The Ensemblist #52: Spring Theatre Roundtable

28Jun

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It's the Spring 2015 Theatre Roundtable! In this episode, special guests Josh Rhodes and Lee Wilkins sit down with Mo and Nikka to discuss some of the musicals that opened in the spring. We talk about the shows, how they used their ensemblists, and some of our favorite performances. Wanna hear what we thought of Honeymoon in Vegas, An American in Paris, Finding Neverland and more? Well, take a listen!


about Josh and Lee: This dynamic duo is responsible for the Broadway choreography in this season’s It Shoulda Been You, as well as First Date, Cinderella, and many more! They never stop working, ever. It's amazing.
Josh and Lee have also had long and varied careers as ensemblists in Fosse, Chicago, Spamalot and Kiss Me, Kate among others, and you may remember Josh from our Broadway Bares episode!

The Ensemblist Unedited: Mamie Parris

22Jun

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This week, Nikka and Mo sit down with the SUPER-fabulous Mamie Parris, who had just come off of the most exciting Tony weekend we could imagine for an ensemblist! Not only did she perform on the telecast with On the 20th Century, but she spent the weekend stepping in for leading lady Kristin Chenoweth! We needed that story. We needed you guys to have that story. And here it is- the amazing Mamie Parris talking about the Tony weekend to end all Tony weekends!

The Ensemblist #51: Revivals and OBCs and Ensemblists, Oh My!

14Jun

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While an exciting plethora of new musicals has popped up this past (2014-2015) season, over half of the ensemblists' contracts were in the revivals. That got us thinking: What are the differences between being in the Original Broadway Cast of a brand spankin' new musical and revisiting a well-loved classic? What are the similarities? What about when- shhh, we'll just let our three fabulous guests talk! They have a wealth of experience with originating roles and replacing in both new musicals and revivals, so take a listen...

Our Guests:
John Bolton (Damn Yankees, How To Succeed..., Titanic, Contact, Spamalot, Curtains, A Christmas Story)
Ericka Hunter (Flower Drum Song, 42nd Street, Rock of Ages, Doctor Zhivago)
Ashley Yeater (The Producers, Follies, Big Fish, Pippin, Gigi)

The Ensemblist Unedited: Molly Tynes

7Jun

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On this episode of The Ensemblist Unedited, we check back in with the multi-talented Molly Tynes, a guest from one of our very first episodes (#7: Special Skills- go check it out!). Molly tells us all about her three-year history with Pippin: A.R.T, Broadway and on the road, as well as why she left her Broadway show for a regional job doing Can Can at the Paper Mill Playhouse. Yay, Molly!

The Ensemblist #50: Kids on Broadway

31May

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A lot has been said about those many shows with kids above the title - the adorable and plucky protagonists, imploring us to give them just a little more so the sun will come out tomorrow- but what about their onstage classmates/friends at the orphanage/sidekicks? 


When you aren’t the star, but you aren't a grownup, are you just like every other ensemblist? On this (50th!) episode of The Ensemblist, we spoke to two actors who grew up - and one who is still growing up- on Broadway. They talked to us about how being a kid ensemblist is the same as being an adult - and how it is VERY different.

Our Guests:
Robi Hager (Spring Awakening, Bye Bye Birdie, How to Succeed..., Doctor Zhivago)
Sawyer Nunes (Matilda, Finding Neverland)
Donna Vivino (Les Miserables, Saturday Night Fever, Hairspray, Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me, Wicked)

The Ensemblist Unedited: Shoshana Bean

24May

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We're back with The Ensemblist: Unedited, our new series that we publish on alternating weeks. Rather than our usual curated fare, these episodes are short, candid conversations that give you an inside look at some of the coolest careers on Broadway.


On this episode, listen to Shoshana Bean talk about how she went from Wicked’s Elphaba standby to replacing Idina Menzel in the role, as well as some of her favorite onstage mishaps.

The Ensemblist #49: Tony Season: For Understudies!

17May

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It's TONY SEASON, you guys! And we don't know about you, but we are SUPER excited to cheer everyone on during Broadway's biggest night! Of course, since this is The Ensemblist, you know we're not taking the Tonys at face value- we wanted to dig a little deeper and find out how the pressures of awards season affected the nominees' understudies.  


