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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. 

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Q&As

Connect with each of our guests as they tackle The Ensemblist's Q&A!

Q&A: Anika Chapin

Jackson Cline

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Anika's Episode: Dramaturgy (#86)

Where are you from? New York, NY. Born and raised, baby.

What is your favorite event in the Broadway community? The Tonys. Although I always have my frustrations with some of the choices/snubs, you can't beat a night where everyone comes together to celebrate this industry and art form. Also, DRESSES. 

What’s something about Broadway that fascinates you? I love the rituals and traditions in it. I majored in cultural anthropology in college, and I realized that Broadway was as much a subculture as anything I was studying. If I said there was a ritual where before the big ceremony, a robe was passed from the last initiate group to a chosen member of the next one, and that person had to touch every member of the group for good luck, then decorate the robe to mark their ceremony and initiation before passing it along, you'd think I was talking about a tribe somewhere. And I am, but it's the Gypsy Robe and it's us.

What, other than theatre, has inspired you recently? I fell down a deep, dark rabbit hole of obsession with Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, which is an Australian mystery series about a fabulous lady detective in the 1920s who is smart and independent and solves mysteries and wears amazing outfits and sleeps with attractive men. I got hooked on the TV series (which I watched all of), then I went back and read the books (which I read all of). I just finished the last one and I miss her in my life - and I admit that sometimes when I'm having a rough day I'll think, "How would Miss Fisher handle this?" I should really have a WWMFD bracelet made (but it would have to be made of silk and ostrich feathers, obviously. With emeralds.).

If I could have coffee with any living person, it would be... In my mind, Cate Blanchett and I are already besties. So getting coffee with her would really just be correcting the universal error that we don't actually know each other.

If I could trade places with anybody for a day, I would choose... Renee Fleming. I can't sing at all, and I want to know what it's like to open your mouth and have that voice come out. 

To be successful in this business, it takes... a sense of humor and great powers of observation.

Tell us a secret. When I was little, I would act out scenes from my favorite shows for my parents. It was a very successful series until I roped my sister and best friend into doing a blistering rendition of "The Heat is On in Saigon," complete with "thong" wedgies. 

Q&A: Neil Haskell

Jackson Cline

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Neil's Episode: Hamilton (#85)

Where are you from? Clarence Center, NY (Buffalo)

Broadway credits: The Times They Are A-Changin', 9 to 5, Bring It On, Cinderella, Tuck Everlasting, Hamilton

How did you hear you’d booked your first Broadway show? A phone call from Binder's office. They ask, "Hey, can you be in NY tomorrow for rehearsal?" I responded, "Can I call you back? I need to talk to my parents first." It was 5 days before I was heading back to Point Park University for my sophomore year. 2 days later, I flew to NY for a costume fitting and my first rehearsal.

What is your favorite event in the Broadway community? A tie between Broadway Bowling and the Broadway Softball League.

What’s something about Broadway that fascinates you? The magic of a super quick onstage costume change.

What, other than theatre, has inspired you recently? My nephew

If I could have coffee with any living person, it would be... Probably Seth Rogen. We could discuss my role in his next film...

If I could trade places with anybody for a day, I would choose... LeBron James.

To be successful in this business, it takes... Stamina. Hard work. Courage. People Skills.

Tell us a secret. I've logged many miles on the treadmill listening to the Ghost cast album.

 

Q&A: Pearl Sun

Jackson Cline

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Pearl's Episode: Next to Normal (#84)

Where are you from? Los Angeles, CA

Broadway credits: If/Then, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas

How did you hear you’d booked your first Broadway show? I was playing Irene Molloy in a production of Hello, Dolly! at the Hangar Theatre in Ithaca, NY at the time. I was in my hotel room, and my agent and friend, Jed Abrahams, told me to sit down and broke the news. I couldn't believe it! It felt like such a huge hurdle to pass, and I was so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the community.

What is your favorite event in the Broadway community? Broadway in Bryant Park is my favorite event in the Broadway community for many reasons. It allows people to enjoy musical numbers from current shows while sitting in one of the best parks, it rings in the summer season, which completely opens up New York City and everything it has to offer, and it's a great time for the community to come together and bring their art to the masses.

What’s something about Broadway that fascinates you? I found last season to be extremely diverse, but as progressive as last season was, I am fascinated that we have such a long way to go. 

