft Power (Photo by Joan Marcus)

If you’re the kind of person who relishes musical satires on the Electoral College, then you’ve come to the right place.

Soft Power is a brave, clunky new musical by theatrical powerhouses David Henry Hwang and Jeanine Tesori. The show is based on a real life experience of Hwang’s. He, according to show notes, was stabbed in the neck after the 2016 election in what was reported as a hate crime. Hwang used that as the premise for a bold play filled with big ideas: some of which resonate, and others which feel like an expertly staged TED Talk. 

It’s a strange show with a lot of great ideas, not the least of which is the humorously unsettling amalgamation of American pop culture references. Whether it be a formal dinner that takes place at a McDonald’s or the Golden Gate Bridge inexplicably being placed in New York City, these looks into our culture through a fractured lens both entertain and educate. Not to mention a lot of guns onstage: many, many, many guns. 

While there are many interesting questions posed by Soft Power, one might argue that there are a few too many to provide a streamlined emotional experience. The show begins with a long prologue between the three leading characters. While the exposition shared in these three scenes feel necessary for understanding the show’s unique perspective, they also end up distancing us from what’s to come. With so many framing devices and pastiche pieces, it takes a long time for an audience to become emotionally invested in the story. 

The company of  Soft Power  (Photo by Joan Marcus)

The company of Soft Power (Photo by Joan Marcus)

When it does find a resonate sweet spot, Soft Power packs an emotional wallop. This is often thanks to composer Jeanine Tesori’s score and the capable vocals of the production’s ensemble. As both eager voters on Election Day and frightening rifle-carrying nationalists, the score is gloriously showcased in their hands (or is it lungs?) But while their vocals strike a cord, the show’s ensemble don’t project the same emotional presence as the principal characters.

Soft Power’s ensemble is not tasked to proving a grounding environment for the action to take place, but rather, they provide context for the plot to move forward. It’s not easy to connect to an ensemble who are specifically being asked to play caricatures of “average Americans.” One wonders if they’ve been specifically directed to be surface level, or if the production just had bigger fish to fry during its creation process. 

That being said, certain characters feel more definitively drawn. Act II begins with a post-theatre talkback delivered with bite and clarity by five ensemble actors, particularly Kendyl Ito as Professor Li Biyu. Raymond J. Lee plays a grotesque Veep that somehow manages to feel authentic. And as Chief Justice, Jon Hoche leads the aforementioned Electoral College number with showmanship worthy of Schoolhouse Rock.

For as distanced as I felt from the story at the end of Act I, I felt remarkably invested by the show’s end. Somewhat magically, the show tied up its multiple framings and conventions with a tidy bow. For as strange and winding Soft Power was, I’m certainly glad I took the journey. 

The company of  Soft Power  (Photo by Joan Marcus)

The company of Soft Power (Photo by Joan Marcus)

"When Broadway Called" feat. The Lightning Thief

Angela Tricarico

Today on our blog, we welcome some of the ensemblists from The Lightning Thief to Broadway and learn about their journeys to the Great White Way.


Izzy Figueroa (U/S Grover, Chiron)

Izzy Figueroa

Izzy Figueroa

Hometown: Old Bridge, NJ

“We were in our final week of the tour and one of our producers called me about Broadway while I was at the movies watching The Lion King. I collapsed and cried hysterically.”

“Getting to do what I love on the biggest stage to fulfill this life-long dream! Dreams come true!”


Jorrel Javier (Grover and Mr. D)

Hometown: Torrance, CA

Jorrel Javier

Jorrel Javier

“I was working on another show, completely convinced that The Lightning Thief was done, and then I got an ominous ‘call me back; voicemail from one of our producers. When I called him, he just started spitting logistics and I was like, wait, hold on, we’re going to Broadway?! And he said, ‘Oh right, yes honey, you’re going to be making your debut!’”

“I’m looking forward to all the children, teens, and others who will watch our show and see themselves represented on a Broadway stage. Our company is filled with members of both the LGBTQIA+ community as well as the POC community and I’m really excited for the representation and visibility that our show brings. I didn’t really have anyone on Broadway to look up to growing up except Lea Salonga, and I hope that by seeing us, it will empower the next generation, and let them know that there is a place for people like them on a Broadway stage.”


Ryan Knowles (Chiron and eight others)

Hometown: La Habra, CA

Ryan Knowles

Ryan Knowles

“We were on tour at our final stop in Boston. I woke up in the hotel to do our matinee and I had a voicemail from our producers asking me to call them back. I called them as I was walking to the theatre. Cut to me screaming with joy in an empty park on a Sunday morning in downtown Boston.”

“Imagine you as a kid, and the cool kids have this awesome treehouse that they meet in everyday. It's so amazing. You've looked at it for years; you know that you and that treehouse are a perfect match; you've wondered how much fun you could have in there if they'd just let you in. Then one day, you're playing in the treehouse like you've always been there. And it's just as fun and spectacular as you always thought it would be. That's it in a nutshell.”


Sam Leicht (U/S Percy, Luke)

Hometown: Appleton, WI

Sam Leicht

Sam Leicht

“I was in Newport, Rhode Island with my boyfriend for the day off and I had a missed call from our producer. I figured I'd call her back when we got back to Boston, but Jared encouraged me to make the call right away. I'm so glad I did!”

“My favorite part so far is Saturday nights on Broadway. An hour before the night show everyone is blasting music and hanging out in each other's dressings rooms and it feels like magic.”


