by Mo Brady
When I first heard about the inclusion of all 26 ensemble members' names on Carousel’s digital marquee, I was shocked. Legitimately shocked.
Not because these actors don’t deserve to have their names on marquees. But because that just doesn’t happen. Broadway musicals don’t have to feature their ensemble members' names in their marketing campaigns. So they typically don’t. It’s as simple as that.
So when I started to see photos and videos of the Carousel marquee featuring the names of not only the principal actors but the full announced company, I felt they had done something special and exciting.
The ensemble they’ve announced for Carousel is literally stacked with Broadway gems. Carousel marks Rosena M. Hill Jackson’s second Broadway show of the season, after standing by for the cast of Prince of Broadway. Leigh-Ann Esty and Ryan Steele just spent a year touring the country leading An American in Paris, and now we get to see them on Broadway together. The two most incredible dancers I know, Skye Mattox and Ricky Ubeda, are making returns to Broadway in the show, and that’s to say nothing of Nick Belton, Amy Justman, Antoine L. Smith. I could go on and on.
Of course, this isn’t the first time a musical’s ensemble has been featured in a show’s marketing campaign. Newsies featured their ensemble in commercials and trading cards. Currently, the front of house signage at Wicked and Beautiful both feature ensemblists from their shows. But I can’t remember a time when a Broadway musical championed their ensemble in this way before rehearsals even began.
There’s an important message shared with actors when you plaster their names on the marquee: you matter. It doesn’t cost the production a penny to list the ensemble’s names on the marquee. But the production reaps the profit of having a full company of actors in its portfolio that feel valued, seen and appreciated. And maybe that appreciation will help those actors push through a particularly long rehearsal day, or agree to attend one more press event. Because they feel heard.
You can already see this appreciation in the form of the cast’s social media posts. From Colin Bradbury to Garett Hawe, the show’s actors are legitimately excited to be championed in this way. Ensemblists like Richard Riaz Yoder, who aren’t even in the show, are taking to posting the marquee on their Instagrams. In a world where no news is bad news, this kind of adoration from within the community can only be beneficial.