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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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Who's is Broadway's Busiest Men'sEnsemble?

Mo Brady

AN IN-DEPTH LOOK AT THE TRACKS OF ENSEMBLE ACTORS IN NINE BROADWAY MUSICALS

by Mo Brady

Let’s talk about men, shall we?

 From top left: Andrew Kober, Corey Mach, Daniel Yearwood, Chris Medlin, Jacob Haren, Jason Forbach, Ross Leitkies, Jacob Gutierrez and Josh Daniel Green

From top left: Andrew Kober, Corey Mach, Daniel Yearwood, Chris Medlin, Jacob Haren, Jason Forbach, Ross Leitkies, Jacob Gutierrez and Josh Daniel Green

Specifically, the talented men who perform in ensembles across Broadway. Is there a Broadway ensemble that is most challenging to be in. Earlier this fall, I reached out to female ensemble members in nine Broadway musicals to share some metrics about their performances, including the number of songs they perform and costume changes they make.

One key metric was to find out how much of their performance were working and when they were “on break.” Anytime where they were doing an assigned duty as part of the show’s performance, I asked them to count as “on the clock.”

Of the nine women who tracked their performances for us, it was almost a tie between Mean Girls and SpongeBob SquarePants. The actors who timed their performances from each clocked more than 130 minutes of "working" time during their shows. However, the ladies of Summer: The Donna Summer Musical are working for more than 95% of their show’s 100 minutes.

But what about the men: Who is Broadway’s busiest men’s ensemble?

For this study, I reached out to male actors in Broadway nine musicals: Aladdin, Frozen, Kinky Boots, Mean Girls, Once On This Island, School of Rock - The Musical, The Book of Mormon, The Phantom of the Opera and Wicked. Starting their stopwatch when the stage manager called places, the actors would press “lap” the first time they had a break long enough to check their phones. Then, they would press “lap” again when they had something to do (such as go onstage, a wig change, etc.)

In terms of time on stage, Wicked’s Josh Daniel Green was the busiest actor I spoke to. His nine onstage songs and eleven offstage costume changes keep him busy for over two hours of the show’s 166-minute running time. However, The Book of Mormon’s Jacob Haren was nearly as busy performing a total of 13 numbers, 10 costume and seven wig changes in just over two hours.

While Once On This Island’s Daniel Yearwood worked for the least amount of time of any actor I spoke to (just over 81 minutes), he was busy for almost 85% of the show’s performance - including a remarkable 18 songs performed onstage, the most of any actor that I spoke to.

As for the actor who spent the greatest percentage of their show working, Mean Girls takes the metaphorical cake. When swing Chris Medlin tracked his performance as mathlete Marwan Jitla for us on September 30, he was working for a remarkable 89% of the show. The nearly two hours he spent working included 16 costume changes, another 16 set changes and 15 songs performed on stage. Those men of North Shore High are certainly getting a workout, and for my book, are Broadway’s busiest men’s ensemble.  

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Many thanks to Jason Forbach, Josh Daniel Green, Jacob Gutierrez, Jacob Haren, Andrew Kober, Ross Leitkies, Corey Mach, Chris Medlin, and Daniel Yearwood for helping me make this happen. You made my nerd brain very happy.

5 Debut Questions: Meet Mean Girls' Bria Jene Williams

Mo Brady

Today on our blog, we welcome Mean Girls ensemblist Bria Jene Williams to Broadway and learn about her journey to the Great White Way.

 Bria Jene Williams

Bria Jene Williams

What's your name and hometown? Bria Jene Williams from Fort Washington, MD.

What is your role/track in your Broadway debut? Grace Akinola/Female Ensemble #7

How did you find out you had booked the part? My agent emailed me that they loved me, and she asked if I had immediate availability. 

What’s been the most surprising thing about preparing to perform the show? How quickly I've been able to learn everything. I'm usually very slow with picking up choreography, but I truly surprised myself with learning this beast of a show. I learned it in one week!

What are you looking forward to most about your experience on Broadway! I'm looking forward to growing as an artist. I see improvements already with learning this show and it's so rewarding. I can't wait to see the development throughout the contract.

"Everyone Feels The Human Connection."

Mo Brady

by Richard Gatta

 Richard Gatta

Richard Gatta

Last week, I showed up to the rehearsal studios at Musical Theatre West for their production of the musical Bright Star.  It was two days before the cast would fill the space, and I found myself in a room full of miscellaneous set pieces and props. It was a particularly eerie experience because the Broadway set had been purchased by Musical Theatre West for their own production. I spent the next couple hours wandering the room, pointing out props and explaining the functions of each set piece to our new Production Stage Manager. It was like opening up a time capsule and memories began to flood my head with every box and desk drawer that I opened.

As I rummaged through the mountain of props, I was struck with the memory of a small sketchbook.The book was used by an ensemble member in the back of a park scene. It was not a very important piece to the narrative of the story, but it reminded me of the care and thought in which the original creatives gave to the detail of each ensemble member. As I started to block the “sketchbook” park scene at MTW, more of the past memories came to light. I remember the sketches and accounts of company events of importance that were recorded in this book. These entries spanned over multiple productions. There were jokes, birthday wishes and notes which painted a picture of all the friendships forged by this musical. “Richard’s Broadway debut! April 23rd,” which was quickly scratched sideways on one of the pages always affected me deeply. It made me think of all that has happened since that spring day at the Cort Theatre and all that I have learned.

My journey with Bright Star started when I was hired to be a dance partner for potential actresses auditioning for the role of Lucy for the pre-Broadway Kennedy Center production. I was soon after hired as the Dance Captain for the Washington, DC engagement and the Broadway Company. After closing on Broadway, I assisted Walter Bobbie in staging the Town Hall reunion concert which turned into a position as Choreography Supervisor for the 1st National Tour, working beside Josh Rhodes. Josh has been instrumental in helping me find my voice as a creative since Bright Star Broadway. He has a way of translating a story to the stage like no-other and I have had the great opportunity to work beside him developing new works for the past five years. I respect him very much, so I was thrilled and honored when I learned that Josh Rhodes and Walter Bobbie had put my name forward to direct and choreograph Bright Star at Musical Theatre West.

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Every production of this show is unique in itsown right. It really stems from our writers Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. They know the importance of making great art. Their passion to tell a great story is shown in their work ethic and that trickles down to every creative who has worked on this show over the years.I believe that is why this show has been ever changing since its first incarnation. The entire team would step into the room with new and better ideas every single day. I still find myself discovering new moments in this show, even years later, which in turn prompt new ideas.

Edie Brickell said it best, “You can take a little acorn of an idea and that idea can expand into an oak tree of possibilities.”

That is the way I feel about leading the cast of truly extraordinary actors at MTW. There is something quite wonderful about watching a new group of artists take material which you know so well and interpret it in their own unique way. Their acting choices are pure and refreshing and this is something that is so unique to the MTW version of Bright Star. The staging and set might be the same, but I’m seeing character performances I’ve never experienced before.

There has always been something special about Bright Star that draws people back. I think it’s because it’s a musical that everyone feels a human connection with. It speaks to the human condition and allows its cast to live in real moments. The material Steve and Edie created gives the ensemble as much weight in the storyline as the leading players and that’s one of things I enjoy most about directing this show. The show opens with Alice declaring, “If you knew my story, you’d have a good story to tell.” But the truth is that every person on that stage has a story to tell and no matter how big or small that story may be, Bright Star embraces them all. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that?

  Bright Star  at Musical Theatre West

Bright Star at Musical Theatre West

Bright Star plays at Musical Theatre West in Long Beach, CA from October 19-November 4, 2018.

#PrettyStrongWomen

Mo Brady

by Renée Marino

 Renée Marino

Renée Marino

As performing artists, our vessels (minds, bodies and spirits) are our main tools in the creation of our art. Therefore, keeping those vessels strong and in balance is a necessity, and for me, my strongest intention for my fitness life. Pretty Woman is my fifth Broadway show, but when my journey with the show began last year, I quickly realized how different my life had become since last being a part of a Broadway company in 2013.  

