by Mo Brady
You could see the joy on every actor’s face. Even while braving record low temperatures, performers from four Broadway musicals couldn’t contain their excitement. This was their chance to perform on television at the 2018 Macy’s Parade.
That is, some of the performers got this chance. Conspicuously left out of some productions’ numbers were their swings.
Swings already get the short end of the stick. Even when we work hard to celebrate them, they will never be championed in the same way as performers who are in their own track every night. They don’t get to be onstage for first preview or be reviewed on opening night. Performing in press events is a small gesture from a production that can mean a lot to these performers.
At this year’s parade, you could see the joy on many swings’ faces as they performed. The Prom’s Gabi Campo and Jack Sippel glowed as they led the ensemble into their number. My Fair Lady’s Minami Yusui twirled elegantly on camera, while Summer’s Judith Franklin and Jody Reynard beamed performing shoulder to shoulder with their fellow cast members. Their inclusion in the performances only added to the spectacle of their numbers.
It’s not as though these swings aren’t adaptable. A production’s swings are often their most adaptable performers, able to perform split tracks or jump into a performance midshow. Even with the minimal rehearsal alotted for Parade performances, these actors can easily join a show’s number in a way that kept the integrity of the piece.
In essence, performances on the Macy’s Parade are three-minute long commercials for Broadway musicals. Each participating production pays for the opportunity to show potential ticket buyers why their show is worth $140 tickets. Why wouldn’t a production use as many assets as possible to make their show look worth that price?
Yes, performing on the Macy’s Parade gives actors a small pay bump. But it also ensures that they are part of the show’s legacy. Along with cast albums, televised performances are how productions are remembered. But it’s hard for swings to feel valued when they aren’t seen as a part of their show’s legacy.
As one ensemblist performing this year told me, the Macy’s Parade is not just a staple for the Broadway community but also the nation. “It is insane to think families all over the country are watching, like I did when I was little,” she said. “Not everybody watches the Tony Awards, but everyone watches the Macy’s Parade.”
This weekend, we are all thinking about what we are thankful for. Broadway productions are no doubt grateful for the swings in their rosters. Let’s hope that in the future, all productions share that gratitude with their entire casts.