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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. 


18 definitons that every theatre lover should know.

Broadway DEBUT

An actor’s first performance working on a Broadway contract. This can be the first preview for an actor originating a role, a seemingly average Tuesday years into a show’s run for a replacement, or happen at a moment’s notice for a swing or standby.

Resources: Benj Rivera on Aladdin, Stephen Brower on Anastasia


Another term for ensemble.

Resources: Mo Brady on Getting Out of the Ensemble

Dance Captain

An actor responsible for maintaining the integrity of a show’s choreography. Dance captains typically teach the show to replacement actors, help lead rehearsals after opening night, and give dance notes to the cast as needed. The dance captain can be an ensemblist, swing, or occasionally even a principal actor.

Resources: Juliane Godfrey on SpongeBob SquarePants, Becca Petersen on Mean Girls

A group of actors that work together to support the story in a musical or play. Traditionally, the ensemble is used to populate the world of a show, but can also be used to communicate a point of view or evoke a mood/emotion.

Resources: Broadway’s Busiest Ensemble Special Report, Jackson Cline on Wicked



An actor who performs in the ensemble of a play or musical. The specific duties of an ensemblist can vary from show to show, but many are tasked with understudying principal roles in addition to performing their own track.


The first public performance of a production with a paying audience. At this point, the cast is still rehearsing during the day, and changes - from dialogue and music to set pieces and costumes - may be made to the production. The show becomes “frozen” (no more changes) a few performances ahead of opening night, at which point the critics are invited to attend.

Resources: Sam Farrow on Escape to Margaritaville


A dress rehearsal that a production’s employees invite friends and family to attend shortly before previews begin. This is the audience to see the production.

Resources: Al Blackstone (and more) on Hello, Dolly!, Stephanie Bissonnette on Mean Girls


A robe presented to an ensemblist on the opening night of every Broadway musical with an ensemble. This honor is typically, but not always, given to the ensemblist with the most Broadway ensemble credits. The Legacy Robe ceremony requires the recipient to circle the stage three times, allowing every member of the production to touch the robe, and then bless each dressing room. The recipient then decorates a patch for the robe to represent the musical they received it for.

Resources: Brendon Stimson on Mean Girls


A professional audio recording of a musical’s songs, featuring the production’s original cast members. An original cast album is typically recorded shortly after opening night, but sometimes happens much earlier or later.

Resources: Collins Conley on Mean Girls, Kalyn West on The Prom


A theatre outside of New York City that produces musicals and/or plays in-house. Regional theatres may develop new work or produce pre-existing shows. Ensemblists is regional productions may be local or hired from another city.

Resources: Julia Freyer on Transcendence Theatre Company, Joshua Michael Burrage on Sacramento Music Circus, Rashaan James II on Denver Theatre Center


An actor who is not part of an opening night cast, but later takes over the track of another cast member. The rehearsal process, usually led by a show’s dance captain and music director, is typically very quick for replacements and does not involve any technical elements or other actors until their “put-in” rehearsal, which occurs shortly before their debut performance.


A book created by a production’s dance captain(s) that charts the onstage movement of every track in the show. This tool is used by the dance captain to teach tracks to new cast members/understudies and maintain the choreography over the course of the run.

Resources: Kristin Piro on Charlie on the Chocolate Factory


An actor who understudies ONLY a principal role or roles, but does not have their own track or understudy the ensemble.

Resources: Pomme Koch on The Band’s Visit


An actor who understudies a show’s ensemble. Swings typically cover either all male or female ensemble tracks and do not perform unless someone is out of the show. The majority of Broadway musicals with ensembles employ four full-time swings — two male and two female.

Resources: Juliane Godfrey on SpongeBob SquarePants, Spencer Dean on Goodspeed Opera House


An actor’s individual “path” during a performance. This includes onstage choreography/blocking/spacing, backstage traffic patterns, harmonies, features, etc.


An actor who performs another actor’s role in the event that they are unable to perform for any reason (illness, injury, vacation, personal day, etc.). Understudies typically rehearse weekly after a production opens and must be prepared to go on for their understudy role at a moment’s notice. Understudies often perform in the show’s ensemble or also serve as swings.

Resources: Kenny Francoeur on The Book of Mormon, Zach Adkins on Anastasia, Ashley Blanchet on Frozen


A swing that joins a production when ensemblists have vacations scheduled. This helps ensure that there are enough offstage covers should any unplanned absences occur during this time.

Resources: Michael Fatica on A Bronx Tale