What, other than theatre, has inspired you recently? I am in the home stretch of my pregnancy, so I have been extremely inspired by what it means to expand one's family while juggling the schedule of an artist. I have seen many of my friends handle parenthood with such grace, compassion, and unconditional love that it truly inspires me to be the best parent I can be.

If I could have coffee with any living person, it would be... Oprah! She's the closest I can get to Maya Angelou. 

If I could trade places with anybody for a day, I would choose... Michelle Obama, because she's extraordinary and so beloved!

To be successful in this business, it takes... Passion, determination, a strong work ethic, and a good reputation.

Tell us a secret. Hmmmm... That's pretty tough. If anyone knows me, they know that I'm an extremely straightforward person. What you see is what you get! Ask me something! 

 

Q&A: Cleve Asbury

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Cleve's Episode: How to Succeed... (#80)

Where are you from? Houston, Texas

Broadway credits: PETER PAN, WEST SIDE STORY, BRING BACK BIRDIE, COPPERFIELD, HARRIGAN ’N HART, ME AND MY GIRL, JEROME ROBBINS’  BROADWAY, ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, WONDERFUL TOWN, CHITA RIVERA: THE DANCER’S LIFE, HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING

How did you hear you’d booked your first Broadway show? I had gotten into PETER PAN starring Sandy Duncan, which at the time was going to be a summer stock tour. But when the show was mounted at the Dallas Summer Musicals, the producers basically decided to forego the rest of the tour and bring the production straight to Broadway. All of a sudden I had booked my first Broadway show!

What is your favorite event in the Broadway community? The Easter Bonnet Competition!

What’s something about Broadway that fascinates you? Why great shows can still fail at the box office

What, other than theatre, has inspired you recently? The gymnasts at the Olympics. Wow.

If I could have coffee with any living person, it would be… Kevin Hart, because I would be laughing from beginning to end.

If I could trade places with anybody for a day, I would choose… George Clooney. What’s it like to be him?

To be successful in this business, it takes… Persistent positive attitude.

Tell us a secret. I saw Laurence Fishburne naked.

Q&A: Kelsey Ryan Moore

Jackson Cline

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Kelsey's Episode: Fiorello! (#79)

Where are you from? Stuart, FL 

Broadway credits: N/A at the moment…

How did you hear you’d booked your first Broadway show? I will have a great answer for this when it happens! :)

What is your favorite event in the Broadway community? I love the positive, radiant, infectious energy of the community, and it all comes from the people. I have met some of the greatest humans I know because of theatre and there is just something about our industry that draws these miraculous people. 

What’s something about Broadway that fascinates you? I am fascinated by all the moving parts that have to align in order for the audience to experience a show every night. From the creation of the material, to casting, to rehearsals and lastly to tech/performances, there is so much that goes into mounting a show. It’s truly a collaborative art form, and it truly fascinates me.

What, other than theatre, has inspired you recently? Believe it or not, I am inspired by those that I have met in the hospitality industry here in the city. I have met some of the most hardworking, good-natured people, and they are even actors themselves in their own way each night throughout service. I’ve learned how to start a conversation with anyone, because there is always some common ground, even if it’s just the weather. There is also so much to learn about food/wine, and I am always eager to learn new things.

If I could have coffee with any living person, it would be… Bernadette Peters. I had an assignment for class recently where we got to work on dream role material, and I rediscovered the brilliance of Sunday In The Park With George, and then I realized that I have always been so drawn to Bernadette!! I have this distinct memory of first discovering the song “Not A Day Goes By” and watching her performance over and over. I was stunned by the beauty of her raw emotion. It’s unlike anything else, and it’s so captivating. She’s right on the edge, but keeps it together just enough to get through. So compelling. Unreal.

If I could trade places with anybody for a day, I would choose… Any of the ensemble dancers in Hamilton. I was lucky enough to win the lotto at The Public, and I honestly had no idea what I was in for, but every second they were on stage, I was completely floored. I get really excited watching people dance, because I admire it so and think it would be so fun to be able to move like that. 

To be successful in this business, it takes… a few boyfriends aka a solid group of close friends that love you unconditionally, that know “let’s get lunch” means we’re going to Room Service, that tell you the things you don’t always want to hear and that are your amazing support system. New York is freaking tough, and I can’t imagine it without my boyfriends.

Tell us a secret. Ooh…I’m developing a bad champagne habit…and it’s really unpractical.

