As far as musical theater news is concerned, this week has been liiiiiiiiit. On Tuesday, we reported that Carousel is coming back to Broadway next year in a production featuring several New York City Ballet favorites. Now there's word that two more of our ballet/Broadway baes are at the helm of a new City Center Encores! production of the classic Brigadoon.
Christopher Wheeldon will direct and choreograph this concert staging of Lerner & Loewe's romantic fantasy, opening November 15 and running just 5 days in total. So snag those tickets now!
Still not convinced? The swoon-worthy Robert Fairchild will play Harry Beaton, a handsome rebel living in the magical Scottish town called Brigadoon. We can't wait to have our very own modern-day Gene Kelly doing his triple-threat thing again.
To tide you over until November, here's Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse in the 1954 movie version of Brigadoon. Because Cyd Charisse.
Roald Dahl's classic book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, is getting reimagined with Broadway flair this spring! Opening April 23, the deliciously sweet new show stars Tony Award winner Christian Borle as Willy Wonka and Broadway newbies Jake Ryan Flynn, Ryan Foust and Ryan Sell as its trio of Charlie Buckets. With choreography by Joshua Bergasse, it also promises to be a whimsical dance whirlwind. We chatted with Emma Pfaeffle—who plays the spoiled, ballet-obsessed Veruca Salt—to get the behind-the-curtain scoop.
Dance Spirit: What was the show's audition process like?
Emma Pfaeffle: I was initially sent to an ensemble dance call. Joshua gave us one of his infamously difficult combinations, with triple turns and high kicks—but the one thing he stressed was giving plenty of personality and character. The casting director asked if I could hang in the waiting room and look over sides for Veruca Salt. Later that week, I got a call asking if I could read again. I was out of the room in 10 minutes, frazzled and filled with adrenaline. A week later, I got the call from my agent saying that I booked the role, which made me scream in jubilation on the corner of Second Avenue and Houston Street.
Tell us a little bit about your training. Are you a dancer who sings and acts?
I was always enamored of musicals growing up, but dance took precedence in terms of training. I went to a performing
arts high school in L.A. where my concentration was dance, but they offered a musical theater program as an elective. It was there that I really started to familiarize myself with singing and acting. My passion was and will always be dance, so I continued studying at the Conservatory of Dance at SUNY Purchase. It wasn't until my Broadway debut three years later that I really started to train my voice, because singing is hard. I'm still, to this day, very much a student of vocalization and acting.
Did you catch Pfaeffle in our February 2017 fashion feature?Photo by Lucas Chilczuk
What are you most excited about for the show?
I'm beyond excited to be playing a principal role, especially such a devious little brat of a child. I get to be a comedic, dynamic character who's also a dancer! I feel like the luckiest girl on the planet.
Is there anything you're nervous about?
While Joshua was creating Veruca's primarily balletic movement, I brought my pointe shoes in the spirit of trial and error—and it stuck. My last show was Finding Neverland, with Mia Michaels' contemporary choreography, light-years away from classical pointe. Getting back into the swing of ballet training and switching gears has been difficult. But I'm taking that nervous energy and using it to motivate me to work harder, train harder and ultimately fulfill my childhood ballerina fantasies.
Showing off those pointe skillsPhoto by Lucas Chilczuk
What's your favorite thing about Veruca?
The best part of Veruca is her insane confidence. She has no concept of the word "no." She's obsessed with ballet and being the best. Her maniacal need for more is what makes her such a great ballerina. She's never satisfied, and I think just about every dancer can relate to the notion of constantly needing to train harder and be better.
Why do you think audiences will love the show?
I have yet to meet a person who hasn't seen the original Gene Wilder movie or read the book. This story is embedded in our pop culture. We're lucky to already have a devoted audience who loves the story, so now it's our job as a cast to do justice to such a classic. The creative team of the show is Broadway royalty, so I anticipate that audiences will love it just as much as, if not more than, they loved the book or movie.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory opens April 23 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in NYC. Go to charlieonbroadway.com for ticket info.
A version of this post appeared in the April 2017 issue of Dance Spirit.
Hot new musical alert! Producers announced last week that Bandstand, a super dance-y new show and one of Andy Blankenbuehler's latest projects, will open on the Great White Way in April 2017. Hamilton heavyweight Blankenbuehler, who led Bandstand's original creative team during its initial run at the Paper Mill Playhouse in 2015, is serving as both director and choreographer.
The jazzy show is set in a 1945 nightclub and centers on a radio contest searching for the next big swing band. So far, the only cast members announced are the leads: Tony nominee Laura Osnes (known for Cinderella), who plays a singer and WWII widow named Julia, and Corey Cott (of Gigi), who plays Donny, a singer/songwriter and WWII veteran hoping to win the contest.
