by Mo Brady
Stepping into the lobby of The Skirball Center in New York City, the energy was palpable. Packed shoulder to shoulder were hundreds of theatre’s most profound dancers and choreographers, assembled together for the 2018 Chita Rivera Awards. At many of the theatre season’s other award shows, ensemble actors are supporting their talented nominated collaborators. But at the Chita Rivera Awards, these effervescent ensemblists are the ones standing in the spotlight.
Taking their moment to shine on the red carpet, the pride felt by these ensemble performers was unmistakable. “To be nominated for a Chita Award is so special,” said Rebecca Riker of Summer: The Donna Summer Musical. “It’s such an honor to be representing our show.”
The sense of achievement felt by these actors stems from their participation in the creation of these celebrated musicals. “A lot of our ensemble has been with the show since the developmental labs,” reveals Nikhil Saboo of Mean Girls. “We were part of the process of creating the choreography. A lot of the inner workings of this story rests in the ensemble. We helped create a world, so it’s truly special to see that world be recognized.”
“In our show, we help create the world of Bikini Bottom,” notes Abby C. Smith of SpongeBob SquarePants. “It’s a really vibrant, beautiful world and we are an integral part of that, so it feels really special to be nominated for that.”
The ensembles recognized with Chita Award nominations are remarkably varied in their performances this season. However, they are all united by their work bringing the energy of their stories to life. “Without the ensemble, the audience wouldn’t see the full picture,” says Wonu Ogunfowora of Summer: The Donna Summer Musical. “An ensemble does so much to make the story come to life.”
In addition to creating the physical world of a musical, the ensemble of these nominated shows create a culture of realistic personalities. “The soul of a show lives in the specificity of the ensemble, so to be recognized for bringing the soul to the show is pretty special,” says Corey John Snide of Carousel.
While the competition for each of the Chita Awards this season is incredibly fierce, there was a strong sense of camaraderie among the nominees. Ahmad Simmons, also of Carousel says, “I think it’s important to continue to recognize the work behind the principals. It brings us closer together as a community of artists.”