On this episode of The Ensemblist, we spoke to three Broadway actors who covered Tony nominated roles during awards season. We found out how they became understudies, what it’s like to understudy a nominee while the whole community is watching, and how that experience affected their performances in the roles they eventually took over. 


Our Guests:

Shoshana Bean (Hairspray, Wicked)

Andy Kelso (Mamma Mia!, Kinky Boots)

Kenita Miller (The Color Purple, Xanadu)

The Ensemblist Unedited: Ilene Graff

10May

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Hey, look! We're starting a fun new series over here, and we're calling it The Ensemblist: Unedited. 

Why, you may ask?
We conduct interviews with ensemblists every week, and those ensemblists graciously open up and tell us about all their crazy Broadway adventures. We have this unbelievable treasure trove of great stories that, for one reason or another, don't quite fit into the episode. Rather than let that audio collect figurative dust on a virtual shelf, we've decided to bring it to you in this new Unedited format! You’ll get to hear our full, candid, unscripted conversations, become reacquainted with past guests, or find out something new about the ensemblists you already love. 

Because it's Mother's Day here in the US, we thought we'd kick off the series with a couple fantastic stories from Ilene Graff, Nikka's mom (and guest host of Episode 48: Broadway in the 1970s)! You'll hear about her audition for "Promises Promises," and something called the "longest running poker game on Broadway."

Enjoy!

The Ensemblist #48: Broadway in the 1970s

3May

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We've got a great guest host this week as the one and only Ilene Graff (Nikka's mom) steps in, filling in while Nikka is in rehearsal! Why Ilene, you ask? 
Because she was on Broadway in the 1970s, and had been nudging us for awhile to make an episode where we interviewed her friends! We took that idea and ran with it, talking to three incredibly accomplished guests about their time on Broadway in the 1970s. What has changed? What is the same? How has Broadway evolved since the days of EPIs (listen to find out about those!) and auditioning onstage? We talk about all those things and SO much more!

Our Guests:
Tim Jerome (Man of La Mancha, The Rothschilds, The Magic Show, Creation of the World and Other Business, The Moony Shapiro Songbook, Cats, Me and My Girl (Tony Nom), Grand Hotel, Lost in Yonkers, Beauty and the Beast, La Boheme, Tarzan, The Lyons, Phantom of the Opera, (also: The Red Shoes and The Baker’s Wife) 

Kathryn Wright (Hair, Pippin, Dancin', A Chorus Line)
Nick Wyman (Grease, The Magic Show, Very Good Eddie, On the 20th Century, Whoopee!, My Fair Lady, Doubles, Les Miserables, The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940, Phantom of the Opera, Sly Fox, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Tale of two Cities, Catch Me if You Can)

and Guest Host:
Ilene Graff (Promises Promises, Grease, I Love My Wife)

The Ensemblist #47: [DRessed as] A Girl: on Broadway

19Apr

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One of the oldest conventions in theatre history since the Greeks is making a slightly newer cultural splash. Across all media platforms, gender roles in storytelling are becoming more fluid, as men are donning heels and wigs to play women, transgender actors and characters are in the spotlight, and drag is as forward and fierce as ever.


As RuPaul famously said: “You’re born naked and the rest is drag.” And in theatre, that is even more true, as no one who walks in the stage door at half hour is who they will eventually become by places.


As we started researching the proliferation of drag on Broadway, we began to realize it wasn’t JUST drag. Playing Edna Turnblad in Hairspray is very different than playing Albin in La Cage aux Folles. But there’s something that unites these characters beyond the high heels, and we wanted to explore that further. 


So, for this episode of The Ensemblist, we spoke to three actors who identify as male, and have played roles on Broadway outside their own gender: one a woman, one a drag queen and one a transwoman. They talk about their approach to their roles, their auditions, and things they've learned along the way.


Our Guests:

Gregory Haney (Tarzan, Memphis, Bring it On, Wicked)

Blake Hammond (Living on Love, First Date, Sister Act, Elf, Billy Elliot, Hairspray, The Lion King, Kiss Me Kate, The Music Man, On the Town)

Joey Taranto (Rock of Ages, Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, Kinky Boots)

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