"As a director, I'm so lucky to be involved with a show that is so rich in emotion and heart," Blankenbuehler said to BroadwayWorld.com. "As a choreographer, I'm over the moon to be dancing to a score that sizzles like nothing else on Broadway."
And he's not kidding. Check out the promo video from the show's Paper Mill run and get excited, because the choreo is seriously FIERCE. ?
“As a teenager, I auditioned for Spring Awakening, only to realize it was a lot of blonde girls," says Skyler Volpe, a performer with brown, curly hair. This experience taught Volpe to research characters that would best fit not only her voice but also her look—such as her current role as Mimi in the Rent National Tour.
Not fitting certain character types, especially those based on looks or physicality, might feel limiting. But understanding your type makes you a smarter auditionee and helps you pinpoint which natural skills you should continue to home in on.
Ask the Right Questions
Understanding your type requires self-reflection about your look, personality and dance strengths. “The components of an actor's type are age, physicality and skill set," says casting director Benton Whitley. “What age can you read for? Are you serious or comical? Do you look sweet or quirky? Are you a tenor or pop-belting soprano?" Ask your teacher, choreographer or friend to help you identify your type. “My senior year of college, my professor helped me pick out audition outfits, talked about the dance styles that fit my body and gave examples of roles I would fit," says Mallory Nolting, who then landed a gig on the 42nd Street National Tour.
Kent State University students performing "Footloose" (photo by Bob Christy, courtesy Kent State)
Do Your Research
Nolting researches choreographers before auditioning to see what type of dancer they usually cast. “I took Randy Skinner's class before the 42nd Street audition to get a feel for his style," Nolting says. “I could picture myself fitting into the show. At the audition, Skinner recognized me from class!" Jo Rowan, dance chair at Oklahoma City University, advises taking as many different Broadway choreographers' classes as possible to figure out whose styles best fit your body and skill set.
Your overall look at an audition will be your first impression, so be sure your appearance
matches your vocal, dance and acting type. For example, Nolting, who sees herself as more of a showgirl, found a 1930s-style outfit for her 42nd Street audition. Terri Kent, the musical theater coordinator at Kent State University, encourages her girls to get makeovers to reflect their type: shorter, edgier hair and dramatic makeup for the powerhouse dancer, or soft curls and brighter makeup for the ingénue. Look at headshots from other Broadway performers to see how they let their personalities and types shine through.
Kent State's "Jane Eyre," directed by Terri Kent (photo by Bob Christy, courtesy Kent State)
Use Professional Help
Acquiring an agent will open up more audition opportunities, and can also help you figure out your specific type. “My agency and I discussed my strengths, then they started broadening my horizons by putting me up for gigs I wouldn't have felt confident enough to try myself," Volpe says. She trusts her agent to find her jobs where she fits in both her looks and her talents. “They know I look right for West Side Story, but I just don't have the voice for it," she says.
A casting director can also be a great tool for helping your audition success. Reach out to casting directors after an audition for feedback. But remember, “we hire people, not performers," Whitley says. “Don't apologize for what type you are, because if you're
honest and authentic, we can figure out where to place you. So do your research about what shows and characters are your type—but also make sure you're sharing you."
A version of this story appeared in the January 2017 issue of Dance Spirit.
For dancers who’ve spent their lives in pink tights, signing a big ballet company contract can seem like the be-all-end-all goal. But ballet-trained dancers aren’t one-trick ponies, and many end up leading successful dance careers outside the ballet world. Before you say “ballet or no way,” get inspired by dancers who traded in their pointe shoes for something a little different.
Makeda Crayton as the African Queen in Zumanity (photo by Eric Jamison, courtesy Zumanity)
Makeda Crayton, Soloist in Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity
I trained under former Dance Theatre of Harlem principal Homer Hans Bryant, and always dreamed of following in his footsteps. But when DTH went on hiatus in 2004, I decided to look for other jobs, and I ended up finding my dance home at Cirque du Soleil.
I love Cirque’s storytelling aspect. It reminds me of performing story ballets, but you’re given a lot more freedom to develop your character. Right now, I play the African Queen in Zumanity—I have a solo that opens the whole show. It’s up to me to pull the audience into our world, and I’m constantly reinventing my character to find new ways to connect. I still do a floor barre before every performance, and I’m thankful for my ballet training. The show’s acrobats are always shocked at how quickly I can pick up movement. Before DTH reopened in 2013, I was invited to take class with its traveling repertory ensemble. While it reminded me how much I missed ballet, I realized my path as a dancer had changed. I love what I do.
