The Ensemblist #29: Readings and Workshops


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)

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The Ensemblist #28: Shakespeare In The Park


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

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


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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The Ensemblist #26: Live at Birdland (part 1)


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 will feature the first half of our Birdland show, with songs and stories from Ariana Debose (Bring it On, Motown, Pippin), Alysha Umphress (American Idiot, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, On a Clear Day, Bring it On [sort of, you'll hear about that] On the Town) and Daniel Watts (The Color Purple, The Little Mermaid, In The Heights, Memphis, Ghost, Motown, After Midnight).


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The Ensemblist #25: Broadway Bares


Broadway Bares is always one of the Broadway community’s largest and most fun fundraisers, raising millions of dollars for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS each year. Created in 1990 by Jerry Mitchell (Broadway's ultimate gypsy and a wholehearted champion of the community’s ensemblists), Broadway Bares is one of those rare and special nights where the ensemblists of New York truly shine. They take that spotlight, front and center, sharing their ridiculous bodies and amazing talents with a sold-out crowd of thousands.

This year, the annual, one-night-only event is being held on June 22 at New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom. To celebrate the burlesque spectacular, we’re dedicating an entire episode of the magic and mystique of Broadway Bares.

On this episode of The Ensemblist, we get the inside scoop from three Broadway artists about their intimate experiences with Bares. We’ll discover the history of the event, the quick and dirty rehearsal process, and what it feels like to take off your clothes in front of thousands!

A warning to our younger listeners: This episode deals with adult themes. 

Our Guests:

James Brown III (Wicked, The Frogs, The Color Purple, The Little Mermaid, Memphis, Priscilla..., Ghost, Rocky)

Lindsay Janisse (Wicked, Rock of Ages)

Josh Rhodes (performer: Chicago, Fosse, Bells are Ringing, Urban Cowboy, Boy from Oz, Drowsy Chaperone. choreographer: Cinderella, First Date.)

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The Ensemblist #24: The Tony Awards


It’s the most exciting night of the year on Broadway, our industry’s annual opportunity to show the country what we’ve been up to for the past twelve months: It's The Tony Awards!

The Tony Awards are that one moment where it feels like Broadway is truly the center of the universe. But that magnified exposure also leads to immense pressure for everyone involved. There is so much planning, money and creativity put into making those 3 ½ minutes perfect, and nobody- from the producers to the creatives to the performers- is immune to any of it.

On this episode of The Ensemblist, we hear from three Broadway actors all currently in shows nominated for Best Musical at the 2014 Tony Awards, and who have also performed on the Tony telecast in the past. We'll learn about what goes into creating a Tony performance: the scheduling, creativity and rehearsals, and the insane breakdown of Broadway’s biggest day.

Our Guests: 

Jeff Kready (Les Miserables, Sunday in the Park with George, Billy Elliot, A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder)

Rashidra Scott (Avenue Q, Finian’s Rainbow, Hair, Sister Act, Beautiful)

T. Oliver Reid (Kiss Me Kate, Chicago, Follies, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Never Gonna Dance, La Cage Aux Folles, The Wedding Singer, Mary Poppins, Sister Act, After Midnight)

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The Ensemblist #23: Split Tracks


When you're a swing in a show, you have to be prepared for ANYTHING. You could be called on at any moment to perform almost any part in a show- even if it's not necessarily yours. Stick with us, we'll explain. 

Sometimes things don’t go as planned- and therein lies the beauty and thrill of live theater. When the number of performers calling out of a show exceeds the number of understudies and swings available, everyone bands together to take on the duties of those missing actors- while STILL performing their other parts- in what's called a "split track."

From doing fight choreography without the set number of actors and insanely fast quick changes, to playing roles of the opposite gender and hoping everyone remembers what comes next, split trac” performances are both exhausting and exhilarating. In this episode, Broadway ensemblists Mike Cannon, Celia Mei Rubin and Jennifer Rias explain the technicalities that must be considered when performing a split track and regale us with tales from these “the show must go on” moments. 

Also! Bonus guest Danielle Doherty from Broadway Understudies ( helps us introduce this episode and tell us all about why they champion swings, standbys, and understudies!