Q&A: Catherine Ricafort

Jackson Cline

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Catherine's Episodes: Containing Multitudes Part 4 (#78) & A Chorus Line (#81)

Where are you from? Thousand Oaks, CA

Broadway credits: Honeymoon In Vegas (Mahi), Holiday Inn, Disaster, Allegiance, Cinderella, Mamma Mia!

How did you hear you’d booked your first Broadway show? I was home in California for Christmas, feeling rather down as I had been unemployed for a few months and wasn't sure whether to go back to NYC to continue auditioning. I had spent most of my holiday break sending messages to Craigslist postings about sublets in Astoria, so when I saw I had a voicemail from an unknown number I assumed it was from a possible sublet. It turned out to be my agent, calling from her cell phone on a weekend (which she never does), telling me simply to call her back, so I knew it had to be something urgent. I called her back - and she told me that I was getting an offer to be in Mamma Mia! on BROADWAY. It was the morning of New Year's Eve, I was still in my pajamas and hadn't even put on my contacts or anything, and the holiday decorations were still up in the house, so it really felt like the most amazing Christmas present ever. I was shocked (I had auditioned many months prior for the tour, so had no idea this was even in the cards), and I started screaming. My mom ran over to me in a panic, as she couldn't hear the other end of the line and she almost tried to shake the phone out my hand so she could hear, she was so excited. :) I moved to NY 3 days later to kick off the new year with rehearsals.

What is your favorite event in the Broadway community? Broadway in Bryant Park! It is wonderful to bring Broadway performances for free to the public and fun to see friends in other shows perform numbers in a casual setting.

What’s something about Broadway that fascinates you? Despite the fact that it is an extremely competitive business, I'm always touched by how incredibly supportive actors are of each other. I've seen girls in line for auditions offer their shoes to someone who forgot to pack their heels. Even when actors are low on cash, they always make room to continue supporting their friends and seeing their shows. When I first moved to NY without an agent or Equity card and with no idea of how to navigate auditions, I made tons of friends while waiting in those long non-union lines who selflessly gave me all the tips on how to submit for auditions, how to watch shows at the library at Lincoln Center, and how to get rush tickets. I think this is a community filled with love and support that sets it apart from other industries.

What, other than theatre, has inspired you recently? Last year, I worked at a startup in NYC as an engineer and was exposed to people my age or even younger who start and run their own businesses. I was completely inspired by their fearlessness and scrappiness in making things work despite the uphill battle of creating something new from scratch, and changing the way the business in their field is being done.

If I could have coffee with any living person, it would be... Steve Jobs. (I know he passed away but that's who I'd like to have coffee with!)

To be successful in this business, it takes... Resilience - no matter how successful you become, you will still face a lot of rejection. 

Tell us a secret. I used to be obsessed with the video/arcade game Dance Dance Revolution. I would play it for hours at home and even reached the highest level of "Maniac.”

Q&A: Michael McElroy

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Michael's Episodes: Containing Multitudes Part 4 (#78), RENT (#83), & Next to Normal (#84)

 

Where are you from? Shaker Heights, Ohio

Broadway credits: Next to Normal, Rent, The Wild Party, Deaf West Big River, Patti LuPone on Broadway, The Who’s Tommy, High Rollers Social Pleasure Club, Miss Saigon

How did you hear you’d booked your first Broadway show? I closed a show Off-Broadway on a Sunday. The next day had an audition for Miss Saigon as the 2nd replacement. I had made it all the way down to the end initially, but didn’t get it. Monday, I went to the Broadway Theatre, sang onstage, went home and took a nap.  When I woke up, my answering machine was beeping. I called my agent, and they told me I booked it and started the next day.  

What is your favorite event in the Broadway community? Gypsy of the Year

What’s something about Broadway that fascinates you? I know what it takes to do eight shows a week, but I’m always fascinated by sitting on the other side of the curtain and how I’m able to have the same feeling I had when I saw my first show.  

What, other than theatre, has inspired you recently? Writing. And teaching.  

If I could have coffee with any living person, it would be… Michelle Obama.

If I could trade places with anybody for a day, I would choose… Leontyne Price.

To be successful in this business, it takes… talent, strong work ethic, and a great reputation.

Tell us a secret. I love romance novels.

Q&A: Eric Anderson

Jackson Cline

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Eric's Episode: South Pacific (#77)

Where are you from? Irvine, CA

Broadway credits: South Pacific, Kinky Boots, Soul Doctor, Rocky, Last Ship, Waitress

How did you hear you’d booked your first Broadway show? I was lying on a rock in Central Park after my final callback at Lincoln Center, and my agent called me.