Back then I was a single gal, living in the heart of Midtown Manhattan just a block away from the show I was performing in every night. Besides paying my bills and being ready for that stage six days a week, my responsibilities were pretty minimal, leaving me with a lot of “me” time. In turn, working out at the gym for as long as I wanted and taking dance classes each week was a given. I didn’t even have to wake up earlier or sacrifice something else in my day to do those things, because the time was there for the taking. Now, five years later, I’m a happily married woman, who is a homeowner, with a dog, commuting over an hour and a half each way from New Jersey to the Big Apple.  

As you can imagine, the responsibilities have increased and my excess time has decreased. So, without the luxury of that excess time, I had to find a way to still keep my vessel strong while balancing all of the other life elements. As a result, when I started commuting into the city for Pretty Woman, I decided that the only way to be effective in getting my body ready for the show was with short, sweet and to the point exercises. I started searching YouTube for 20 to 30-minute full body workouts and realized that I was feeling great after sweating for just that short amount of time.

I’ve always been someone who likes to multitask in my everyday life and in my workouts. So using these videos spawned me to find my own multitasker fitness moves that would not only raise the heart rate and work several body parts at once but do so in a short period. Once I began doing this, I couldn’t wait to share the moves because I knew that so many people struggle with the same issue of trying to find the time to work out amidst a full life.  

At first, I was simply sharing the exercises that I was doing each day, and then while in tech rehearsal for Pretty Woman, I stayed with my dear friend Samantha Barks one night to lessen my commute time while working in our crazy schedule. The two of us headed down to the gym in her building, and she asked me to lead us both in a little workout. We decided to film one of the moves that I was guiding as we both agreed that so many others needed some inspiration just like we did. As we were about to post the video, we thought it was really important to use a hashtag that represented not only the show we are a part of, but how the moves made us feel from the inside out. This, my friends, is how #PrettyStrongWomen was born.

I want not only performers, but men and women of any career path to understand that you don’t have to spend tons of time at the gym to feel like you’re making a difference in your minds and bodies. Simply having the intention to do your best to keep your vessel strong and in balance is what’s most important. If today that means only one set of a #PrettyStrongWomen move, then that’s great. Maybe the next day you’ll have time to do an extra set of one of the moves, and if so, celebrate the sweat.

The response on Instagram has been extremely positive and hearing that my followers are feeling great using the moves motivates me to keep creating and sharing. With our busy schedules and hectic lives, time is something that we all wish we had more of. #PrettyStrongWomen moves allow us to feel a sense of accomplishment in finding moments for ourselves amongst the chaos. After all, we are all in the same struggle to find balance in our lives. This hashtag was created to let you know that you can still feel strong in spite of that struggle and help you understand that you’re not alone.

 Renée Marino

Renée Marino

Capturing the Spirit of Heart and Adventure

Mo Brady

by Mo Brady

From the chorus of West Side Story singing “Somewhere” to the cast of Hamilton proclaiming “The World Turned Upside Down,” ensemble music is employed to elevate theatrical storytelling. Even for shows that don’t employ an “ensemble,” a chorus of singers can be necessary to further the emotional complexity of a show. Composer Rob Rokicki found this to be true working on The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical, which just released vocal selections ahead of its announced national tour in 2019.

The Lightning Thief was adapted from the 2005 fantasy-adventure novel of the same name by Rick Riordan and chronicles Percy Jackson, a young demigod, on an epic quest to find Zeus’ lightning bolt and prevent a war between the gods. Its Off-Broadway run at New York’s Lucille Lortel Theatre was acclaimed, garnering three Drama Desk Award nominations, among others. While the lauded production featured just seven actors, much of the show’s score showcases larger-than-life moments that needed textural and energetic enhancement from the full company.

When the show required expansive, emotional moments, Rokicki relied on the full company to immerse the audience. “For example, choral vocals in ‘The Weirdest Dream’ or ‘The Oracle’ were an important element to create mystery,” says Rokicki. In other songs, such as “Good Kid,” the vocal ensemble represents voices in characters’ minds. In all instances, the employment of group singing was integral to the creation of the score: “The use of the ensemble isn’t an afterthought but very much an integral part of the storytelling,” Rokicki says.

Rokicki himself is an acclaimed songwriter, performer, music director and educator. He was a 2018 Jonathan Larson Grant Finalist and alum of the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop.

 Rob Rokicki

Rob Rokicki

Much of the ensemble singing that Rokicki created was in conjunction with the production’s choreography - both on and off stage. “When you’re creating vocal arrangements, you have to be mindful of an actor’s backstage show,” shares Rokicki. “If actors are changing into a Minotaur costume, they might not be able to sing difficult harmony at the same time. Wiley (DeWeese, co-orchestrator) and I did a lot of experimentation to get it right. You also have to trust the actors and know that, in some cases, there’s only one voice per part.”

In creating the vocal selections for The Lightning Thief, including ensemble vocal parts were always a part of the conversation. “Since my day job involves laying out scores for many of the large publishing companies in musical theatre, I understand that style guides, page count and formatting standards try to reduce much of it,” admits Rokicki. “However, I was really pleased with what we were able to keep. Some parts aren’t delineated as who sings what but most of them are there - so people at home can sing with their friends!”

Rokicki worked with the team at Hal Leonard, the world's largest publisher of music performance and instructional materials, to create the selections. “Sometimes we had some lively discussions about what the spirit of my expressions and dynamic markings were,” Rokicki remembers. “In the end, I reduced the selections from the score myself and think they’re really fun to play as a pianist.”

Songbook selections include: “Bring on the Monsters,” “D.O.A.," “Drive,” “Good Kid,” “Killer Quest!,” “Lost!,” “My Grand Plan,” “Prologue/The Day I Got Expelled,” “Put You in Your Place,” “Son of Poseidon,” “Strong,” and “The Tree on the Hill.”

These vocal selections stay true to the grandiose, yet playful tone of the original novel of The Lightning Thief. “I tried my best to capture that spirit of fun, heart and adventure as best I could,” offers Rokicki. “I am very proud of the vocal selections. I learned to play piano on vocal selections from show tunes and now maybe The Lighting Thief will inspire other young pianists and writers.”

 Kristin Stokes, Chris McCarrell and George Salazar in  The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical

Kristin Stokes, Chris McCarrell and George Salazar in The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical

Tailor-Made for His Talents

Mo Brady

by Mo Brady

 Tommy Bracco

Tommy Bracco

Some roles feel built for the actors who originate them. Tommy Bracco, who made a memorable Broadway debut as Spot Conlon in the original production of Newsies, returns to the Nederlander Theatre in the recently-opened production of Pretty Woman: The Musical. In the show, Tommy Bracco plays a role that seems tailor-made for his talents and personality. What is even more remarkable about Bracco’s skilled performance is that he wasn’t the first actor to play the part.

In the original workshops of Pretty Woman, the role of Giulio the Bellhop was created by Giuseppe Bausilio of Broadway’s Billy Elliot and Cats. When Bausilio was not available to continue on with Pretty Woman (due to being in the Broadway company of Hello, Dolly!), Bracco was invited to audition. “I remember having a great feeling about it,” says Bracco. “Whether I booked the role or not, it didn’t matter.”

That great feeling led to Bracco being cast in the show’s tryout in Chicago and subsequent Broadway run. However, when Bracco stepped into rehearsal for the first time, Giulio had just four lines. Now his role is one of the most featured in the show with Bracco’s comedic and athletic chops on full display. “Jerry (Mitchell, director) is the type of creator who likes to change things over and over until they are perfect,” reveals Bracco. “If something isn’t furthering the story, he feels no ego about throwing it away and starting again. We spent many hours in the rehearsal room trying out different choreography that he built on our bodies.”

One of those moments built on the performers’ bodies made it through the show’s multiple iterations into the final version of the show. “When rehearsing ‘Luckiest Girl In The World,’ Jerry turned to me and said, ‘We need a big dance move to finish the number. Tommy! Whadda ya got?’” Bracco offered his favorite flip - the rose plop - which has been a part of the song’s choreography ever since.

Those kind of large changes continued as the show began performances in Chicago. “We would get to the theater and find a stack of script changes on our dressing stations every single day,” admits Bracco. “New interactions, new scenes, new songs. It was a challenging, exciting and extremely rewarding process.” 

