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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. 



Mo Brady

by Lauren Haughton

We “met”, though honestly I don’t know if we ever talked to each other, for the first time while doing West Side Story at Syracuse Stage. I was a student in the ensemble and Michael was one of six professionals hired, he played Tony. Skip ahead four years; I’m in Cabaret at St. Louis Stages and Michael was a swing on The Phantom of the Opera. At a party after a benefit performance Phantom did for Stages we met and were inseperable – it was like meeting your best friend who you’ve known forever, but never have spoken to before.

Lauren Haughton and Michael Gillis

Lauren Haughton and Michael Gillis

So our relationship was born on the road and maybe that’s why we deal with it so well.

Michael left Phantom to do a new musical at Goodspeed Opera House and I was home with family in Atlanta. I think I knew it was serious when he said “oh I’ll swing by Atlanta on my way to Connecticut and pick you up” – it doesn’t take a geography wiz to know that Atlanta certainly is not on the way from St. Louis to New York. He met my mother and grandmother and it was our first road trip – something we’ve gotten to do quite a bit. I visited him in Connecticut and like all new musicals hoped it was going to Broadway. Alas, it didn’t, but Michael was hired to play Raoul on the Phantom tour. This was before facetime so I would fly to cities like Toronto or Toledo just to go on a date with him. In fact, over the holidays I was working on a cruise ship out of Miami and flew to Philadelphia for 22 hours and a holiday party. It was frantic, fun, and full of possibilities.

Lauren Haughton

Lauren Haughton

In 2007 Michael left Phantom and, like the crazy artist he is, decided he was moving to Europe. My career, at that point, wasn’t going how I wanted it to – I was interviewing to be a clothes buyer at Macy’s—so I decided to follow him and live out an ex-pat fantasy in the 18th Arrondissement of Paris. I think that moment, that decision, is one of the cornerstones of our relationship. The decision to drop everything and follow the other person, to put their needs/dreams ahead of yours is how both of us work within the relationship. At first I went up to Connecticut, out to Phantom, over to Paris but in 2007, while living in a little sixth floor walkup in Paris, it all switched. I was offered the universal swing in Wicked.

I flew back first and started my job: covering the four companies of Wicked that existed at that time. Now Michael moved back home and started following me. We lived with his parents as he went back to school and I would fly to various companies. I made my Broadway debut and even got to take breaks and work on new shows of my own at the Goodman and the Old Globe – neither of which made it. Then I got offered a permanent position in the San Francisco Company of Wicked and Michael moved out there with me. He would be waiting for me every night at the stage door of the Orpheum, as he worried about me walking home alone, and would have dinner ready in our little apartment when we’d arrive.

From there, in 2010, I was switched over to the Wicked National touring company. Michael got his car in Chicago and met me in Indianapolis. He started to sell merchandise out front and we toured together for 3 years. I can’t explain how wonderful it was to have him out there with me, but that togetherness exploring the country created a bond and memories that I’ll never forget. He asked me to marry him in Luckenbach – a little bandhall town in the Texas hill country. We two-stepped the evening away with his parents and drove back into San Antonio the happiest I’ve ever been. We planned the wedding while out on the road together and like our touring selves had three different locations almost fully booked and done before settling on his parents’ house outside of Chicago. I had thought I would quit the tour when we got married, but Michael said one giant step at a time was enough and continued to support me touring with Wicked. Again this notion of doing what is best for us and the other person, not just I, continued to lead our relationship and at that time Wicked was best.

"Mike on for Phantom, me on for Nessa. Both understudies"

"Mike on for Phantom, me on for Nessa. Both understudies"

In 2015 we bought an apartment in Chicago which Michael began to remodel. We wanted to have some sort of home, considering we’d been travelling for nine years. He started a new musical theater works company with some friends there and put on readings and concerts which I would now travel to on my Monday’s off. The roles were beginning to switch again. Through that opportunity he got back onstage and caught the performing bug. He was cast in Mamma Mia at the Paramount theater in Chicago and after almost a decade I was back in the audience watching him shine. I knew it was my time to support and I began to urge him to audition. Perhaps even move back to New York. He, being the constant pragmatist, said wouldn’t it be better to continue what he was starting in Chicago and maybe fly out for big ECCs and EPAs in New York, you know ”test the waters”.

Well the test went well, because after six round trip flights and 8 call backs he was cast in the new tour of Love Never Dies. Family members and non-theater friends were always in awe of one of us being on tour, but now both of us on different tours at the same time it makes their heads spin. In a true #onecoupletwotours experience I was able to get a personal day to drive from Grand Rapids to Detroit to see him play the Phantom- a full circle moment to say the least. Another was the day he was playing Phantom at the Fox in Atlanta (with 16 of my family members in attendance) and I was playing Nessa – we have the FaceTime picture to prove it. Another #onecoupletwotours experience was when Wicked was in Pittsburgh and LND was in Cleveland. I flew into Cleveland on a Sunday night and then had two days with Michael before we rented a car and he drove me to Pittsburgh (and back for his show that night in Cleveland). He stayed in Pittsburgh just long enough to have a Lobster roll lunch at Roland’s with me.

So that is our story to date. I can’t say that all this was easy and although we have been so blessed the distance and time away does weigh on us. There are times when the missing becomes a physical ache that doesn’t go away. But we are the lucky ones who have been given the chance to do what we love. We both understand that about each other and support that decision as best we can. We also have the benefit of 10 years of shared experiences, so the bond is strong and can get us through the distance created by both of us touring. However, full disclosure I’m not sure if all this would be possible without the technology of today- FaceTime is a game changer. As well, LND gets layoffs about every 10 weeks which allows him to visit me wherever I may be.

The next chapter is already starting to take shape as my end date in Wicked is fast approaching – April 22nd. I’m going back to school to get an MFA, so I suppose #onecoupletwotours is going to change into #onecoupleonetourandanMFA – but through it all our mutual support and love will see us through.