What is your favorite event in the Broadway community? The Tonys.

What’s something about Broadway that fascinates you? How intimately connected the community really is.

What, other than theatre, has inspired you recently? My daughter.

If I could have coffee with any living person, it would be... David Lynch.

If I could trade places with anybody for a day, I would choose... my wife, Jessica Rush.

To be successful in this business, it takes... being self-aware, talented, and low maintenance.

Tell us a secret. It's all about family.

Q&A: Kevin Ligon

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Kevin's Episodes: South Pacific (#77) & Fiorello! (#79)

Where are you from? Dallas, TX

Broadway credits: On The Twentieth CenturyBullets Over BroadwayThe Phantom of the OperaSister ActFinian’s Rainbow, Young Frankenstein, The Producers, Kiss Me Kate, 1776, The Secret Garden

How did you hear you’d booked your first Broadway show? I honestly don’t remember, but it must have been a phone call from my agent.

What is your favorite event in the Broadway community? The Gypsy Robe ceremony. It’s such a joyful acknowledgment of the grand tradition that we are all a part of on Broadway.

What’s something about Broadway that fascinates you? The sense of community. I can’t think of any other branch of show business that has such a tight-knit, supportive community.

What, other than theatre, has inspired you recently? It’s a “who," not a “what” - Barack Obama.

If I could have coffee with any living person, it would be… Barbra Streisand. OK, stop laughing. I know it’s cliché for someone of my age and sexuality to say that, but, come on, just watching her sip the coffee would be fascinating.

If I could trade places with anybody for a day, I would choose… someone who is enjoying a vacation at a beautiful, tropical beach resort, surrounded by good friends, loved ones and lots of good food.

To be successful in this business, it takes... Passion.

Tell us a secret. I have never watched an episode of Game Of Thrones… nor do I intend to.

Q&A: MaryAnn Hu

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MaryAnn's Episode: South Pacific (#77)

Where are you from? Los Angeles, CA

Broadway credits: The King and I (2016), South PacificMiss Saigon

How did you hear you’d booked your first Broadway show? I was in the national tour of Miss Saigon visiting the NY company, and I knew a spot was going to be available but hadn't heard anything. During my visit, everyone kept congratulating me and saying "welcome," but it made me uncomfortable because I hadn't officially been offered anything, so it was slightly strange. Seemed like everyone was in on something I wasn't. I was actually probably one of the last people to know or find out this information.

What is your favorite event in the Broadway community? The gypsy run or dress rehearsal of show/Actors Fund Performance, when you perform the show mostly for your peers.   They are a different kind of audience and there's a different kind of electricity and excitement in the air.

What’s something about Broadway that fascinates you? It's a conversation I've had with my husband a lot about art and the idea that art wasn't meant to be recreated or repeated over and over again. Yet, as artists in the theatre community, we perform the show 8 times a week. So it's fascinating for me to come at it from a different perspective than I did when I was much younger - performing the show as I learned it, as opposed to approaching each performance from a beginner's mindset and setting sail on a new journey each time.

What, other than theatre, has inspired you recently? Outside of theatre, I also do improv comedy and study sketch writing at the Upright Citizens Brigade. I perform with a team called Baby Grand, and we do an improvised musical. The friends I have made there inspire me so much. Improvisers are FEARLESS, and that inspires me!

If I could have coffee with any living person, it would be... Barack Obama.

If I could trade places with anybody for a day, I would choose... Roger Federer.

To be successful in this business, it takes... Well, that's a deeper discussion... it all depends on what your definition of success is. I once thought it was landing the jobs, being on Broadway, etc. That whole paradigm has shifted for me now. I think to be successful in anything, you first have to succeed at being a human being. Have a life and be a fulfilled person outside of what we do as our jobs. That's not to say be perfect, by any means, just be human... try, fail and learn from the wealth of our experiences. There's so much to be mined from our day-to-day living that is useful in our art and real life.

Tell us a secret. Whenever I start a show, I write "Joy" on the mirror of the dressing room in eye pencil or lip pencil (my best friend taught me to do this) to remind me to find the joy in what I do. It gets wiped off when I leave. On my last show, I wrote a little something in the theatre that is hidden - Only I know where to find it. Hopefully I will get back to that theatre again to find my note.