Many of those interactions were created for Bracco and Eric Anderson, who plays Giulio’s boss and cohort, Mr. Thompson. There’s a respect and camaraderie in their performances that is evident from the audience. “I could go on and on about how much I love and respect Eric,” shares Bracco. “Most of my lines are with Eric, but we do most of our communicating with our eyes. Eric can just give me a look and I know exactly what he saying. It adds a real texture to our performance.”

One of Bracco’s most memorable numbers is one that he shares with Anderson. In “On a Night Like Tonight,” the two actors join together as an unlikely tango duo. “When we first join hands and take our first step, the audience laughs,” shares Bracco. “I’m not sure if it’s the guy-on-guy dancing or the ridiculous height difference, but either way, doesn’t matter, they’re laughing.” As the continue to dance together, the cheering from the audience builds until the moment Anderson lifts Bracco into a upside down tango pose. “The audience goes nuts,” Bracco acknowledges. “It’s my favorite moment of the show.”

With such a taxing role, Bracco finds that self-care is essential to maintain his stamina. “The biggest way I prepare is making sure I am taking care of my mind, body and soul,” says Bracco. “When you walk into a room feeling well-rested, prepared and confident, it goes a long way. My favorite line from Pretty Woman is: ‘With confidence and attitude, you can walk into any room, just like you own the place.’”

 Tommy Bracco (with Eric Anderson and company) in  Pretty Woman: The Musical  (photo: Matthew Murphy)

Tommy Bracco (with Eric Anderson and company) in Pretty Woman: The Musical (photo: Matthew Murphy)

"A Next Level in a Game I Wanted To Unlock."

Mo Brady

 Diane Phelan in  School of Rock - The Musical

Diane Phelan in School of Rock - The Musical

Recently, I hit my bucket list goal of performing a principal role on Broadway. I am currently in School of Rock - The Musical and just started understudying the role of Patty, Dewey’s nemesis in the show. It was something I had worked at for a long time, and after it happened, I felt a myriad of things: Gratitude, for everyone that got me there; relief, because I had built it up so much; anxiety, because understudying is anxiety-provoking in general; and also apathy. Even with all the buildup, it simultaneously felt like such a non-event. It was just another day at the show and I didn’t feel any different, save for the residual adrenaline coursing through my veins. 

I have long dreamed of performing on Broadway in any capacity ever since I was in the ensemble of Hello, Dolly! at my high school, fervently chug stepping in my one-inch Capezios with the entire company in “Put On Your Sunday Clothes.” That feeling of being so alive and moving in sync with people, singing and dancing, felt like absolute church to me.

I went to NYU to study theater, and when I graduated, I had the opportunity to perform with national tours, international tours, and regional gigs either playing principal roles or understudying in the ensemble. I made my Broadway debut with Lincoln Center’s revival of The King and I, where I understudied a lead. I got really sick with Lyme disease and had to leave the production before ever getting to play the principal role on that stage. To be honest, I was really disillusioned after my experience at The King and I. As a performer of color, you often feel like your only chances to work on Broadway are in certain tracks or ethnic shows. I had believed the window of opportunity to do anything like that was past, as the canon of Asian shows that get produced on Broadway isn’t large. I had worked over a decade to get to Broadway, and at the time I was so down that I didn’t think I had another decade in me. So imagine my surprise and delight, to have made my Broadway principal debut as just some regular American chick in a blonde wig.

I think the difference with my dream of simply being on Broadway as that kid in school versus the bucket list one of having the opportunity to play a principal role lies in the specificity of different skill sets you want to focus on. 

When you get to New York, it becomes clear that everyone is talented and hard working. But there are indeed different skill sets needed to do all the different types of tracks on Broadway.  Playing a lead role on Broadway specifically, was to me, like a next level in a game I wanted to unlock. I had played lead roles many times in my career, but Broadway felt like another level somehow. What I was so thrilled about with this experience, first and foremost, was conquering a huge fear of mine of performing in front of a New York City audience and not buckling under pressure. Getting to check the bucket list item of playing a lead here meant that I got myself together and put aside any anxiety I have as a human to speak in front of a discerning audience at the highest level of my craft. I got to say I did that.

So playing a lead requires one skill set. Having the gall to get up on the most famous stages without losing your nerve is one skill needed for it. Principal roles are enjoyable because of the impact you get to make on the story being told - but you live like a monk and your life is centered around being able to perform for the show.   

Understudying, standing-by and swinging are variations of one type of track, and they are incredibly challenging jobs to have. You live in a constant state of needing to be ready in an on-call situation. I do this type of job often (understudying and standing by -  I swung a show once and I will forever bow down to those who do it on a regular basis!) and I’ve learned to be good at it, but boy that anxiety never gets easier. It’s a challenge to enjoy doing the role in this capacity until you’ve had at least three or four times at it and even then it feels like being shot out of a cannon. 

Being in the ensemble has its own challenges, such as creating a full onstage life for your character without as much material as what’s written for principals. As well, often times there’s a heavier work load on the body for dance shows or say, holding freezes, in addition to filling in the story through extra vocals and movement. But it’s the best, in my experience, quality-of-life wise. 

I have to say I thought it would be an easy pick of which type of track I’d rather do more, but honestly each show and experience is different. Right now, I absolutely love being in the ensemble of this show. I know a role is going to come by at some point again and I will arrange my life around that for a time. But no matter what, I still get giddy every time I walk into a theatre, regardless of the capacity. I just feel incredibly grateful to tell human stories on stages. 

 Diane Phelan

Diane Phelan

5 Debut Questions - Meet Summer's Kristin Yancy

Mo Brady

Today on the blog, we meet Summer’s newest swing, Kristin Yancy, and learn about her journey to Broadway.

 Kristin Yancy in  Summer: The Donna Summer Musical

Kristin Yancy in Summer: The Donna Summer Musical

1. What is your name and hometown?

Kristin Yancy, originally from Dallas, TX.


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

I am a swing in Summer: The Donna Summer Musical. I also understudy the role of Disco Donna.


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

I was out of town on a contract. I was sitting alone in my kitchen in a temporary apartment, drinking tea, feeling really calm, when I looked down and noticed my phone was ringing. For a moment that I had dreamed of my whole life, it was surprisingly quiet in its delivery. It snuck up on me!


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

I had understudied major roles before but this is my first time working as a swing, and I am SO impressed by all of the swings who have come before me! This job is no joke! Even though at times it has been challenging, the process of learning an entire show — all its puzzle pieces and how they fit together — has been very rewarding. It makes for such a rich experience!


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

I've already learned so much from the first few weeks of this contract, and I'm really excited to continue learning and growing with the demands of the job. There's also a lot of love in this cast (they've SO warmly welcomed me!), and I'm pretty pumped for new friendships and to be a part of the Summer family.

 Kristin Yancy

Kristin Yancy

"I Still Look at Broadway With Wide Eyes."

Mo Brady

by Mo Brady

 Samantha Pollino

Samantha Pollino

She’s originated a leading role on Broadway. She’s a graduate of one of the nation’s leading performer training institutions. She’s performed in the most famous theatrical juggernaut to come out of Broadway since A Chorus Line. And yet, she can’t rent a car. At 24 years old, Samantha Pollino is one of Broadway longest-running ensemblists with a wealth of experience under her belt.

In an ensemble of just eight performers, Head Over Heels, Pollino stands out for her precision onstage. In part this is because of her dynamism as a performer. However, it also comes from years of experience, having made her Broadway debut over a decade ago.

The athletic and technical movement in Head Over Heels is a showcase for her determinate style of dance. “The choreography is athletic, technical, gritty, vintage and new all at the same time,” she states. “There are a lot of tricks and showy movements. You get to dance as hard and as big as you possibly can.”

In 1996, she originated her first Broadway role in an original musical. Like Head Over Heels, Hot Feet was an athletic, technically challenging dance show. While the show featured an incredible cast - including current Broadway ensemblists Karla Puno Garcia and Vasthy Mompoint - the show was panned critically and ran just 97 performances.

Although short-lived, Hot Feet taught Pollino a lot about working in the theatre. “As the only child in the show, I was surrounded by seasoned professionals whom I constantly learned from,” she remembers. One of the most distinct memories of the experience was when her role in the show changed mid-rehearsals: “I was cast as the understudy to the part I had originated, until I was called to the stage during tech rehearsal and told that the roles had been reversed and I would be playing the part. I learned how to separate business from personal emotion, and that most of the time, it isn’t personal.”

