by Alessia Salimbene
Just last Sunday, the Chita Rivera Awards were in full swing, honoring and hoping to “celebrate dance and choreographic excellence, preserve notable dance history, recognize past, present and future talents while promoting high standards of dance training and investing in the next generation.” With that notion in mind, the casts of Mean Girls and Carousel tied for the Chita Award for Outstanding Ensemble in a Broadway Show this year.
Being recognized as one of the most outstanding ensembles on Broadway is no small feat, even Actors Equity is attempting to petition to make it a category at the Tony Awards. When asked how it felt to be recognized, DeMarius Copes said, “It's such an honor. In a season full of outstanding Broadway ensembles who all deserve the award, to be considered an outstanding Broadway ensemble is incredible.” Riza Takahashi pointed out the the noticeable lack of recognition the ensemble gets and how incredible this award feels, “Oftentimes, the ensemble is forgotten or unnoticed, so to receive this award for what we do and be recognized for our work is just so surreal.”
The ensemble is vital to any show. But especially Mean Girls. In their production, without the ensemble “there’s no Regina George. What I mean is, if the ensemble wasn’t there to be the scared little high schoolers, Regina has no high school to conquer,” says Takahashi. Jonalyn Saxer points out, “The moment the show starts, we as an ensemble never stop until we exit bows. Not only do we help tell the story, we create it. And we dance our butts off while doing so.”
Talking to the cast of Mean Girls, an audience begins to understand how close they all are and what this show means to each of them. When describing her castmates, ensemble member Riza Takahsashi says, “we work so well together when we’re all on stage and also have the most fun together offstage." The diverse nature of the cast is something each ensemble member pointed out when I asked this question. Saxer said, “Our ensemble truly makes up the students of North Shore High. We are a group of wildly different types and styles of dancers who have come together to create the world of our show.”