Sarah Beth Pfeiffer (Clarisse and 17 others)

Hometown: Ellicott City, MD

Sarah Beth Pfeiffer

Sarah Beth Pfeiffer

“Believe it or not, I was en route to the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, when I got a call from our producers. I was there performing in a music festival with my vocal ensemble, Constellation Chor, and I was not expecting any call of that kind... I immediately started weeping with joy. Carl and Barbara, our producers, asked me to put in a good word with Athena, and I promptly took my group out for pizza and wine!”

“The thing that's so special about our show is that nine out of the ten of us in the cast are making our debuts, so there's not a single one of us taking a single moment of this for granted. Plus, we were all on the road together for seven months before we transferred to the Longacre, so we have an especially strong bond with one another going into this crazy moment.”

“I've been working on this show since the very very first workshop of the first touring Theatreworks version in 2014 (for the record, I booked that workshop from an Actors Access submission, so yeah, add that to your list of ways to book a Broadway show, as long as you've got five years to invest!). Getting to open this show on Broadway alongside people who mean so much to me, playing characters that I got to create from the workshop phase, is pretty much the dreamiest version of a dream come true I could ever have imagined for myself.”


James Hayden Rodriguez (Luke Castellan and Ares)

Hometown: Harrisonburg, VA

James Hayden Rodriguez

James Hayden Rodriguez

“We were in Boston. Chris McCarrell and I were laying on the ground before fight call and he turns to me and says, ‘Did you get the call?’ with a smirk on his face. That obviously only means one thing but at that point, I hadn’t gotten the call yet so a million things were racing through my head. Is it Broadway? Are they taking me too? What is this call?! I silently freaked out and then post fight call I got the secret info from Chris in the dressing room and broke down.”

“I’m looking forward to bringing this character that I created two years ago to the highest platform in theater. We’ve done this show almost everywhere imaginable at this point and I am just so thrilled to see it play out on the big stage. We never thought we’d be here, so this moment feels very special.”


Jalynn Steele (Sally Jackson and others)

Hometown: LaMarque, TX

Jalynn Steele

Jalynn Steele

“When Carl & Barbara called on Sunday morning during the last week of tour, they told me we were going and I cried like a baby. 18 years ago, I started my journey in search of Broadway dreams and for it to happen, just like that. It is truly magical.”

“I’m looking forward to being able to do what I know and love, with a show I know and love, and a story so many people know and love. I’m truly grateful!”


T. Shyvonne Stewart (U/S Sally, Clarisse)

Hometown: Dallas, TX/Washington, DC

T. Shyvonne Stewart

T. Shyvonne Stewart

“I got a call from one of our producers the last week of tour, when we were in Boston.”

“I’m looking forward to the moment when I get to step on stage for the first and perform for a live audience on the largest theater platform in the world. It will be such an honor.”


Kristin Stokes (Annabeth Chase)

Hometown: Fremont, CA

Kristin Stokes

Kristin Stokes

“Our Producers called and said ‘I hope you have this fall open because we just booked the Longacre!’ I said, ‘Where is that?’ and he said- “It’s Broadway, Kristin. Broadway!’”

“I’m looking forward to celebrating with my wonderful cast all the hard work we’ve put into this show over the years. Also, it’s a dream to be welcomed into the Broadway community.”

Kiki with Queen's English

Jackson Cline

By Jackson Cline

The  Queen’s English  Cast (L-R): Jordan De Leon, Kurt Hellerich, David Merten, Joshua Bonzie, Amelia Windom, Cristina Ramos & Talley Gale. Photo Credit: Kevin Bianchi

The Queen’s English Cast (L-R): Jordan De Leon, Kurt Hellerich, David Merten, Joshua Bonzie, Amelia Windom, Cristina Ramos & Talley Gale. Photo Credit: Kevin Bianchi

For actor David Merten, relationships are the fuel for life. “What keeps me going is the ensemble of people I have built in my personal life,” said David. “That’s what my New York is based around.”

This quote also rings true for Gabe, the lead character on Queen’s English, a new “"gay web series about some messy queens just trying to make it through adulthood in one piece - with money left over for Sunday mimosas."

 It’s no surprise that the connections that make up David’s New York community led to him getting cast as Gabe. David met Tyler Dwiggins, the show’s creator and showrunner, while both were studying at Ball State University in Indiana. They kept in touch over the years, with David hoping for the chance to develop roles in Tyler’s shows after they both moved to New York.

When David heard that Tyler writing Queen’s English, he asked if he could audition and was struck by his quick connection to the role of Gabe. “I immediately felt my voice on the page in this character before I was even able to put my own spin on it,” said David.

David Merten

David Merten

Leading this ensemble of queer friends came easily for David, who already knew many of his cast mates. “Even when it was stressful and even when things went wrong, there was a base level of joy and of camaraderie,” said David. This comes through on screen, helping the audience to deeply invest in Gabe’s relationships with his friends.

While queer visibility is always important, David believes that the significance of the stories Queen’s English tells is deeper than that. “So often, [queer stories] are centered around struggles or are issue-based,” said David. “While that is so deeply important… that’s not our day-to-day life all the time.”

The writing on Queen’s English goes well beyond this, exploring many facets of queer relationships. “They also have moments of joy and moments of laughter, friendship and camaraderie… I think we don’t see that enough,” said David. “At the end of the day, it’s about them being human.”