After Hot Feet, Pollino returned to Baltimore to continue her training. “It was important to me to get a solid education, especially because I knew I wanted to continue performing as an adult, and as much as I was already immersed in the world in NY, I wanted to come in with new skills to offer as an adult.” In between, she received her degree from University of Cincinnati College - Conservatory of Music.

 Samantha Pollino backstage at  Hamilton

Samantha Pollino backstage at Hamilton

Just after graduation, she was cast in the first company of Hamilton outside of New York, which opened in Chicago in 2016. In choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler’s Tony Award-winning movement, she found a language of movement was that just as dynamic, but imbued with emotion. “Executing the choreography of Hamilton is all about intention,” reveals Pollino. “You feel like you are water that is steaming under a lid. At any moment you could burst. You’re never doing a dance move just for movement’s sake.”

Now, she’s back on the New York stage for the first time in over a decade performing eight shows a week in Head Over Heels’ ensemble, as well as covering the leading role of Philoclea. Prominently featured in the show’s staging by choreographer Spencer Liff, Pollino’s movement is steeped in personality. “Spencer is very persistent on casting dancers who bring their own energy to the table,” she reveals. “That is incredible evident in our show. We have all worked together to create the movement quality that is Head Over Heels.”

However, even with all of the experience she’s gained she still brings a childlike wonderment to her work at the Hudson Theatre. “I still look at Broadway with wide eyes. I tear up almost once a show looking out into the house. While I’m only 24, growing up in the industry has given me a lot of knowledge I carry with me. My skin is thicker, my passion runs even deeper, and I truly realize how lucky I am to get to do this for a living.”

 Samantha Pollino (second from left) and the cast of  Head Over Heels  (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Samantha Pollino (second from left) and the cast of Head Over Heels (Photo: Joan Marcus)





When Broadway Called - feat. The Cher Show

Mo Brady

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

 Michael Graceffa

Michael Graceffa

MICHAEL GRACEFFA (ENSEMBLE)

HOMETOWN: WALTHAM, MA

“I had just flown back to Los Angeles on a Monday night after my final callback in New York City. I was on tour with Aladdin, and I had to rush to make it back for a Tuesday show. The call woke me up from bed and I just started crying.

“Besides the feeling of having my dreams come true and having my mother cheer me on in the audience, I’m most looking forward to the consistency I’ll get on Broadway. I’ve been on three tours and a bundle of regional gigs the past five years. I’ve been extremely transient and have missed friends, family, routine, and, most of all, the sense of home. I’m excited to plant my roots and grow!”

 Tiana Okoye

Tiana Okoye

TIANA OKOYE (ENSEMBLE)

HOMETOWN: RANCHO CUCAMONGA, CA

“I got a call from my agent after a long morning of teaching group fitness. He just started crying and said he’d been waiting years to deliver this phone call and tell me I booked Broadway! I was completely shocked because the team actually flew to Los Angeles for the auditions, so I booked it from home. Unreal.

“I am obviously incredibly excited to meet Cher, but getting to originate a role in a Broadway show is a dream.”

 Michael Tacconi

Michael Tacconi

MICHAEL TACCONI (ENSEMBLE)

HOMETOWN: BUCKS COUNTY, PA

“I had moved out to Los Angeles after living in New York for five years. I had been feeling really burnt out in New York and kept getting really close to things to then have them not go my way. I needed to shake off the city and try something different, so I moved out to LA not really knowing anyone or where I’d live. Ultimately, it became what ended up being a year break from acting. I was trying to get things going out West, but in the meantime, I met new friends, reconnected with old ones, and spent a lot of time alone diving into a new city. Out of the blue, I got an email from my old agent in New York saying an audition for The Cher Show came through for me. I hadn’t had an audition in ages and hadn’t been singing, so it was like this gift just got dropped in my lap.

“That was a Monday night and I remember the final callback was a Wednesday morning, so I almost didn’t make a tape, because it didn’t seem like I’d be able to fly in for the final audition anyway. After a couple of phone calls, the team said I should make one anyway. I went to my friend’s apartment, sang ‘I Got You Babe’ in his living room with his dogs walking in and out of frame, did the scenes, and just had the best time. It felt really right. The next day, I got a call saying make another tape, incorporate these couple notes, and send it to us by tomorrow. So I made it happen. Thursday morning they called and said, ‘Get to New York for Monday morning. The team wants to see you and they want you to add this packet and this additional character, Rob.’ I bought a ticket, my mom came and met me in the city the night before and ran lines with me (which I normally NEVER allow), and I went in the next day. It was the most fun audition I’ve ever had.

“Everything just fit. Two weeks went by. I was back in LA, working at my retail job slowly dying inside, when I got a phone call from my agent. I dropped what I was doing and ran out front to pick it up. It was all the good news I was hoping it would be, and I felt like Will Smith at the end of The Pursuit of Happiness except it was WeHo and everyone passing me was drinking matcha lattes. I put in my notice that day and was on a plane back to New York to start rehearsals two weeks later.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge of being a swing. I’m not a dancer, so covering some of the best dancers I’ve ever seen in addition to my principal covers is WAY beyond what I perceive to be what I’m capable of doing. But it’s sink or swim baby, and I’m actually given the chance to be in the water, so I’m pumped to become the actor I am on the other side.”

5 Debut Questions - Meet The Lion King's Pearl Khwezi

Mo Brady

Today on our blog, we welcome The Lion King ensemblist Pearl Khewzi to Broadway and learn about her journey to the Great White Way:

 Pearl Khwez in  The Lion King

Pearl Khwez in The Lion King

1. What's your name and hometown?

My name is Pearl Khwezi, and I am from Margate, which is a small town on the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

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

I’m part of the ensemble. and my track is the 'One by One' female soloist. 

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

I found out that I had booked the part while on vacation in Valencia, Spain. I randomly refreshed my emails and there it was, an offer to do what I love on Broadway. No words can describe how that felt!

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

The most surprising thing to me was how different the stage is from what I was used to. I was in the Spanish production of The Lion King, El Rey Leon, so the change in language was also really exciting. 

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

There is so much to look forward to but for now the next thing on my to-do list is my Nala debut, as I am preparing to be an understudy! 

 Pearl Khwezi

Pearl Khwezi

"The Only Expectation Is That You Will Tell A Story."

Mo Brady

by Richard Riaz Yoder

 Richard Riaz Yoder

Richard Riaz Yoder

A couple of weeks ago, composer Joel B. New asked if I wanted to sing a song in a concert he was putting together called “Joel B. New is Trying Too Hard.” Now I have been a fan of Joel ever since we went to college together at good old Oklahoma City University. He sent me a song called “I Play With Words Not Guns” and I immediately said yes.

Last year when City Center Encores! was doing Assassins, they put out a call for an original song inspired by Sondheim’s “The Gun Song.” In true Joel fashion, he concocted a song expressing his feelings about the state of gun laws in a cool and haunting jazz piece, which earned him an honorable mention amongst over 90 submissions from around the world. 

My passion for both gun laws and jazz are vast, so putting the two together was fascinating to me. The song immediately spoke to my heart the first time I heard it. The way he weaves together this beautiful music with these clever but pointed lyrics gives me chills. It reminded me of the first time I listened to Billie Holiday singing “Strange Fruit.” Not the subject matter, but the ability to combine a strong political statement with something like jazz that people would normally not put together.

Though I have known Joel for years, I have never had the pleasure of working with him. In the room, he has a sense of ease about him that relaxes you and lets you be free to try new things and make mistakes, but is also very specific about what he wants when things need fine tuning, which is great as an actor. Also being able to work on something new that most people have never seen before can be exciting and scary. There are no preconceived ideas about what the song is and the only expectation anyone has is that you will tell a story.

 Joel B. New

Joel B. New

"The Limit Does Not Exist!"