Our Guests:

Mike Cannon (All Shook Up, A Chorus Line, West Side Story, The Addams Family, Ghost, Aladdin)

Celia Mei Rubin (Matilda)

Jennifer Rias (Rock of Ages, Aladdin)

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The Ensemblist #22: Les Misérables


One of the most celebrated shows in musical theatre history, Les Misérables has built the careers of countless performers on Broadway and around the world. In honor of the second revival’s Broadway bow, The Ensemblist interviewed Les Mis veterans Randy Graff, Elena Shaddow, and Max Von Essen, as well as current revival cast member Arbender Robinson.

Les Miz is a show that is famously built from its ensemblists. From almost every actor playing multiple roles to a score where almost every song has a sweeping choral component, to its infamous rehearsal process created by actors’ improvisions, the show is one that thrives on the ensemblist spirit.

In this episode, the four guests describe their tracks throughout the show, share insider stories on the rehearsal process, and describe what it is like to be a part of an international phenomenon such as Les Misérables.

Our Guests:

Randy Graff (Les Misérables, Fiddler on the Roof, A Class Act, High Society, Falsettos, Laughter on the 23rd Floor, Moon Over Buffalo, Grease, Sarava, City of Angels) 

Elena Shaddow (Les Misérables, Sweet Smell of Success, Nine, Fiddler on the Roof, The Woman in White, La Cage aux Folles, Bridges of Madison County

Arbender Robinson (The Lion King, Hairspray, The Little Mermaid, Hair, Ragtime, Book of Mormon, Beautiful, Les Misérables) 

Max Von Essen (Les Misérables, Jesus Christ Superstar, Dance of the Vampires, Evita) 

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The Ensemblist #21: Spotlight On: Stage Managers


The Ensemblist is thrilled to announce its new mini-series, “Spotlight On,” which will highlight various behind-the-scenes Broadway careers that are rarely seen by fans. 

You know us for our peek behind the curtain into what-and who- makes a Broadway show. You’ve listened as we’ve interviewed ensemblists from every walk of life about every aspect of being onstage and living that Broadway dream night after night. But who keeps those ensemblists in line? Who is responsible for making sure that everyone, onstage and off, gets to their spots on time and does their jobs the same way every show?

Today on The Ensemblist, we’re going to peel that curtain back even farther- and talk to the real center of each Broadway engine- the Stage Manager. Our three guests have a wealth of experience keeping these shows up and running- from keeping their casts and crews organized to filling out tons of paperwork to teaching new cast members where to go and what to do- it is no easy task, and that’s just the beginning. 

Our Guests:

Zac Chandler (West Side Story, The Addams Family, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Cinderella) 

Mary Macleod (Deuce, A Little Night Music, Sister Act, Flash Dance, Motown, Smokey Joe’s Cafe)

Cody Renard Richard (Lysistrata Jones, Ghost, Cyrano de Bergerac, Motown, After Midnight

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The Ensemblist #20: Associate Choreographers


It truly takes a village to put up a Broadway show. If you’ve spent any time looking through a Playbill, you’ve noticed that there’s a whole other credits page. There, you’ll find the listing for the associates- directors, designers, and choreographers. But what does that mean? What does an associate do?

Today on The Ensemblist, we’re going to explore a little-known aspect of what it takes to make those thrilling dances we all know and love- by talking to three INSANELY accomplished current and former Broadway ensemblists who have a whole other job description- as an Associate Choreographer. We’ll find out about what it takes to spend time on both sides of the table, how they were brought on in their respective positions, and how they use those on-the-job skills both onstage and off.

And this week, we have a whole new way to be a part of the conversation. Have you had an associate you’ve loved working with? Or seen a dance and wondered who helped the choreographer create that unbelieveable dance? Tweet us your thoughts and questions as you listen, using the hashtag #ensemblist.

Our Guests: Lorin Latarro (11 Broadway shows as a performer- associate on American Idiot, Hands on a Hardbody, choreographer of Scandalous and Waiting for Godot), Brad Musgrove (3 Broadway shows as a performer, associate choreographer on Pippin and Fosse) and Mark Myars (5 Broadway shows as a performer, current dance supervisor of Wicked, associate choreographer on If/Then)

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