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The Ensemblist is an inside look at the experience of being a Broadway performer- from the first rehearsal through performing eight shows a week and beyond. Whether you’re an experienced theatre professional or a passionate fan, The Ensemblist will give you the opportunity to get to know new performers and the great work they do onstage, while also shedding light on some of the hidden innerworkings of the Broadway experience. Created and hosted by Mo Brady (The Addams Family, SMASH) and Nikka Graff Lanzarone (Chicago, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown), The Ensemblist is the only podcast that shows you Broadway from the inside out. 

Blog

Radiating Joy

Jackson Cline

BY JACKSON CLINE

When I think of Broadway, one of the first names that pops into my head is Donna Marie Asbury.

 Donna Marie Asbury

Donna Marie Asbury

This Broadway stalwart has been playing the role of June in the New York company of Chicago since 1999, having previously performed in the first national tour. Her other Broadway credits include the Balloon Girl in the Angela Lansbury revival of Gypsy, as well as the original companies of Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, Smile, and Merrily We Roll Along. What I’d give for story time with Donna! 

I grew up seeing Donna Marie Asbury’s name in the Chicago chapter of the Playbill Broadway Yearbook every year and soon found myself researching the career of this quintessential ensemblist. I was absolutely fascinated by her career and continue to be today. It’s very possible that she was my primary impetus for buying a ticket to Chicago when I first moved to New York (100% true).

I recently revisited the Broadway production of Chicago and had the great privilege of seeing Donna perform yet again. It was if not a day had passed.

Maintaining a performance in a long run is no small feat, especially when one is onstage for the majority of the show. It requires tremendous talent, focus, and creativity. Donna makes it look effortless nearly 20 years into her run in the Broadway production.

She wrings every joke out of her “Cell Block Tango” monologue, tackles Ann Reinking’s Fosse-inspired choreography with finesse, and remains committed to being a present storyteller. Even when she’s simply sitting onstage, not a part of the action -- watching the same scenes she’s watched from the same chair for 19 years -- she remains totally engaged with the performance.

 Donna Marie Asbury (second from right) & the cast of  Chicago

Donna Marie Asbury (second from right) & the cast of Chicago

All of this is impressive, but perhaps Donna’s greatest onstage quality is the joy she radiates. From the second Donna steps onstage with her million-dollar smile until the end of curtain call, it’s clear that she loves her job and is still excited to tell the story. Her energy is electric, filling the stage of the Ambassador with light.

Donna is a beautiful reminder that a long run is so much more than a steady paycheck. May we all find as much joy in our everyday lives as Donna exudes when she performs. How lucky Chicago is to have her.