Mo Brady

by Summerisa Bell Stevens

 Summerisa Bell Stevens

Summerisa Bell Stevens

Here is the deal: I am 5’2” (which is short). In the musical theatre world, there are shows that I cannot be considered for because of my height. If an audition breakdown says they are only seeking actors that are 5’6” and above, then I am not going to waste anyone’s time by auditioning. There have been shows that I have not booked because I was told it was due to my short height.

I had only gone in for the musical Chicago once, and I got cut the first round after the ballet combination. I assumed it was due to my height since the girls who were called back were all very tall. Fast forward to June when my agent sends me an email that the Chicago team wanted to bring me in for a replacement Broadway contract. I told my agent to double check that they knew I was 5’2”. Again, I didn’t want to waste our time. My agent said that they were aware and still wanted to see me. I thought, “Well, I’ll probably get cut right away, but it will be fun to learn more Fosse choreography.”

I went to the appointment where they had us first do a ballet combination and then “All That Jazz.” I was one of the only people in the room who had not been through multiple rounds of Chicago auditions, so it was my first time learning “All That Jazz.” It was intimidating and exhilarating at the same time to be surrounded by incredible women who knew the ropes. The dance captain, David Bushman, took the time to explain the backstory of the movement and gave great attention to detail. It felt in many ways like a workshop in that he gave notes to individuals. He truly wanted to give each of us the opportunity to do our best.

Very surprising to me was that I got called back. And then called back again. And again. And again. Every callback was a “What!? Really?” moment. I felt no pressure because I had no expectations on making it to the next round. Imagine my shock when I made it all the way to the end.

During my final callback, there were thirteen other amazing women of all varying heights, shapes and abilities. There were also two other women that were my height. There was a huge range of body types and ethnicities in attendance as well. Because we were all so diverse, it did not feel like a competition. We all offered something completely different. I will never forget the energy of support and encouragement that was in that room. We truly all wanted each other to nail the choreography, sing amazing and deliver perfect timing in our monologues. Duncan Stewart, the casting director, workshopped the monologues we had chosen from “Cell Block Tango” as a group. Talk about wanting us to succeed on every platform. Finally, we were in front of director Walter Bobbie. He gave feedback and created an environment of learning. 

Ultimately, I didn’t book it, but my point is that up until that audition, Chicago was not on my radar. I had thought, “I am too short and too curvy.” That limit did not exist, but I was sure it was there based on my height. To date, it is one of my favorite audition experiences, and I had the time of my life! So for today, get out of your own way, and don’t set a limit on what you can do. To quote Cady Heron in Broadway’s Mean Girls, “The limit does not exist!” 

 Summerisa Bell Stevens

Summerisa Bell Stevens

"I've Been Waiting For A Long Time To Meet You."

Mo Brady

by Kalyn West

 Kalyn West (left, with Brittany Zeinstra)

Kalyn West (left, with Brittany Zeinstra)

Yesterday, I stepped into the recording studio, to begin making our original cast album for The Prom. The energy and excitement in the room was palpable. Unconfined smiles everywhere. Pictures and videos documenting every single moment and detail. Pages of precious music, with copious notes, laid out before us to guide the way. All eyes and ears fixated on our fearless music director. Everyone tuning into the same wavelength beneath that wooden domed ceiling, feeling the magic of what we were doing build. It was a playground - scary and full of possibility. 

Reflecting on it, I’ve realized two things. 

One, that dreams, like most other things, happen gradually. And two, also like most things, if you don’t slow down to notice the moments as they happen, you might miss them entirely. I’ve been wrapping my head around these truths for a few years now, learning over time just how pervasive and undeniable they are. Yesterday, they began to settle in in a new way and I’m going to attempt to describe the feelings inspired in me.

I have been dreaming of yesterday since I was seventeen years old. 

I’m from Salt Lake City, Utah. When I took the plunge and moved to New York in 2013, I did not have many connections. I was going in blind and nervous, but I had this belief that came from somewhere unknown in me that this was what I was meant to do - I just knew it and felt it. So I left everything I knew and started trying to figure out what my life could actually look like. I spent years working in restaurants, working jobs I hated, fumbling around in the audition scene, gaining little to no traction, wondering if I was ever going to feel like I belonged here. That is the utmost nutshell of the last five years, because its an experience I know many people in this industry, in this life, can relate to. 

When I moved to the city, I was under no illusions that the road would be easy or that success would come quickly, but I didn’t realize it would take as long as it has. I didn’t realize just how much I would be tested to persevere; to turn every “no” into a “not yet…;” to keep my hope alive. And for much of the while, I didn’t realize that the struggle isn’t the preface to the story. It IS the story. It’s the meat and potatoes. It’s the substance that enhances joy and builds the bones for a healthy perspective. 

Again, the utmost nutshell.

I remember having a bit of an emotional breakdown a few years ago, in the wake of several stacked disappointments. My mom asked me over the phone, “Well… do you want to come home?” Something in me instantly snapped back into place and I laughed. “No,” I said. The thought had never even crossed my mind. Zero part of me wanted to give up and call it quits, regardless of how many times I was failing. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was a defining moment. That was a huge part of my journey. It was an affirmation, a conquering and one of my first wins. 

I used to think that dreams happen when sparks meet passion, but now I know they happen when you refuse to stop believing in yourself. When you commit and show up every day. Especially when you feel lost, tired, dejected and scared. When you persevere, persevere, persevere. 

Now… still here, five years later, I’m walking into a recording studio. I’m finally getting to look my dreams of Broadway in the face, shake their hand, and say, “Hi. I have been waiting a long time to meet you.”

 Kalyn West

Kalyn West

Bringing Kong to Life

Mo Brady

by Mo Brady

 A scene from the Melbourne, Australia production of  King Kong  (Photo by The Chase James Morgan)

A scene from the Melbourne, Australia production of King Kong (Photo by The Chase James Morgan)

Even before it welcomes its first audience, King Kong is proving itself a massive Broadway mounting. Most evidently, the production features a 2,000-pound, 20-foot puppet as its titular character. In addition, the show features a massive cast of 35 actors, including an onstage ensemble of 11, six offstage swings and ten actors known as “King’s Company.”

The King’s Company is a troupe of artists within the production whose primary responsibility is manipulating the Kong puppet. This team of artists responsible for puppeteering Kong, including Marty Lawson and Lauren Yalango-Grant, come from a variety of performance backgrounds.

One of the theatre industry’s most dynamic dancers, King Kong marks Lawson’s seventh Broadway show. While his previous Broadway shows have featured high-octane choreography by the likes of Rob Ashford and Twyla Tharp, King Kong’s staging relies on a different style of movement: puppetry. While he worked with puppets on Shrek the Musical, it was “nothing as extensive as King Kong.”

Making her Broadway debut in King Kong, Yalango-Grant was a member of Pilobolus Dance Theater for almost eight years. During her tenure there, she helped create shows where dancers worked as group to create shapes recognizable to an audience. “It required a very specific and unique set of skills that I find are serving me well in King Kong,” she notes.

The King’s Company was assembled through an extensive audition process that both Lawson and Yalango-Grant found unique. “It’s not often that I experience auditions as fun and exciting as this one,” reveals Yalango-Grant. “The amount of laughter, joy, and support in the room was pretty unique. It was clear that the energy from (director/choreographer Drew) McOnie and (movement director Gavin) Robbins was one of positivity and great leadership.”

 Lauren Yalango-Grant

Lauren Yalango-Grant

For Lawson and many others, the audition process included a half dozen calls to assess the actors on multiple skill sets. “The creative team gave us a group warm up every morning in either yoga or dance,” he notes. “They spent a lot of time evaluating us for teamwork and willingness to try new things.”

“They were truly trying to see who we were both as individual artists and how we work in a group,” says Yalango-Grant. “‘How do you work in a group when things get tough?’ This was particularly important for the Kong team to discover during the audition process.”

Once rehearsals began in early August, Lawson, Yalango-Grant and the rest of the King’s Company began their rehearsals at 8:30am, ninety minutes earlier than a typical Broadway rehearsal day. Over half of their time in rehearsals has been devoted to acting and awareness exercises with movement director Robbins. Among their daily schedule was a group warm up and twice-daily physical conditioning sessions. “We’ve also gone through some pretty epic workouts together - ones that can only bond you because they are so challenging,” says Yalango-Grant.

