TheEnsemblist #36: RENT Retrospective


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It’s common knowledge that Jonathan Larson’s musical RENT defied the traditional Broadway sound and sparked the interest of performers and audience members across the world. On this latest episode of The Ensemblist, Nikka and Mo interview two performers and a member of the creative team who were part of the RENT phenomenon. Guests Robin De Jesus, Tracy McDowell, and Tim Weil provide insight into the various stages of the show, from its initial run at New York Theatre Workshop to the final performance on Broadway. Having worked on the Broadway production of RENT at different times, each guest shares the highlights of their memories with the show, and how being part of the RENT family is something to treasure forever.

Our Guests:

Robin De Jesus (La Cage aux Folles, In The Heights, RENT

Tracy McDowell (Motown, RENT

Tim Weil (Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, Shrek the Musical, Jumpers, RENT, Sally Marr...and Her Escorts

The Ensemblist #35: West End Ensemblists


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On this episode of The Ensemblist, Nikka and Mo spoke to three American actors about what it’s like to take their Broadway experience across the pond and perform in London’s West End. It’s a rare opportunity that comes about in a variety of surprising ways. Since all three guests started their careers on Broadway, they each explain how the opportunity arose, how the West End traditions compare to Broadway’s, and how their lives changed because of the experience.

Our Guests:

Hillary Elk (Memphis Broadway & West End)

Andrew Kober (Broadway: Les Miserables, Hair. West End: Hair.

Kristen Beth Williams (Broadway: Pippin, Nice Work If You Can Get It, Anything Goes, Promises, Promises. West End: Top Hat.

The Ensemblist #34: Writing for Ensemblists


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On this latest (super-exciting!) episode of The Ensemblist, Nikka and Mo interview three Tony-winning composers/lyricists who have created musicals filled with large ensembles. Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty, and Lin-Manuel Miranda explain how they wrote some of the most memorable ensemble numbers of the past couple of decades. They discuss their inspirations, their support team, how they think of ensembles and ensemblists during the creation process, and what they look for when putting together an ensemble. 

Our Guests:
Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (Rocky, Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life, Seussical, Matters of the Heart, Ragtime, My Favorite Year, Once On This Island)
Lin-Manuel Miranda (Bring It On The Musical, In the Heights)

The Ensemblist #33: Ensemblists in Plays


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When many people think of “Broadway,” they often think of those big, spectacular Broadway musicals. However, it is important to remember that straight plays also contribute to the continued success of Broadway. Oftentimes, big-name actors known for their work in television and film will appear in a play, and producers hope that star power will attract more of a commercial audience. While plays do not typically require performers to sing and dance, as in a musical, many actors do, in fact, possess all of the skills to cross over between the two types of Broadway shows. The three guests on this episode, who are multifaceted artists across many different genres, discuss their experiences working in straight plays on Broadway.

Our Guests:

Nick Corley (You Can’t Take It With You, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Mary Poppins, She Loves Me)

Christopher Gurr (All The Way

Leah Hofmann (Big Fish, War Horse

The Ensemblist #32: I’m.In.Tech.


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We’ve talked a lot on the show about everything it takes to put up a Broadway musical- the creative team, the audition process, the myriad ways ensemblists are used onstage- but we haven’t talked about moving into the theatre, the incredibly long days, the tedious moments, and the crazy times of tech.

The process of technical rehearsals, where every moment of the show is now looked at by every department instead of just in the safe space of the rehearsal room. Now, it’s all about rehearsals for sound, lights, projections, props, crew, orchestra, wardrobe, hair, and many more- it is during these rehearsals that a show truly comes together.

Tech takes its toll on your personal life, sanity, eating habits, and your workout schedule, but hearing the audience enjoy the final product when the show is FINALLY up and running is a feeling like no other. On this episode of The Ensemblist, we speak to three actors, all recently familiar with the tech process on Broadway. We hear about the entire process from the mundane moments to the dream-fulfilling experiences.

Our Guests:
Lori Ann Ferreri (On The Town, Wicked)
Michael James Scott (Aladdin, The Book of Mormon, Elf, Hair, The Pirate Queen, Tarzan, All Shook Up, Mamma Mia!)
Ephraim Sykes (Motown the Musical, Newsies the Musical, Memphis, The Little Mermaid)

The Ensemblist #31: Ensemble Musicals


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On this latest episode of The Ensemblist, Nikka and Mo interview three Broadway stars who have shined in ensemble musicals. As veterans of various types of Broadway shows, Telly Leung, Dana Moore, and Julia Murney explain how ensemble shows are unique experiences that require trust and flexibility throughout the entire journey.

As opposed to traditional book musicals with lead characters, supporting players, features, and ensemblists, ensemble shows tell their story differently- every member of the cast takes the spotlight at some point during the show. These three guests all have experience with this alternative way of storytelling through song- and their stories about what it takes to work as a group shine a whole new light on what it’s like to truly work together.