“Yes, these people are a diverse group and represent different sexual orientations and queerness, but we’re watching them have fun,” said David. “We’re watching them make mistakes. We’re laughing with them, laughing at them. And I think it’s a great representation of different humans who we can enjoy the company of.”

Because of its well-crafted storytelling, David finds Queen’s English universally relatable: “If you’ve ever lived in New York or been in your 20s or made a series of humorous, yet unfortunate mistakes, you will see yourself in the trials and tribulations of this group of humans and hopefully laugh along the way.”

The first season of Queen’s English is now streaming at www.QueensEnglishTV.com.

Jordan De Leon & David Merten on  Queen’s English

Jordan De Leon & David Merten on Queen’s English

"Weird Works."

Angela Tricarico

by Kyle Post

Kyle Post

Kyle Post

I was getting ready to go in for a ‘mover’s call’ for a new show coming to Broadway called Kinky Boots. I’m by no means a dancer, so any time a dance call comes up in an audition process I normally wave bye bye to the dream of doing that show. 

“But this is a mover’s call, I’ll be fine,” I half heartedly whisper to myself as I sheepishly walk into the audition room full of men warming up touching their toes to their tongues. 

We start the combination and it was easy enough… until it gets into an inside double pirouette (which I can’t do), into a cartwheel (which I can’t do), into the splits (which I definitely can’t do). A lump forms in my throat and an all too familiar voice pops into my head saying, “You can’t do this. You’re going to look so stupid. You should grab your bag, sneak out the door and run to Arriba Arriba to drown your sorrows into a Mama Margarita.”

Without hesitation, my feet follow that voice and head for the door when another voice pops into my head: “Hey Kyle, you are not going to chicken out. You got this. Find a way to show them your weird, quirky self and let’s just see what happens.”

I chose to listen to voice number two, grabbed a piece of gum out of my bag, and started chomping furiously while they called names in groups of three. 

Kyle Post in  Kinky Boots .

Kyle Post in Kinky Boots.

I’m dead center, there’s a guy to my right and a guy to my left. We start the choreography and I make up a ditzy, gum chomping, fun loving character on the spot. When we get to the dreaded double-cartwheel-splits of death, I stand dead center, pull the gum out of my mouth and twist it around my finger and exclaim  “Woooooooooooork!” while watching the other two do the choreography I couldn’t dream of doing.

And, honey, guess who booked the gig? The gum twirling, non-dancing fool who chose to have fun instead of ducking out for a margarita. On the first day of rehearsal, the associate choreographer pulled me aside and told me that in all of his years of running Broadway dance calls, he had never seen anyone take the chances I took… and that’s what booked me the job. I was fortunate enough to do the entire run of Kinky Boots (and no, my ankles have not yet recovered). I got to be on the Tonys, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and plastered on the side of a double decker bus in full beat drag. I met my husband backstage. Those Kinky Boots helped buy us an apartment in Chelsea. Let that sink in. The choice to showcase my inner weirdo instead of my inner critic… bought an apartment.

Never in my life have I had such clear real life proof that weird works. Zoom out a bit, and that moment in the dance call taught me something even greater. We hide ourselves to feel less vulnerable, to feel safe, to feel in control. We think it’s helping us survive, but it’s an illusion. Hiding our weird, wonderful, unique, zany, eccentric whole selves actually costs us greatly. It costs us gigs, joy, money, fun, and the experience of being truly seen.

In the end, that’s our job isn’t it? To be truly and deeply seen by other human beings. The thing we’re hiding is likely the very thing people are dying to relate to. I’m calling all you weirdos (yes, you) to come out of the darkness. Take a big bold terrifying step, hop, or leap and show up in your auditions, in your performances, with your friends, and in your dating life (yes, there’s space for weird in romance). The world needs you, and we are begging to see you wave that freak flag high.  

As a trained life coach, it’s my life’s mission to help eccentric performers take that leap and get the crazy artistic success that’s waiting for them on the other side. I’ve got a brand spankin’ new six week online group program called “The Weirdo’s Way” where we’ll do just that. Come jump in the weird waters with me. It’s nice and warm in here.

Pushing Over The Finish Line

Mo Brady

by Mark DiConzo

Mark DiConzo

Mark DiConzo

The digital age is a modern marvel granting us access to any and all information with a mere click of a mouse. However, after experiencing pain or injury, a quick search down the rabbit hole can spiral a person, especially someone like me, a self-diagnosed hypochondriac. Having been performing in Aladdin just shy of two years I started developing knee pain gradually due to the repetitive stress of the show on my body. As symptoms worsened so did the conclusions of my search history along the way, everything ultimately started ending in amputation. I decided it was time to get imagery and see a doctor, I was hopeful in the end I would be permitted to keep my leg and continue living my best life and dream on the Great White Way!

I perform in the ensemble as Razoul and the Jafar/Sultan understudy in Aladdin - my Broadway debut show and my literal dream come true, portraying a Disney villain! The show is a beast, dancing on a solid metal stage eight shows a week led me down the digital rabbit hole inevitably landing me in the operating room. Regular physical therapy along the way seemed to help but eventually was no match for the injury's progression. There were some days after performing that I would not be able to bend my knee past 45 degrees without excruciating pain/blocking. This onset started creeping in during performances and my stellar doctor and surgical team put it to me plainly, “Mark, at this point with each show you dance in moving forward, consider it adding another week of recovery post surgery.” So after a pillow biting experience with cortisone, physical therapy, all the natural supplements, compression, icing sessions, acupuncture, float spas, sports massages, and endless rabbit holes on the internet, surgery was unavoidable as the doctors concluded I had a torn meniscus and multiple cysts in my knee. Luckily, they told me I could keep the leg. Take that, internet!