This extensive rehearsal process in the theatre has given the actors a chance to practice manipulating the Kong puppet effectively and safely. “In the first week, we were muscling everything and hadn’t figured out how to work together yet,” says Lawson. “Everything was twice as hard in the beginning.”

 Marty Lawson

Marty Lawson

The King’s Company are not the only actors who are responsible for manipulating Kong. In addition to these ten onstage actors are three “Voodoo Operators” who control the puppet’s face, shoulders and hips. “It was important we built up the ability to work as one unit and could adapt and problem solve like one mind,” says Yalango-Grant. “Everybody has to be working with the same intention and the same state of mind.”

“Our relationships with one another and with the puppet is key to making sure we are keeping ourselves and the puppet safe,” continues Yalango-Grant. “We’ve done a lot of exercises which require a group breath and feel - exercises where there is no one leading or following, so that we become one breathing organism.”

While the rest of the show’s cast was preparing in rehearsal studios, much of the King’s Company’s rehearsal process has been at the Broadway Theatre. “Kong doesn’t exactly travel well so we had to go to him,” notes Lawson.

With previews beginning October 5, Lawson and Yalango-Grant are turning their focus towards how audiences will respond to the production. “I think most people will be very surprised to see the new story that we’ve created around Kong,” shares Lawson. “It was important for our director to create a story for our other leading characters that could stand on its own if we didn’t have a 20-foot puppet onstage. So the utmost care has been taken to tell a new and interesting story in every way.”

“I believe audiences will undoubtedly be blown away by the size and nature of Kong,” says Yalango-Grant. “However, his ability to come alive and emote is something I am completely blown away by. His eyes are alive and draw you in. As cheesy as this sounds, it feels as though you are able to see into his soul and he into yours.”

King Kong Art (1).jpg

5 Debut Questions - Meet Aladdin's Tyler Roberts

Mo Brady

Today on the blog, we meet Aladdin’s newest ensemblist, Tyler Roberts, and learn about his journey to making his Broadway debut.

 Tyler Roberts in  Aladdin

Tyler Roberts in Aladdin

1. What is your name and hometown?

Tyler Roberts from Northford, CT 

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

Ensemble (city folk, waiter, contestant on Dancing with the Scimitar, gaurd, and various other characters)

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

Booking Aladdin happened in a matter of 24 hours. I went into an immediate replacement call on a Thursday, was kept to sing, and was released shortly after. It was a pretty standard call. I was on route uptown, picking up a package when my agent called asking if I was around to go to a potential fitting at the New Amsterdam Theatre. There was no offer on the table yet so I could not get my hopes up.

Flashforward, I went to the fitting that happened to be scheduled during the half hour call for the rest of the company. It was like dangling a shiny new toy in front of me because here I am trying on Broadway costumes and meeting some company members but had no idea if this was a moment or a new reality. Imagine the dreams I had that night after the day I just had. That Friday, I went about my normal day until 1:50pm when my life changed. I received the call saying I was joining the company of Aladdin, making my Broadway debut.

Let's just say, there was some crying, a couple phone calls to the parents, and a trip down to Riverside State Park, where I stood on a rock with no regard to the people around me and released every emotion/feeling in the form of a scream. I guess I was entering a new reality.

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

The most surprising thing about preparing for the show was the uncertainty that I faced. Being a replacement is no small feat. You are learning the show primarily by yourself, which is quite difficult when it comes to a show like Aladdin. I was warned about the constant movement of large set pieces, numerous props, and of course other cast members, but it doesn't become real until that put-in rehearsal...or that first performance.

Additionally, I would also be foolish if I didn't mention the costume changes. I mean four quick changes in Prince Ali alone. I just thank my lucky stars that I have the most supportive company that helped me cope with these surprises.

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

I am definitely looking forward to the education I am going receive from the Broadway community. I have never performed on a platform as large nor been in a run of a show as long. I am already learning so much about taking care of my body, both physically and mentally. I mean let's face it, I am working alongside some of the best in the business, so it would be foolish not to take on the role of a student and learn as much as I can. Love is learning and learning is love. If you love something, learn as much as you can about it.

Moving Forward With The Palace

Mo Brady

by Curtis Holbrook

 Curtis Holbrook on stage at the Palace Theatre

Curtis Holbrook on stage at the Palace Theatre

The Palace Theatre represents my journey, from dream to reality. The first Broadway show I ever saw was in this theatre. I saw The Will Rogers Follies here when I was nine years old, sitting in the third seat of the third row (pictured below). Years later, SpongeBob SquarePants is my third show in this glorious theatre.

I’ve never been moved by numbers. Yet, I feel life adds up to where you want to be when you are focused, working hard and are patient. I have had an incredible journey from seeing The Will Rogers Follies here to deciding I wanted to be an artist, to where I am today.

I don’t know what’s next for me or the Palace. With the theater on the brink of a major renovation, it will be changed into something that will never be what it is now. I don’t even know what that means, but I do know it means a new beginning. Not knowing is OK.

In fact, I think it’s a beautiful place to be because there are so many possibilities and opportunities to add to an already rich, fulfilled story. I will miss this home terribly and I am so incredibly grateful for the time I was able to inhabit it. I love this theater, I love the stories I was lucky to get to tell here, I love the people that all came together in this beautiful place. And I look forward to what’s next.

 Curtis Holbrook in the mezzanine of the Palace Theatre

Curtis Holbrook in the mezzanine of the Palace Theatre

Keeping the Faith

Mo Brady

by Julius Anthony Rubio

 Julius Anthony Rubio

Julius Anthony Rubio

I first started dancing when I was 15 years old. That age can be difficult for any young man, but was particularly a challenging moment in my family’s history. At the time, I was living in a homeless shelter with my mom and siblings. Yet amidst all of this I managed to set foot in a dance studio for the first time.

With the surrounding pressure of living in the shelter, I truly began training. With six solid months of ballet training at my new studio, I got accepted as an incoming sophomore to the most iconic arts school in Miami: New World School of the Arts. Between my dance studio and my new school, my life become life so separate from what I had to call my ‘home.’ 

It’s clear that those circumstances were the impetus for me chasing and living the dream. Opportunity after opportunity led me to live and work in Los Angeles, overseas and Las Vegas, and more before making a home in New York City.

Fast forward to this past November, when I lost my best friend, my mother, to cancer. This was on the heels of my her sister also passing just seven months earlier. Only two days later, I found myself auditioning for Frozen. I was beyond conflicted about attending to this call for an emergency replacement. I just couldn’t find the will to try and wake up another day and move forward.

Yet, a voice came to me. It made me understand that, for as much pain as I was in, deep down inside would have wanted me to go. So with that new faith, I got up, got ready and went with my aunt and mom in mind. After hysterically crying on the train, I showed up to find more than 40 men auditioning for this one part.

I knew at this moment what I needed to do: succeed. I made the first combination cut, then the partnering cut and then it was narrowed down to seven men sing and read. I couldn’t believe it. 

Three hours later, I’d booked one of the most epic and influential shows of my career. Being in the state I was in, I was still in complete shock. I just knew deep down those two angels were above watching over me. I am happy, grateful and changed that I didn’t give up. Either before the Frozen audition, or as a 15-year-old boy. I’d be lying in saying this has been a easy road these last couple of years. However, I know that everything, good or bad, has taught me so much character and has given me thicker skin.

Mom, you never gave up on me and made me believe. I pray anyone reading this would be compelled to keep that faith and NEVER GIVE UP as well. No matter what everyone’s journey is, just remember we’re all in this together and WE CAN DO THIS. Here’s to them...

When Broadway Called, feat. The Prom

Mo Brady

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

 Gabi Campo

Gabi Campo

GABI CAMPO (ENSEMBLE)

HOMETOWN: GLENDALE, CA

"It was my final semester of college at Pace University, and we were just about to go on winter break. I had gotten a call from the head of my department to go to her office immediately. When I was in her office, I got the call that I was going to be on Broadway. I was in complete shock... it honestly didn't feel real. We celebrated, and as I was leaving her office and started walking down the stairs, I called my parents. That's when it really hit me. I couldn't even say it... ‘Mom, Dad,  I...got....The Prom. I'm..... going to...’ I burst into tears and truly couldn't believe my dreams were actually coming true. I squatted down in the stairwell and was sobbing as they were screaming and crying on the phone all the way from California, ‘SAY IT! SAY IT, GABI!!!’ ‘I'M GOING TO BE ON BROADWAY!!’ We cried and screamed and thanked God. It was the most surreal moment in my life. I'm sure the only thing to top it now is when I make my debut, with my family in the audience.

