by Mo Brady
Nikka and I had a great time moderating the Broadway Ensembles Panel at BroadwayCon. In front of an excited audience filled with hundreds of Broadway fans, we brought together five incredible artists who have all had incredible success on Broadway. Here are some of our favorite things we learned from our panelists.
YOUNG HUSTLERS REAP REWARDS.
Grasan Kingsberry (Once On This Island) told the audience the story of making his Broadway debut in Aida while attending Julliard. In the mornings, he would learn his music and staging for the show, go to college classes in the afternoon, and then go back to the theatre to watch the performance at night. Talk about a busy class load!
SOMETIMES, YOUR BROADWAY DEBUT IS JUST A NORMAL TUESDAY.
Jenifer Foote (Hello, Dolly!) also made her Broadway debut as a replacement, joining the company of Annie Get Your Gun just two months prior to the show’s closing. On the night of her first performance, she was thrilled to make her dream come true of performing on the Great White Way. But looking around, she realized that for the rest of the cast, crew and orchestra, it was just a Tuesday. Ten Broadway debuts later, she makes sure to celebrate every new person who joins a show she is in.
BEWARE ON THAYNE JASPERSON.
Thayne Jasperson (Hamilton) told story after story of making things onstage go… abnormally. He said he loves the change in onstage energy when an understudy goes on, a new actor joins a cast, or simply when an actor forgets a line. Sometimes, he even tries to make this happen by making new, wild choices onstage. He told stories of making “surprising” choices while performing the role of Philip Hamilton that have caught the actors playing George Eacker and Alexander Hamilton quite unawares.
LEADING ROLES HAVE MORE PERKS THAN FAME. THEY ALSO HAVE SHOWERS.
While touring the country in Newsies, Ben Cook (Mean Girls) also understudied the principal role of Crutchie. He told the audience that his favorite part of going on for that lead character was not the acclaim, the chance to sing solos, or even the increase in pay. It was that since the character is off stage for most of Act II, part of his job was to take a shower backstage during the show. While the rest of the Newsies were singing and dancing their butts off, he got to have a nice, long soak.
THEIR FAVORITE BACKSTAGE TRADITIONS ARE THE SMALL ONES.
When we asked our panelists their favorite Broadway tradition or ritual, we were surprised at the small moments that they mentioned. Vasthy Mompoint (Spongebob Squarepants) told us she loves the tradition of singing “Happy Trails” to an actor after their final show with a company, remarking the poignant lyrics in that very simple song. Jen Foote said her favorite tradition was the weekly announcement by stage managers over backstage monitors at every Broadway house: “It’s Saturday night on Broadway!” She said it was a simple reminder that she is part of a larger community and that what gets to do for work is truly special.
Did you attend the Broadway Ensembles panel? Leave us a comment with your favorite moment!