On the day of the surgery I was a mess. My brain was clouded with worrisome questions: will I get back to my dream job after this, how much of my meniscus will be removed, will the blocking pain be gone, will I die under anesthesia, will they choose the right leg...the list goes on and on for a self-diagnosed hypochondriac like myself. But, after some soothing medication the cold operating table on my bare ass turned into a stage when the doctor asked me to give him my best evil Jafar laugh, and with that I was out. I only wish that calm, peaceful sleep were a part of my life during the weeks leading up to surgery.

The recovery was as much a physical one as it was mental. Our initial timeline of six weeks was a pipe dream and my medical leave of absence was extended eight more to ensure I would be able to return safely. Though I was off crutches rather immediately, my range of motion, strength, and blocking pain after walking short distances seemed as though they would never improve. Physical therapy has been grueling and if I were to choose one word to describe my recovery experience it would be “rollercoaster.” During the surgery they ended up removing a portion of my lateral meniscus and the cysts. Due to the fact that the portion of the meniscus removed was on the lateral horn in the white-white zone with minimal blood flow my recovery was anything but a smooth upslope.

Mark DiConzo in  Aladdin

Mark DiConzo in Aladdin

Remaining optimistic, diligence with physical therapy/at home exercises, harassing my doctors along the way, and patience were key for my recovery. Even writing this now I am slotted to return to the show in a few weeks, and though very close, do not have my full range of motion restored yet. It was not until week nine that I actually started thinking it would be possible to return to the show safely. I am now bike riding daily, giving myself a 200 push-up-a-day challenge, and having great success with weight-bearing exercises at physical therapy and the gym. I have not experienced the blocking or pain I did prior to the surgery and am pushing hard over this finish line.

The scariest thought of this whole journey, “After surgery, will I be physically able to return to the job I have fought and worked so hard to achieve for what seems like forever?" This still pops into my head, but is quelled with a bike ride, one more set of push-ups, and running the choreography without pain. I cannot wait to return to Agrabah, with all of my limbs, stronger, grateful, and maybe even a little bit less of a hypochondriac.



Self-Love and Resilence

Mo Brady

by Anna Altheide

Renée Marino

Renée Marino

If all the world's a stage, then let the spotlight shine on Renée Marino. Fresh off a sold out show at The Green Room 42 on Sunday, September 29, Marino’s first solo NYC cabaret, “I Am Me, Because of Three,” was a sublime tribute to family, never settling for less, and staying true to oneself. 

With a Broadway career spanning over a decade, Marino is perhaps best known for her turn as Mary Delgado in Clint Eastwood’s 2014 adaption of Jersey Boys (for which Marino played the same role on Broadway). Back on stage following a run in last season’s Pretty Woman, Marino’s charm and candor – combined with her show’s efficient, well-structured narrative – lay down a solid, comfortable foundation to explore self-love and resilience; concepts and bold strokes which never deterred into cringe or cliched territory for one central reason: la famiglia.

At the heart and soul of “I Am Me, Because Of Three” is a love story written and dedicated to Marino’s family, the “Power Trio” in her life: her father “Big Sh*t” Frank (in keeping with her childhood nickname, “Little Sh*t”), her mother Ona, and her grandmother Frances (Franny). Though also real people, they are characters in every sense of the word, characters which (along with other moving parts, including Marino’s silky soprano voice and natural effervescence) make Marino’s cabaret a cut above and truly memorable.

In many respects, Marino’s show has the flow and energy of a one-act musical, crafted to include a clear beginning, middle, and end, with dramatic beats and sentimental anecdotes along the way. The impact of structuring a cabaret in this way, rather than a hodgepodge of numbers sung with no relation, is indisputably satisfying and gives the show a strong sense of identity and greater purpose.

In describing the creative process of piecing the show together, Marino shared with The Ensemblist: “My co-writer, Dante Russo, had me first simply write stories about each family member. We then created a storyboard as you would in a television writer’s room and we began piecing together the story and songs bit by bit.”

For the musical arrangements, Marino turned to friends and colleagues from the Great White Way: “Ron Melrose, who is the original Music Supervisor and Music Director for Jersey Boys on Broadway, helped guide me with some of the arrangements and placements of the songs. My musical director, Gerald Sternbach, and I then solidified the songs and what ‘feel’ we wanted for each one.”

Like every good musical, the selection of songs – ranging from pop hits and classic standards such as Gloria Estefan’s “Get On Your Feet” and Frank Sinatra’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” to even the theme song to “Rawhide” – are each performed with their own individual narrative purpose. Personal standouts of the evening included a mash-up of Louis Armstrong’s “Sunny Side of the Street” and Alicia Keys’ “Girl On Fire,” in homage of Marino’s first show on Broadway (West Side Story in 2009), as well as another mash-up of Sara Bareilles’ “Brave” and Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance,” a reflection of Ona’s resilience to never settle for less or accept the status quo.

The evening closed with an encore performance of “When You Wish Upon a Star,” a sensitive reminder to the dreamer in all of us that, regardless of the tumultuous, jaded world we live in (and frankly, the darker, scratchier world just outside the The Green Room 42), we are all capable of magnificent things; but not without a little humility, hard work, and self-worth.