”Growing up, Broadway and Theater was my safe haven. I was lucky enough to grow up in the age of YouTube, and when I was watching YouTube videos of all my favorite performers and actors, it gave me a sense of belonging- a place where I felt safe, wanted, loved, and included. There are so many things I'm looking forward to about my Broadway experience- but I think the main thing is being fortunate enough to be in an amazing show like The Prom, to make sure other kids and adults alike feel as though they belong. It was immeasurable to me growing up, and now I get to be a little part of the same cloth that helped me grow as a human being, which is mind-blowing.”

 Jerusha Cavazos

Jerusha Cavazos

JERUSHA CAVAZOS (ENSEMBLE)

HOMETOWN: CELEBRATION, FL

“I went to the open Equity chorus call on a whim. I had actually booked a flight to go home that day for Thanksgiving and thought to myself, ‘I'll just go and try and then fly straight home.’ I had heard a lot of buzz about the show and was a bit nervous to want it too bad. When I got off the plane, I had an email with an appointment to go back in for the show.

“The very next day I had to fly out of New York again to start shooting at TV show in Atlanta. The week went on and I found out that I had received a callback. There was no way I could make it. Our days on set were lasting 12-14 hours. So, I woke up at 5 am and filmed a self-tape callback and crossed my fingers when I pressed send. The next day I found out that I received a final callback and really needed to be seen in the room. (I had one day off from shooting.) So, I booked the first flight I saw (which nearly broke my credit card) and flew back up. I was so nervous the entire flight but when I got in the room that all went away. I just thought, ‘I really have to book this. There just isn't any other option right now.’

“The next Monday my manager called saying I was on hold. I called my parents immediately and began to pray with them. A couple hours later she called back with the offer. I'll never forget it.

“Being a part of an original cast has been a dream of mine for a long time. I am going to have the opportunity to experience a bunch of ‘firsts’ with some amazing people. The first time we see the theatre, the costumes, hear the orchestra, record the album, etc. There are a lot of Broadway debuts in this cast. We are all so excited to see this dream of ours come true, the energy is electric.”

 Shelby Finnie

Shelby Finnie

SHELBY FINNIE (ENSEMBLE)

HOMETOWN: GREENSBORO, NC

“I attended a dancer ECC in the spring of 2015 for ‘Untitled Prom Musical.’ I got a call a few days later notifying me that I had been cast in the developmental lab for this new musical, and I was just ecstatic. It was such a memorable moment for me because it was the first musical theater job I had booked as an adult living in NYC (I was dancing in a ballet company previously) and I remember thinking, ‘Ok maybe I can do this!’ I could have only dreamed that three years later I would be making my Broadway debut with the same show. I feel so fortunate to have been brought back through every phase of The Prom over the years. I get to make my Broadway debut with a show that is not only incredibly special to me and but also a show that I helped create. It’s a dream come true.

”I am really just looking forward to finally sharing this show with people. It is a show about acceptance and being yourself and taking a stand for what you believe in. I’m very proud to be a part of it. It’s also so full of joy! I can’t wait to share that with audiences.”

 Fernell Hogan

Fernell Hogan

FERNELL HOGAN (ENSEMBLE)

HOMETOWN: HOUSTON, TX

“I was teaching a class in Austin, Texas when I got the call from the company manager. I actually missed the call, so I got the news over voicemail. Since this is my professional and Broadway debut, I am looking forward to the thrills and challenges that eight shows a week will bring.”

 Joomin Hwang

Joomin Hwang

JOOMIN HWANG (ENSEMBLE)

HOMETOWN: ANYANG CITY, SOUTH KOREA

“I remember everything so vividly. I was on the bed trying to wake up because I couldn't sleep well the night before. I got a phone call around 11 am. I probably answered it like, ‘Ah---- Heleeu’ with sleepy voice. Soon, I found out it was from Foresight Theatrical LLC. I jumped out of the bed and saying, ‘Excuse me, sir - what? Did I just hear Bbbbb...Broadway?’ My wife was already crying. I was crying. I called my parents in Korea right away. Surprisingly, they didn't cry. It was a dramatic morning for sure, that I will never forget.

”I came to the United States five years ago without knowing any English. I literally used Google Translator to communicate with people. That Korean boy, who dreamed of Broadway 6,892 miles away in Korea watching shows like Smash and the Tony Awards on YouTube, is making his dream come true. This is absolutely a overwhelming happiness. I am already in love with our incredibly talented casts and crew. Also, I can't wait to meet the audiences. Especially, people who are dreaming about Broadway. I can't wait to give them so much love, courage, hugs, and saying ‘dream big!’"

 Becca Lee

Becca Lee

BECCA LEE (ENSEMBLE)

HOMETOWN: INDIANAPOLIS, IN

“I have been lucky enough to be a part of this show since the first lab in 2015. We did the out-of-town tryout in Atlanta in 2016 and we all hoped the show would come to Broadway shortly after that. I had given up hope for the Broadway transfer after waiting for over a year when my agent called me out of the blue and said I had an offer for Broadway!
Best. Day. Ever.

If I had to choose one thing I am looking forward to most it would be having my mom see me perform on Broadway for the first time. We've been on this journey together and I wouldn't be here without her constant support and encouragement so that will be very special.”

 Wayne “Juice” Matkins

Wayne “Juice” Matkins

WAYNE “JUICE” MATKINS (ENSEMBLE)

HOMETOWN: LOS ANGELES, CA

“ I received and email from my agents that I had booked the lab at the same time that I was cast in Fordham’s Mainstage of Macbeth. After the lab with the promotional stuff, it was stated that we were officially cast in the Broadway rendition of The Prom.

“I’m looking forward to mostly performing in a new space with new things demanded of me, amongst new and thrilling artistic colleagues. Furthermore, I want to expand my pallet or capacity for things that I can handle.  Looking forward to being a part of a process and production that spreads love. Love through any medium of expression and the significance of identity and the lack of identification.”

 Anthony Norman

Anthony Norman

ANTHONY NORMAN (ENSEMBLE)

HOMETOWN: CHICAGO, IL

“I was taking a nap and woke up up a voicemail from my agent. It's crazy how fast it all was. I went in on a Monday, had a callback on Tuesday, got the call on Wednesday.

I’m looking forward to working with some of the best and funniest people in the business. Being able to call these amazing artists co-workers. That still blows my mind.”

 Jack Sippel

Jack Sippel

JACK SIPPEL (DANCE CAPTAIN, SWING)

HOMETOWN: ST. LOUIS, MO

“I found out that I booked the show by my agent tricking me... She called me to let me know that there was a piece of fan mail that was delivered to her office and that she was asking me to come pick it up. So when I went to go pick it up, she handed it to me and I went to go just put it in my backpack, but she stopped me and insisted that I open it that second. I was confused as to why she wanted to see it so bad. I opened the envelope and inside was actually a flyer she had made telling me I was going to be making my debut with The Prom! I was in complete shock and simply couldn’t believe that it was actually going to be happening. They fooled me alright.

“I think I am most looking forward to simply putting up a new ORIGINAL musical and being part of the history of it all. This is an incredibly special creative team and cast that I am beyond honored to be working alongside. I also just can’t wait for people to see the show. This show is truly special with an extremely relevant story that people need to hear. This one is an absolute must see.”

 Brittany Zeinstra

Brittany Zeinstra

BRITTANY ZEINSTRA (ENSEMBLE)

HOMETOWN: BOULDER, CO

“I was on the national tour of Disney’s The Little Mermaid as female swing and flight captain. We were in Dayton, Ohio for the week, and I hadn’t gone on in ages (thankfully we were in a brief spell of health, but it made my job a little less exciting). There wasn’t much to do in town, so I was in my hotel room when I saw a call from a New York number, I didn’t even make the connection.
Half an hour later, I call the number back. Turns out, it was one of my agents whom I hadn’t met yet, and he was calling me to tell me I had an offer. I stopped short, asked, ‘Are you serious?’ even though he had no reason to be joking, and then screamed and called my mother. She and my dad jumped around the room in Colorado while I jumped in Dayton. I felt so lucky to have parents as excited as I was.

