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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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West End

Ice Bucket Chats at the West End's 42nd Street

Mo Brady

42nd Street, the show where Julian Marsh hires “half a hundred kids” to dance in “the biggest show Broadway’s seen in twenty years." With 46 ensemble members and onstage swings, the production currently playing at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane is the biggest cast in the 38-year history of the show. With so many tappy feet to look after, the cast take regular ice baths throughout their eight show week. During one of these post-show ice baths, ensemblists Maria Garrett, James-Royden Lyley and Josephina Camble (swing) answered some questions about being in such a large company.

 Maria Garrett, James-Royden Lyley and Josephina Camble

Maria Garrett, James-Royden Lyley and Josephina Camble

What’s it like being in London’s largest ensemble?

James: It’s amazing, especially off stage! Because you don’t see individual people as often, it feels like there’s always so much to catch up on.

Maria: I think, for morale, it’s quite good. You don’t have to talk to the same people over and over again.

James: You also don’t spend enough time with people for tensions to build up and cause arguments, so it ends up being a really nice working environment.

Josephina: As a swing, it’s overwhelming. I cover twenty-four tracks in the show, but also get thrown on as boys if I am needed.

Do you feel like the ensemble play a big role in the show itself?

Maria: I think this show is probably the most celebrated ensemble show there is, that I’ve ever done, so it’s quite special to be a part of.

Josephina: I think it’s nice because the numbers involve the whole ensemble. There’s only a few numbers that only use “the good ones”, it’s pretty much full ensemble all the time.

James: Also, the entire plot speaks of how hard working and capable the ensemble are. Peggy says a brilliant line, referring to the “specks of dust” in the chorus; “Put all those specks together and you have something alive and beautiful that can reach out to thousands of people we’ve never seen before”.

Maria: We also get the final say, because we perform the last three minutes of the show!

What’s the best thing about working with such a large group?

Josephina: The mix of personalities and the nature of our job means you never see the same faces every day, if people are on holiday or off the show. And I swing in to different slots every day so I get to talk to and dance with different people every day, which is great!

Maria: It’s being re-inspired by people every day too, because, doing the same show eight shows a week can be draining and it’s good to get inspiration and support from the people you’re around. Everyone has different strengths so it’s good to touch on different people every day to draw on that strength.

James: Also it’s nice for outside of the show itself, socially and for personal development. It’s easy to feel like you plateau doing a year in the show but seeing how different people are utilizing their time is incredible and inspiring to keep you moving forward.

And the worst?

Josephina: It’s hard to keep up with everybody’s plans! I feel like I’m the last person to know anything; drinks somewhere or birthdays. There are so many people to keep up to date with!

Maria: The boys hog the showers…

James: It’s true, we do.

Lastly, do you have any tactics to help you stand out from the crowd?

Maria: That’s such a hard question!

Josephina: Personally, when I’m on for an ensemble track I like to blend in as much as possible! As a swing, if I’m standing out it’ll be for the wrong reasons!

Maria: I guess maybe, just touch upon your strengths, different people will shine in different ways. So, even if you can’t kick your leg the highest, tits and teeth are always great!

James: I also think, on a show like this, the object is to perform as a unit. The routines rely on tight formations and synchronized choreography.

Maria: It’s about teamwork. We all have to make an identical pattern to be seen in the mirror by the audience. It’s then less about sticking out and more about being a team to give the audience the full impact of the choreography.

Josephina: The show is a team we are all in it together. You can’t think of it as a one-man-show, apart from if you’re playing Peggy Sawyer, of course, because it’s basically a one-woman-show for her!

James: It works better when we are together…

Maria: Like ants!

 Maria Garrett, James-Royden Lyley and Josephina Camble

Maria Garrett, James-Royden Lyley and Josephina Camble

Stepping into Dorothy Brock

Mo Brady

by Steph Parry

Steph Parry has been an ensemble member and understudy in Mamma Mia!, Billy Elliot and Wicked on the West End. But, on 7th June, after years of waiting in the wings, a stroke of fate caused the biggest surprise of her career.

 Steph Parry

Steph Parry

The plot of 42nd Street is well known; Peggy Sawyer goes from chorus girl to star. It's a story that I, as a performer, have always loved but never quite believed could happen to me.  But it turns out, it really can! On the 9th July, I'll step into the legendary pop star Lulu's shoes (not literally, I have big feet!) and take over the role of Dorothy Brock.

I got the rare opportunity of being in the right place at the right time. I’m currently a standby for the roles of Dorothy Brock and Maggie Jones in 42nd Street at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and on June 7th, I was sat in my dressing room when the company manager called. Straight away I prepared myself to go on for one of the roles. It turned out, I was… but for a show down the road.

My friend Caroline Deverill was playing Donna that evening in Mamma Mia! at the Novello Theatre, next door. Unfortunately, she had suffered a calf injury in the first scene, leaving her unable to carry on with the show. David Lamb, their company manager, who I'd worked with when I was there in 2013/14, remembered I was standing by around the corner so called to see if I was in the building, off stage and up for it.  Never been one to turn down a challenge, within 18 minutes of the show stopping, I was back in the dungarees and carrying on the play. There were some hairy moments choreographically but in true showbiz fashion, the whole cast rallied around and helped me power through.

 Steph Parry backstage at  42nd Street

Steph Parry backstage at 42nd Street

I left that night, on a high, but not really feeling like I'd done anything special. There are so many people who could have saved the day just as well as I could, I just happened to be the one who was nearby. 

I woke up the next morning to interview requests from  news channels, papers and radio stations. I just couldn’t believe people wanted to know about it. For me, it felt like another day at the office; a very weird day at the office, granted, but it’s just what covers do, step in at a moments notice and keep the show going.

Just when I thought things would start to calm down, I was then offered to play Dorothy Brock for eight weeks! It was a hell of a week! I definitely don't take this opportunity lightly. In a world where instant fame and reality TV is affecting our beloved industry, I’m hoping that my story inspires us all that we can still work our way up the ranks, through tenacity, hard work and being a great company member who they know they can rely on.

  42nd Street  on the West End

42nd Street on the West End