Marino was accompanied on stage by Logan Medland (Musical Director/piano), Mark Papazian (drums), Brian Holtz (bass), Nate Brown (guitar), and Courtney Allen (backup singer).

Renée Marino

Renée Marino

Yelling at the TV

Mo Brady

by Angela Tricarico

Wes Taylor and Alex Wyse in  Indoor Boys

Wes Taylor and Alex Wyse in Indoor Boys

I’m the kind of person to yell at my TV when I’m watching a movie. 

I sit there, and I yell at characters who can’t even hear me because sometimes as a viewer, I know more than they do, or maybe I’m just rooting for someone so hard I can’t contain it. This happens most often with a rom-com; no matter how formulaic they get, I always find myself cheering out loud for the grand gesture that ties a plot together and brings the romantic leads together for good. 

The same thing happens when I see live theater, but silently. Quiet on the outside, but my brain is spinning, quickly reacting to what’s unfolding in front of me. 

All of this is to say, I’m a very vocal person who loves a good romantic plot, and Indoor Boys, a webseries co-created by Broadway’s Wesley Taylor and Alex Wyse, had me feeling every possible emotion over the course of its eight-episode third season, which I binge-watched in one sitting. 

I’ve been a fan of the webseries since the first season premiered, and I’ve come to realize that I approach Indoor Boys with already high expectations, but the series always manages to exceed my expectations with a combination of the laugh-out-loud funny writing and incredible performances from some Broadway favorites who I’ve been lucky enough to see on stage. The third season is no exception; the series left off with Luke (Taylor) and Nate (Wyse) finally cashing in on the romantic connection that’d been an undercurrent to their friendship since the beginning of the season, and the writing in this new season is able to capture all of the complexities that come along with relationships of this nature. 

As a longtime viewer, I was rooting for the two of them together, but at the same time, knew that, realistically, their strong personalities would never work. And yet, the show managed to surprise me. 

The surprise came in the form of a line said in the last episode of the season by Blaine (Sean Grandillo, who has been seen on Broadway in 2015’s Spring Awakening revival) to Nate, after Luke walks out on him and their relationship. Luke had clocked Blaine as into him from the moment they’d met. I was so thrown by the confirmation that he was right all along, because I’d spent the last three episodes so invested in the downward spiral Nate and Luke’s relationship had taken.  

“I guess this is the part of the movie where the hero gets the guy,” Blaine said, ready to follow Luke to wherever life was about to take him. “Nate, thank you. You’ve been such a great supporting player.” 

And I felt for Nate. I know how easy it can be to feel like you’re the supporting actor in the story of your own life. You’re just along for the ride, while someone else is out there leading in the position you thought you’d be in. I was sad for Nate, that this was how his story might end — as a supporting character in what could be Luke and Blaine’s love story instead of the leading man in his own story.

I love rom-coms and romance and when they all live happily ever after despite everything that could have made for a sad ending. I wanted so badly for these characters to get that, and in another curveball I didn’t see coming, the season closes out on a hopeful note. 

I don’t know if there is more Indoor Boys to come, but in the five-or-so minutes following Blaine’s line, Nate becomes his own leading man again, repairing bridges he’d burnt and ending with an encounter with his ex, who it’s clear he never truly got over. 

That was enough to get me yelling at my laptop screen, the idea that at the end of all of this, there very well could be a happily ever after. 



Wes Taylor and Alex Wyse in  Indoor Boys

Wes Taylor and Alex Wyse in Indoor Boys

"There Is Something So Special About Being On Broadway."

Angela Tricarico

by Marialena Rago

Tyrone Davis Jr. ( Photo credit: Dusty St. Amand)

Tyrone Davis Jr. (Photo credit: Dusty St. Amand)

“As a performer, I am thrilled that the opportunities for Broadway actors of color to tell stories that reflect our full humanity are becoming more expansive and abundant."

That was Tyrone Davis Jr.’s reaction when his show Waitress had women of color in starring roles as the three waitresses - Jordin Sparks as Jenna, Jessie Hooker-Bailey as Dawn and NaTasha Yvette Williams as Becky. Davis, who says it is an exciting time for actors on Broadway, is an ensemble member and understudies Ogie at the diner.

Davis acknowledges that on stage isn’t the only place that needs to work on diversifying.

“Our next frontier(s) on Broadway is to diversify writers, directors, producers, casting, agents & managers, critics, and audiences,” he says. “These are the industries that have profound influential power when it comes to social change and thought. If these industries are willing to recognize the full humanity of folks of color and other marginalized populations, it can be a real pathway to reconciling our ugly past and present. It is a pathway to social change. I thank everyone at Waitress for being on that pathway and allowing that night to happen. I hope for more nights like this on Broadway at-large!” 

Davis is originally from Miami, Florida and says he got his start in the arts largely due to the song “Hot Cross Buns.” If you played the recorder in elementary school, you know the tune.

“It was the first time I ever made music and experienced the artistic process - being faced with a seemingly impossible task, messing around and trying to figure it out, practicing it endlessly until I actually figured it out, and then eventually playing it flawlessly, and with freedom.” 

Now, two years into his Broadway debut, Davis still gets emotional about being on Broadway. He has been a working actor in off-Broadway productions and on tour in Shrek the Musical, but he nearly missed the call that got him to the Great White Way.