”I feel especially grateful to be entering the community of Broadway artists who made me fall in love with the art form in the first place. This cast of The Prom is truly special - grounded, giving, hilarious people - and I can’t wait for us to share (so many of our) first Broadway experiences! We’re ready for the world to see this bright new show.”

Jack Sippel

Remembering Marin Mazzie

Mo Brady

Broadway Ensemblists Share Their Memories of Performing with Marin Mazzie

 Marin Mazzie with Beth Johnson Nicely, Brittany Marcin and Lenny Wolpe

Marin Mazzie with Beth Johnson Nicely, Brittany Marcin and Lenny Wolpe

“I’ll never forget the day I met Marin Mazzie. I was rehearsing Curtains with her husband Jason and she came right before lunchtime to meet him. John Kander rushed over to greet her like a giddy school boy. Marin walked up to each and every member of the company and introduced herself. I immediately felt her warmth and kind presence. 

“Years later I was beyond excited when I found out Marin was going to be in Bullets Over Broadway with me. To be able to watch her every day was a true master class. In life she was the opposite of her character Helen Sinclair in Bullets, but it was thrilling to see her embody that character.  Marin never took herself too seriously. In fact, we had quite a few laughs about a theater patron who very loudly kept pronouncing her name incorrectly. We even wrote it that way on her dressing room door. She was always one of the girls and had the ensemble ladies in her dressing room for a chat or a hangout. She would take time to do our annoying “Saturday Night on Broadway” pics when I’m sure she had more important things to do. 

“One of my greatest gifts in theater was seeing Marin in her closing show for The King and I. Beth Nicely and I went together and sat there filled with emotions and crying during curtain call. Marin was captivating and strong. We both said we could only imagine how much she was going through physically and emotionally. As usual, she was so gracious with her time at her closing show and made sure to see us and catch up on our lives. I still can’t believe that was her last show on Broadway. 

“There will never be another Marin. While her talent and beauty were unmatchable, they weren’t even the best part of her. Her heart was really what drew people closer. That and her incredible laugh. They just don’t make stars like Marin. But I know she is somewhere more peaceful with her glorious light still shining.”

-Brittany Marcin (Bullets Over Broadway, Anything Goes)

 Marin Mazzie in  Spamalot

Marin Mazzie in Spamalot

“Marin played a 10-week return engagement as the Lady of the Lake in Spamalot in 2008. I made my Broadway debut there earlier that year. As an admirer of her work, this was a big deal to me! She didn’t make her entrance until about 20 minutes into the show, but she always came to the stage to gather with the company at the places call. A three-time Tony nominee, revered performer and beloved human just hanging out before the show in her wig prep, robe and slippers. She was simply one of us. I just loved this about her. And always so kind, generous, fun and funny. Such a joy to have in the company.

”A few years ago I was doing Chicago and Jason came in to play Billy Flynn. Because of that, I had the opportunity to reconnect with Marin. I don’t think I had seen her since Spamalot. She was so lovely and gracious when I reminded her that we had performed together at the Shubert. Our working together may have been brief but I will forever count myself lucky to have had those 10 weeks.”

-Andrew Fitch (Spamalot, Waitress)

 Marin Mazzie in  Bullets Over Broadway

Marin Mazzie in Bullets Over Broadway


“Marin Mazzie was a true force of nature. I first met her in 1995 when I was swinging/dance captaining the Canadian premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Music of the Night. Marin was one of the three principals. At the time I had just moved to NYC a year ago and had only one Broadway show under my belt. I remember begin starstruck watching Marin every night and marveling at her incredible presence and talent. She could sing absolutely ANYTHING… ”Memory,” “With One Look,” “Tell Me On A Sunday….” and the list goes on. She would stand on stage in her black velvet dress with the orchestra and a spotlight and she commanded every moment. You could not take your eyes off of her. And it wasn’t just her glorious voice that drew you in, it was her emotion and investment in every second of the song. I don’t think I ever saw or heard Marin mark anything.

”I had the privilege of working with Marin again on Spamalot when she joined the company as the Lady of the Lake. Once again she was a complete joy to work with and she gave 100% at all times. Marin had that amazing combination of talent and grace, strength and sensuality, elegance and bawdiness. And she was equally glorious off stage. She was strong, kind, funny, humble, and always, above else, generous. She was so full of life that it is hard to imagine she is gone. But the memory of her performances and her work will live on in my heart. She will always be a shining example of all that is wonderful about the Broadway stage.”

-Emily Hsu (Spamalot, Elf)

 Marin Mazzie and Beth Johnson Nicely

Marin Mazzie and Beth Johnson Nicely

“Marin was a light. I did two Broadway shows with her, Spamalot and Bullets Over Broadway. She became a dear friend, even coming to my wedding with Jason. I remember them dancing the night away. Every night at the end of Spamalot, Marin, The Lady of the Lake, tossed a bouquet out to the audience. The show ended with her wedding to King Arthur. The night before my wedding, I was dancing behind her in the ensemble, and she turned and tossed the bouquet to me, instead of the audience. That was Marin. She made you feel so special. 

“I will never forget that night and her kindness. I was so excited to get to do another show with her when Bullets came around. I ended up playing her maid, Josette. She was the most incredible Helen Sinclair and made my small part into something important to her character. She was always beyond generous to her fellow actors. Apart from the show, she wanted to build relationships with everyone. She even had the idea to help me host a "Bullets Girls" night at my apartment. No one on stage mattered more than anyone else and she treated everyone like they mattered.”

-Beth Johnson Nicely (Bullets Over Broadway, Chicago)

“I’ll never forget walking into the first day of rehearsal for Bullets Over Broadway. Most of the cast had done workshop a few months before so they all were old friends. As a swing, I joined for the Broadway company and didn’t know many people. As I stood in the overcrowded room, somewhat overwhelmed, I felt a tap on my shoulder: ‘Hi there! I’m Marin, I don’t think we’ve met yet!’ The musical theatre nerd inside me was freaking out. OF COURSE I knew she was ‘Marin.’ What I would soon learn was how incredibly kind, generous and supportive she was. She would become much more than a role model. She would become a friend.

“Marin was one of those people who seemed completely oblivious to the fact that she was theatre royalty. She treated each and every person in our cast with respect and compassion. The first time I went on for one of my understudies, she stopped by my dressing room before the show, gave me a huge hug, and simply said “You’re going to nail this.” To her, It didn’t matter if you were the star of the show, an understudy, or a member of the ensemble. She wanted to see you succeed, and celebrated with you when you did.

“I learned so much from Marin. I watched her performances, and learned valuable lessons as an actor. I observed her genuine kindness, and learned what true class was. Most of all, I learned that you never give up without a fight. She fought. She fought hard. She was loved, and she loved hard. She will be missed.”

-Synthia Link (Bullets Over Broadway, Frozen)

 Marin Mazzie in  Kiss Me, Kate

Marin Mazzie in Kiss Me, Kate

“I can not even begin to explain how sad and empty I feel. And I know that everybody she touched feels there is now a missing piece of love in our world. My memories of her and Kiss Me Kate are full. Laughter, laughter, laughter, a few tears... laughter.  Her sitting naked as naked could be while she picked her Secret Santa out of one the the “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” guy’s hats. Not sure if it was Michael or Lee’s hat... guessing Michael’s because Lee could be a grouch-a-moe.

”When I saw her at a Pump Boys and Dinettes reunion concert with Jason, I so wanted to go up to her and tell her how I have always admired her, always!  But instead, I chickened out for stupid reasons. I was afraid, I did not want to bother her, I felt I was imposing... stupid, stupid reasons.

“She will forever be one of my most favorite humans that I have been lucky enough to encounter and play with. Where ever you may be out there in the universe, please rest Marin and then get up and show those young’ins how its done.”

- JoAnn M. Hunter (Kiss Me Kate, School of Rock - The Musical)


In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions for Marin Mazzie can be made to the Cancer Support Community, The Actors Fund or the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance.