by Mo Brady
For stage performers, making your Broadway debut can feel like the major milestone - even if it was never an actor’s goal. Once you’ve made that debut, it can be a long and trying process to make it back to Broadway - particularly if your first outing is a limited run or closes quickly. For The Prom’s Mary Antonini, that patience has paid off after more than seven years.
The fact that Mary even made it to Broadway the first time was the result of surprising circumstances. In the summer of 2011, she was a member of the company of Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar in Canada. “I never thought about Broadway before that show,” remembers Antonini. “As a Canadian, it wasn't part of my trajectory at the time. When the producers decided to bring it to Broadway and the entire cast along with it, it was shocking.”
When the show closed after 116 performances, Antonini decided to take on the challenging task of getting her Green Card to continue working in the US. Becoming a United States citizen was not only a requirement for her to work in the country, but also simply to pursue jobs. “It's only when you have to fight that ECCs (Equity Chorus Calls) become a privilege,” notes Antonini.
“When I was approved to be permanent resident, everything changed,” she says. Antonini became one of the scores of talented actors seeking employment in New York City. “I did the hustle every day: lashes on before 9 am, hamstrings warm, headshot ready, 4,000 different shoes in your bag.”
From those auditions, Antonini began booking work across the country, including the world premiere of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. The production reunited her with director Des McAnuff, as well as her now-partner Jaz Sealey (who was also in the Stratford and Broadway productions of JCS). “After nine years, our relationship is still going strong,” she notes.
While Sealey opened the original company of Aladdin, Antonini traveled the country for work. She got the opportunity to play Anita in West Side Story twice, first at Asolo Repertory Theatre in Florida during the fall of 2015 and three months later at the Paramount Theatre in Chicago. The second of those productions earned Antonini a Joseph Jefferson Equity Award for her portrayal: “It was in that show that I proved to myself that I was a true triple threat,” she says.
However, it was before either of her experiences with West Side Story that the seeds of her next Broadway show were planted. Early in 2015, Antonini worked for the first time on what was then called "The Untitled Prom Lab.” This led to her being cast in the show’s world premiere production at Alliance Theatre in Atlanta. While the production received strong reviews for its out-of-town tryout, it was more than two years after the closing of that production that the show made it to Broadway.
During this time, Antonini took on one of the most fulfilling jobs of her career thus far, performing in the ensemble of Aladdin’s first national tour. Working in the company for more than a year and a half allowed to her perform across the country from Seattle to Minneapolis. In addition, she was working alongside Sealey, who joined the tour after working in the Broadway company for almost three years.
Now back on Broadway after more than six years of hard work, Antonini feels more balanced in her approach to the work the second time around. “Having been part of this process for a long time, I understand better what it takes to have a show open on Broadway,” she reveals. “I also have a better understanding of what I need physically, mentally, and emotionally to be proud of my work eight shows a week.”