“It was around 9 am. I was half-awake, on the uptown A train from Brooklyn. I saw that I had a missed call and voicemail from my wonderful agents, which is a little unusual since they don't open until 10 am. I knew it had to be something good. I immediately got off of the train at the next stop, which was West 4th and hurriedly called them back on the side of the street... the rest is Waitress history!” 

Broadway is everything Davis hoped it would be and more. He and his Waitress castmates laugh together, look at memes together and just enjoy each other’s company.

“It's hard to put into words, but there is something so special about being on Broadway,” he says. “I feel it getting off of the train in Midtown and walking through the Theater District to get to my theater - the Brooks Atkinson. Seeing all of the glowing marquees; seeing the audience members lined up along the sidewalks to enter their theaters… getting to places; greeting the rest of the cast; and then watching the curtain rise on an excited audience sitting in a beautiful 93-year-old theater. It all feels very special.” 

Unfortunately, the diner closes its doors in January 2020, but Davis already has his eye on a current Broadway show. “I just saw Slave Play last week. I was blown away. Definitely a dream project. I would make coffee runs for that show if they needed.”

Our 20 Year Broadway Reunion

Angela Tricarico

by Shannon Beach

Shannon Beach

Shannon Beach

For me, Saturday Night Fever was an experience that I consider to be life changing. The original Broadway cast consisted of 44 insanely talented members from around the country and it was magic when we were brought together. We opened at the Minskoff Theater on October 21, 1999 and are about to celebrate our 20th anniversary by performing the closing number as a flash mob on Saturday October 5, 2019 right in front of the red stairs of the TKTS booth. There will be 42 cast members from the Broadway and First National Touring companies doing the original choreography!

Saturday Night Fever ran for a year and a half on Broadway and a year and a half on tour. Thinking about my time with the show floods my memory with joyous laughter, the most amazing people and some of the most fun times in my life. The friendships made during these days are precious, defining a time that only we know because we experience it together. When this 20th year arrived, I knew something big had to happen to celebrate this crazy experience we all shared.

Since we’re all spread out around the world at this point, I knew I had to use social media to reach everyone.  We started rehearsals in July of 1999, so I wanted my first post to go out in July for a clear full circle moment. The response was like fire! It was obvious everyone was ready for the party. I wanted to make sure the cast, booth singers, stage management, wardrobe, hair department, crew - everyone - knew about it and was invited to participate. My giant spreadsheet has kept all the details organized and with almost 100 people that I’ve connected with. There’s a lot of details!

On Saturday, we are meeting for rehearsals in the Minskoff lobby right before heading out into Times Square.  Being back in our old theater warms my heart in an indescribable way. We have 20 years of stories to tell and yet we need to be focused so the flash mob will be fabulous.  Stories will have to wait for dinner which we’ll have to right after the performance. Many of our cast members are now Tony Award nominees and winners and went on to direct, choreograph and appear in some of Broadway’s most successful shows.  My path took me to Los Angeles where I spent 10 years touring with Cher, Pink, Britney Spears, Leona Lewis and Taylor Swift, and continue to work in TV, film and commercials.  

We’ve now been through all of life together: marriages, divorces, kids and unfortunately, we’ve lost a few along the way. There was no knowing this show was going to be so defining of our lives. Every person was such a unique character on the adventure and I can’t imagine it any other way. On Saturday, there might be a noticeable rise in the volume of laughter in Times Square; that will be the Saturday Night Fever reunion in full effect!

Members of the original company of  Saturday Night Fever.

Members of the original company of Saturday Night Fever.


"I Don't Take Broadway Lightly."

Angela Tricarico

by Robyn Hurder

Robyn Hurder

Robyn Hurder

September 29th has been one of my favorite days of the year for a long time now. In 2004, I had just been cut from a Singin’ in the Rain call for some regional theatre and I was feeling like poo about it. I head to Reproductions with my dear friend Graham to order my (new) headshots.

After we were done, we were about to cross 6th Avenue at 40th Street and I saw a 212 number on my flip phone. I figured it was Reproductions calling to say something was wrong with my order.

It was Carnahan Casting letting me know I was getting an offer for the Broadway production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

My knees gave out and I collapsed in the middle of 40th and 6th. My sweet Graham pulled me up, dragged me over to street lamp poll and propped me up. I wasn’t breathing, I wasn’t hearing… I just said “thank you.” And then I cried. And cried, and cried, and cried. We bought a disposable camera and had a photo shoot in front of what was then the Ford Theatre on 42nd Street, the theatre Chitty was going into. We ate thai food....and I kept saying “I’m going to be on Broadway.” Still in disbelief.

Robyn Hurder the night she found out she was making her Broadway Debut

Robyn Hurder the night she found out she was making her Broadway Debut

That evening a few dear friends joined me at Arriba Arriba, one of the only restaurants I knew at the time. I drank four blue curaçao mamas. Four. I bought shots for the entire staff before we left. While exiting, I kicked a trash bag across the street, stopped a taxi by doing a cartwheel in front of it... I don’t take things for granted, ever. Especially that very specific feeling of getting the call that you’re about to be on Broadway for the first time.

Today, I just want to send all the love, wishes, and good energy to anyone who is heading out for auditions tomorrow, or the next day... for the next year. Anyone who has a dream, a goal, a fantasy about being on the “big stage;” I get it. I was there. I’m still there. I don’t take Broadway lightly. It’s a gift and I’m reminded of it every night when I see grown adult faces look like children again because they are so happy they were just shot in the face with confetti and had their escape to our delicious underworld for two hours and 40 minutes. I don’t mean to sound so sappy and cheesy, I’m just being very honest.

