Podcast guest Paloma Garcia-Lee (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) shares the unlikely story of how she was able to rejoin the cast of Natasha, Pierre an the Great Comet of 1812 for their performance on this year's Tony Awards.
This year, I had the absolute pleasure of working on two new Broadway Musicals - Natasha, Pierre an the Great Comet of 1812 and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Each of them in their own special way required me to expand myself as an artist in ways I never expected.
I did not know much about Comet prior to joining them for their Broadway run Beforehand, I never could have fathomed what it would become for me: the family I would build there and how deeply I would evolve as an artist and a person because of it.
I spent a little less than five months with Comet as their Dance Captain and Swing. I have never worked so closely with a creative team and company. Only a small handful of us were brand new to the family that had been working together for over four years. The show premiered at Ars Nova in 2012 and went on to have wildly successful runs (in tents Downtown and Uptown and at ART in Boston) before coming to Broadway. If you have seen the show, you know how incredibly unique it is; it's unlike anything I have ever seen, experienced or been lucky enough to be a part of. Each person who is involved is an exquisite unicorn. The demands of the show are different, how the family operates is different I would often reference it as being “Extraordinary Broadway” in every sense of the word.
I could certainly write a book about my experience there. And maybe I will, or at least write a more in depth essay of my experience, though in my heart I know my journey with Comet and its team is long from over.
I left the nest of Comet when I began rehearsals for Charlie across the street this past winter. I must add that both of my contracts had been negotiated and agreed to long before my first day of rehearsal with Comet in the fall. I went into the experience knowing I had an end date with it which is something I had never really done before. And although it was beyond impossible to leave the show when the time came and I was flooded with so many different feelings everyone at Comet was so incredibly supportive of my new journey and so kindly reminded me that I always have a home with them.
The creative team, company management and the producers of Comet have been the most incredibly inclusive company I have ever worked for. The day that the Tony nominations came out I ran to the Imperial Theater and I couldn’t stop crying tears of total bliss. 12 Nominations. The most nominated show of the season. OUR SHOW! I darted in the stage door as soon as I could to find that they were about to start rehearsal with the singular Dave Malloy who was stepping into the role of Pierre that he wrote and originated - tears in our eyes we all embraced and cried and laughed and smiled. It was such a celebration. As soon as they found out that they would be performing on The Tony Awards, they reached out and asked if I would be able to join them and that they wanted the entire original company to be there.
It was such a dream come true. Being with family for important nights and experiences like that was and is everything I want with them. I believe in the show and its creators and every beautiful soul who is a part of it so much and feel deeply lucky that they include me in the way that they do.
That night, it was like it was in slow motion and hyper speed all at the same time. I did the dress rehearsal in the morning then ran (literally) back to the Lunt-Fontanne to make my matinee of Charlie. Afterwards, I had a dinner break before having to be back at the Imperial to get ready. The girls made a spot for me in the dressing room and we got ready, listened to music, we popped in and out of rooms that were streaming the ceremony. Finally, we all met down in the house and then boarded the bus to Radio City a little after 9pm. The family welcomed me back with wide open arms and it was like I had never left.
We had the unique experience of performing ALL OVER Radio City Music Hall: onstage and in the orchestra. We were giving a taste of the magic that happens every night at the Imperial. The adrenaline of performing on that night is one thing but nothing could have prepared me for what it would be like to be dancing out in the sea of tuxedos and gowns with my tribe. Looking so many familiar and well known people in the eyes and connecting with them and sharing the heart of our show with them. Running through Radio City spreading love. We celebrated every bit of the journey that night, and I still get chills when I watch back the video of the performance. As we passed each other throughout the performance we would look so deeply in each others eyes- everyone was 100% present and it felt so powerful. I wish I could explain it better, I just feel so lucky to have experienced it.
This year has been beyond what I ever imagined - truly - with both shows that I have been a part of. I carry the love and the growth that I experienced at Comet onstage with me every night at Charlie and every day in my personal life. Ive never known camaraderie like I felt with Comet. I've never known acceptance and strength like what I've received from the ladies ensemble dressing room. I've never experienced heart and drive like that of the creative team. The friendship and trust I built with the stage management team and company managers was so beautiful. I left Comet a stronger, more open, better version of myself. I left a better dancer and artist. Everyone who has been a part of the Comet's journey is a unique, bright star and I still have to pinch myself that I am one in the constellation.
Listen to our podcast episode on Awards Season here.