Our Guests:

Telly Leung (Godspell, Rent, Pacific Overtures, Flower Drum Song)

Dana Moore (Fosse, Chicago, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, The Will Rogers Follies, Dangerous Games, Sweet Charity, Singin’ in the Rain, On Your Toes, Copperfield, Sugar Babies, Dancin’, A Chorus Line)

Julia Murney (Wicked, Lennon)

The Ensemblist #30: Stage and Screen


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Lights, camera, ACTION! In the past decade, movie musicals have appeared more frequently in the mainstream lineup of films. With such hits as Chicago, Hairspray, and the highly-anticipated Into the Woods out this winter, it is without question that moviegoers enjoy watching Broadway’s megahits on the big screen.

Many of these successful cinematic musicals have featured Broadway veterans in their casts. On this episode of The Ensemblist, Broadway vet Charlie Williams takes the guest host seat and helps Mo talk to three other insanely accomplished stalwarts of stage and screen about what it takes to do musical numbers in so many different ways, and how Broadway prepared them for performing on the big and silver screens.

Our Guests:
Deidre Goodwin (Chicago, Across the Universe
Curtis Holbrook (Smash, Hairspray, Across the Universe)
Paul McGill (Smash, Fame)

The Ensemblist #29: Readings and Workshops


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We've got another great guest host for you all- the wonderfully talented Brandon Rubendall joins Nikka for this episode!

As you now know from listening to past episodes of The Ensemblist, musicals take a long time to develop. The developmental process can consist of any number of combinations of readings, workshops and labs that allow creative teams to get feedback from actors and small audiences to help shape the show. Every show’s process is different, and each of these types of development has different rules from Actors’ Equity, detailing everything from the number of rehearsal hours to the amount of staging that can be used. Additionally, the developmental process allows creators the opportunity to receive financial backing from producers to continue working on (and hopefully produce) the musical. Some actors are lucky enough to get involved with an early reading of a show, and continue to stay with the production until it opens on Broadway. 

Today on The Ensemblist, we’re talking about the developmental process with three Broadway vets (and Brandon!) who have been there before- finding out what it’s like to be part of a show from its earliest phases all the way to The Great White Way. 

Our Guests:

Ben Cameron (Wicked, Aida, Footloose)

Kevin Duda (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, The Book of Mormon, Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Ryann Redmond (If/Then, Bring It On: The Musical)

The Ensemblist #28: Shakespeare In The Park


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Shakespeare in the Park is, quite possibly, New York City’s most famous annual theatrical experience. Because its founder, Joseph Papp, stressed the importance of bringing classical theatre to the most diverse audience in the world- the residents of New York City- great works of the stage have been performed for free every summer at the Delacorte Theater, outdoors in Central Park, since 1962. Often, these shows become the hottest tickets in town, with long lines of prospective theatregoers waiting overnight to receive those metaphorical golden tickets.

Although the focus is generally on Shakespeare and other classics, many musicals have performed at the Delacorte over the years, including four that moved on to the Great White Way: The Pirates of Penzance, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, On The Town and, most recently, HAIR. And even the Shakespeare productions often have music or dance incorporated, as was the case in the last couple of years with Love’s Labour's Lost and The Comedy of Errors.

On this episode of The Ensemblist, we speak to three Broadway veterans about performing the Park- how it is the same as performing on the main stem, but more often, how it can be very, very different. 

Our Guests:

Josh Lamon (Elf, Hair) last performed for Shakespeare in the Park as the Steward in Into the Woods

Tommar Wilson (The Book of Mormon, Hair, Lestat, Never Gonna Dance, Hairspray, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Music Man) was last seen at the Delacorte Theater in Hair as a member of the Tribe. 

Jessica Wu (A Chorus Line) performed last summer for Shakespeare in the Park in the ensemble of The Comedy of Errors

The Ensemblist #27: Live at Birdland (part 2)


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On June 16, The Ensemblist celebrated its first anniversary with a live show at New York City’s legendary Birdland Jazz Club! Part of Jim Caruso’s Broadway at Birdland Series, the evening featured songs and stories from eight talented performers. It was a blast! Thanks to all of you who came out to join us, it was a magical night.

On this episode of The Ensemblist, we bring you the second half of our Birdland show, with songs and stories from The Skivvies (Nick Cearley and Lauren Molina), Rachel Bay Jones (Hair, Women on the Verge…, Pippin) and Jeff Pew and Luke Hawkins (doing a really awesome duo with maybe a tap break in there...).

Also, we might sing a little in this one, too. Okay, yeah. We sing in this one. With The Skivives. We won’t tell you what we were wearing, though.


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