That smiling scrap wagon with the ratty hair, boy t shirt, popsicle stained face is still who I really am. It’s important to stay true.

That smiling scrap wagon with the ratty hair, boy t shirt, popsicle stained face is still who I really am. It’s important to stay true.

"When Broadway Called" feat. West Side Story

Angela Tricarico

Today on our blog, we welcome some of the ensemblists from West Side Story to Broadway and learn about their journeys to the Great White Way.

Alexa De Barr (Jet Girl)

Hometown: Lewes, DE

Alexa De Barr

Alexa De Barr

“My mom was in the city and I thought it was strange seeing a missed call on a weekend and holiday from my agents. I had just finished the lab of West Side Story the day before, and thought “Surely I wouldn’t be getting an offer so soon.” I called back and they gave me the news as an early Christmas present! My mom was taking blurry photos of me crying happy tears while on the phone, in the middle of a movie theater. Best present ever.”

“I plan to soak it all in as best as possible. I know it’s going to be a lot of hard work and I just never want to take this experience for granted. I’m with a cast of amazing friends who I’ve previously worked with and I can’t wait to share it all together. I look forward to seeing that lit up marquee every night and realizing I’m exactly where I’ve wanted to be for so long!”


Tyler Eisenreich (Jet Boy)

Hometown: Blue Springs, MO

“I got the call on the bus while I was on the national tour of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. My bus seat buddy made a joke when my phone rang about it being “Broadway calling,” but then it was.”

Tyler Eisenreich (Mia Isabella Photography)

Tyler Eisenreich (Mia Isabella Photography)

“I’m most excited about doing this specific show as my Broadway debut. It’s one of the most iconic pieces of musical theater and I cannot wait to be a small part of its history.”


Armando Eleazar (Shark Swing)

Hometown: Juarez, Mexico

Armando Eleazar

Armando Eleazar

“I was working my day job in Los Angeles when I noticed I had a missed call from my agent. Since I was waiting to hear back from the audition I knew something was up. I grabbed my phone and hurried to the restroom to give her a call back. The first thing she said was "You're going to Broadway!" and I started yelling "What?! No way!” and I don't remember what she said for the next five minutes.”

“I am looking forward to all the growth that this experience is going to bring to me. I am excited to be a part of the creation of a new version of West Side Story, a musical that is one of my top three favorites, and I also can't wait to create a family with all of my talented cast mates. I am also really excited to inspire artists from Mexico to follow their dreams because, personally, in my hometown it is financially hard to find the resources to work on your craft. You constantly have to worry about ‘real life’ and help your family make ends meet. If you keep your goal in mind, push to train yourself in your room or wherever there is space and time you can make beautiful things happen, like I just did. Finally, this is my first time as a New Yorker so overall this experience is going to push me as a person, artist, and mostly as a professional.”


Satori Folkes-Stone (Shark Girl)

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Satori Folkes-Stone

Satori Folkes-Stone

“It was the day after I was cut from the last audition I had lined up for senior year. I was emotionally exhausted and strung out with a pocket full-of no's. Rumor was spreading that a girl in my graduating class (Madison Vomastek, who was my freshman year roommate) got an offer for West Side Story that morning and I hadn't heard anything yet. I assumed I wasn't cast, congratulated her, (maybe cried in the bathroom, it's fine) and continued my day of classes. Later that evening, I was in rehearsal and saw a missed call from my agent. I stepped out to return the call and received the very unexpected good news! I hung up, fell out and rolled on the floor in relief and disbelief. Nothing felt real, how did I go from painstakingly doubting my whole future to booking my dream job?”

“I’m looking forward to being in a rehearsal and show flow, plus our cast community!”


Jennifer Gruener (Jet Girl)

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Jennifer Gruener

Jennifer Gruener

“I was in a voice lesson and had a missed call from my agent. I called her back after and found out that I was making my debut, so then | cried in my voice teacher’s hallway - tears of happiness and proceeded to call my family and friends!”

“I am looking forward most to being back on stage every night. Also, West Side Story is my favorite show, and to be involved in a new staging with legends like Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker and Ivo Van Hove is such a dream come true!”


Jarred Manista (Jet Swing)

Hometown: Milwaukee, WI

Jarred Manista

Jarred Manista

“I was at school eating lunch when a friend came over and told me to go to the office. I was told to call my mom who said that I had gotten an email offering me the role of a Jet Swing in West Side Story. When I looked at the email, they said they had tried to call me, but I realized that I gave them the wrong number, so I never actually got ‘the call.’ I left school after lunch because my excitement was too much to contain.”

“As cliché as it sounds, Broadway has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. I can’t wait to perform on a Broadway stage and experience all the elements that make a Broadway show so magical. I’m also incredibly excited to be able to work with such an esteemed creative team. Having the chance to learn from experts and leaders in the arts at the start of my career is something special.”


Michelle Mercedes (Jet Girl)

Hometown: Miami, FL

Michelle Mercedes

Michelle Mercedes

“My agent called me from her cell phone the day after we finished the lab in December 2018. I knew it must've been important because it was a Saturday and the office was closed for the holidays. She asked me how I felt about the process and then proceeded to tell me she had an early Christmas present for me. I had received an offer to be a Jet Girl in West Side Story on Broadway! December 22, 2018: I'll never forget. I was in a friend’s car and there were many squeals of excitement, tears, chills, and smiling that day.”

“I'm looking forward to being able to tell such an iconic story with an extremely diverse cast. In addition to that, I'm looking forward to doing the thing I love most eight times a week and growing throughout this entire process.”


Madison Vomistek (Jet Girl)

Hometown: Traverse City, MI

“Satori [Folkes-Stone] suggested I audition with her. She was there with me from start to finish, both in Los Angeles and New York. She was also my partner in the last round!”

“I am really looking forward to bringing social dances and contemporary dance styles to a formal stage and working with a choreographer as incredible as Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. Fun fact: I choreographed a piece inspired by her work Fase in 2016.”

5 Debut Questions: The Book of Mormon's John Pinto Jr.

Mo Brady

Today we welcome The Book of Mormon ensemblist John Pinto Jr. to the Great White Way and learn about his journey to Broadway!

1. What is your name and hometown?

My name is John Pinto Jr. and I’m from Milford, PA.

2. What is your role/track in your Broadway debut?

I play Elder Davis in The Book of Mormon.

3. How did you find out you had booked the part?

I wish had an interesting story for this but I was just at the gym. Haha.

4. What's been the most surprising thing about preparing to perform the show?

The most surprising thing about preparing for this show would be getting used to the size of the backstage area. Prior to this, I had been touring the country with the show for many years and the touring houses, for the most part, have so much space. The Eugene O’Neill Theatre is... intimate!

5. What are you looking forward to most about your experience on Broadway?

The thing I’m looking forward to most about my Broadway experience is finally being in one place. Ever since I started working professionally every job I had was either at a regional theater or a tour so I was constantly away from my family, my friends, my apt, and my favorite place - New York City. I never felt settled. So now, getting to wake up in my own bed, in my own apt, and go to work on Broadway is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever gotten to do in my career!

John Pinto Jr.

John Pinto Jr.

Yiddish Fiddler's Other Tevye

Angela Tricarico

by Angela Tricarico

For Bruce Sabath, the opportunity to understudy Tevye in the off-Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof is like reuniting with an old friend, with one big difference: this time, it’s in Yiddish. 

Bruce Sabath

Bruce Sabath

Sabath, who plays Leyzer-Volf in the production, says Fiddler has been in his life for as long as he can remember, from listening to the original cast recording as a child, to a summer camp production, and into his professional career. He has played Tevye in English productions of the musical three times: in high school, college, and five years ago at Stages St. Louis when he returned to acting. And now, in Yiddish, Sabath has gone on as Tevye for 17 performances since opening. 

“Learning Yiddish in just a few weeks was perhaps the greatest challenge I’ve ever had as an actor,” Sabath said. 

To learn the score, the cast was given the Yiddish script written in the English alphabet with the direct English translations provided, along with the original script and score, where many of the lines changed in translation. Sabath said he got the hang of learning a new language thanks in part to the Yiddish coaches at the Folksbiene, where this production of Fiddler originated. 

“Initially, I was only ‘fluent’ in the lines for Leyzer, but as we performed the show over six months downtown, I started to understand what characters around me were saying as well,” Sabath said. “As in any show we had to improvise when on stage, except here, we had to improvise in Yiddish!” 

Bruce Sabath as Tevye with the company of  Fiddler on the Roof .

Bruce Sabath as Tevye with the company of Fiddler on the Roof.

Sabath was offered the chance to understudy Tevye when the off-Broadway transfer to Stage42 was made official. Immediately, he got to work to learn an entirely new, much larger track in a language that still was not his native one. He didn’t have access to coaching during much of this period, but Sabath said he spent the break before rehearsals started up again breaking the Tevye track up into blocks and learning them bit-by-bit, starting at the end of the show and working his way toward the beginning. 

“By the time we resumed rehearsals at the end of January, I was off book with Tevye’s entire script, both scenes and songs,” Sabath said. “Fortunately, I didn’t have to go on until early May, but it was a relief to have it ready to go, just in case.”

In addition to tech and a put-in rehearsal before his first performance as Tevye, Sabath got a special opportunity to work one-on-one with director Joel Grey, something that understudies don’t often get. 

Tevye (Bruce Sabath) and his daughters.

Tevye (Bruce Sabath) and his daughters.

“Joel appreciated that my Tevye is different from Steven [Skybell]'s Tevye, and worked with me to develop my ‘version,’ and working with Joel is a joy,” Sabath remembers. 

When Sabath does the roles in succession, he finds that Tevye’s big scene with Leyzer (before “To Life”) can be “mind-bending” due to the “classic comedy routine” that takes place. He finds he has to focus more during dance numbers, as Leyzer is older and Tevye is a younger, more muscular man. 

To keep the Tevye track fresh in his mind when he hasn’t gone on in a while, he runs it on his own weekly; he says it takes about an hour to go through all of his songs and spoken lines. When he knows a performance is coming up, Sabath says he likes to run on the empty stage for the specific spacing and blocking. 

“I’m always careful to think about each word so they continue to retain specific meaning,” he explained. 

Sabath says the biggest surprise of this new journey with a familiar show is “the way it has touched so many people so profoundly,” and also that they are still performing it now, over a year after they opened the original seven-week run. For now, he’s just enjoying the ride, and excited for a planned week of Tevye performances when he’ll go on from September 24-29.