Leffler in costume for On the Town (photo by Monica Simoes, courtesy Leffler)
Brandon Leffler, dancer in Trip of Love, off-Broadway
I was on The Performing Arts Center in L.A.’s commercial track when I first fell in love with ballet. The school’s director helped me switch around my schedule so I could do a classical concentration, and I ended up booking a job with Ballet Austin II after attending the company’s summer program.
I spent a year there, and it was an amazing experience. Ballet Austin is a small company, so we got to dance in the corps for larger ballets. Once
I got used to the day-to-day rigor of ballet company life, though, I realized I needed a bit more freedom. That’s when I set my sights on Broadway. I moved to NYC to take a job with Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company, and began auditioning for musical theater jobs. About a year later, I booked a national tour of Cats, and haven’t looked back since.
The greatest gift ballet gave me is my solid technical base. In musical theater, you’re doing the same movement eight times a week. Unless you’re using your body properly—and ballet teaches you how to do that—you’re going to get injured.
Wada as a member of Sidra Bell Dance (photo by David Flores, courtesy Sidra Bell Dance)
Madison Wada, Sidra Bell Dance New York
Growing up in the small town of Lancaster, CA, I studied many styles at a local studio, but I fell in love with ballet. I looked up to ballerinas like princesses. When I decided ballet was my dream, my mom started driving me an hour each way every day to train at Los Angeles Ballet Academy. It was a rigorous school, with graded exams at every level. But after spending a summer at Alonzo King LINES Ballet post-graduation, I decided I wanted to go in a more contemporary direction. As much as I loved classical dance, I knew even if I gave 125 percent, I still probably wouldn’t make it—I just don’t have the feet or the stature. When I started to explore contemporary dance, first at LINES and then with Sidra, I began to appreciate the value of my movement quality, beyond the height of my leg or the number of pirouettes I could do.
Usborne in her bunhead days (photo by Patrick Baldwin, courtesy Usborne)
Georgia Usborne, Gallim Dance
My second-year ballet teacher at Central School of Ballet in London told me I didn’t have the facility to join a company—and that I needed to learn to maximize what I had. Ballet was my passion, but with the limitations of my body, I knew classical technique would always be a struggle. I ended up spending three years at Bern Ballet in Switzerland, which has a more contemporary repertoire and allowed me to further explore that kind of movement. I had to break down a lot of mental walls to find my artistic voice, and taking Gaga class in Bern helped me find that freedom of expression. Now, at Gallim, I’ve found the perfect balance of ballet and Gaga.
Prominski backstage at Dirty Dancing (courtesy Prominski)
Katelyn Prominski, Broadway dancer
I started off on a pretty successful ballet track: I trained at San Francisco Ballet, toured with The Suzanne Farrell Ballet, spent four years in the Boston Ballet corps and then joined Pennsylvania Ballet. Shortly after moving to Philadelphia, I got very sick. I didn’t know what was happening to my body—ballet became miserable. I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and decided to retire.
My boyfriend at the time (now my fiancé) was touring with Billy Elliot, and as I started to get better, I realized musical theater could be a great way for me to return to performing, because it’s a slightly less grueling, more flexible environment than the ballet world. I just finished touring with Dirty Dancing, where I used my ballet training every day. Broadway choreographers love ballerinas—they know I’m going to give them a six-o’clock penché, sky-high leaps and can-can kicks to my face.
Emnace in her ballet days (photo by Oliver Endahl, courtesy Emnace)
Ariana Emnace, Commercial dancer
I trained intensively in ballet, going to summer programs at San Francisco Ballet and American Ballet Theatre and competing at Youth America Grand Prix. ABT was always my dream. I was fixated on joining a ballet company and becoming a principal—it’s what I thought I deserved after training so hard.
When I started auditioning, my ballet teacher convinced me that joining an agency might be a better fit. I signed with Bloc and began looking for commercial and ballet jobs. For a while, nothing really happened. Then Mystic Ballet of Connecticut offered me a spot in their training program—right as I booked a private audition for Chris Brown’s BET Awards performance. I told myself if I didn’t book the Chris Brown job, I’d move to Connecticut and recommit to ballet. But I got the gig, and I took that as a sign. Since then, the commercial world has really opened up for me. I’ve realized this is my path.
Rutledge (right) with Reid Bartelme in Lar Lubovitch Dance Company's Elemental Brubeck (photo by Nan Melville, courtesy Lar Lubovitch Dance Company)
Laura Rutledge, former dancer with Lar Lubovitch Dance Company
I danced at Indianapolis Ballet Theatre, California Ballet Company, State Street Ballet and Ballet San Jose, and I thought ballet was my home. But when I was a member of Company C Contemporary Ballet, I was introduced to Lar Lubovitch’s choreography. From day one of rehearsal, I totally fell in love with the movement. I felt my whole body sigh. I decided to make the cross-country move to NYC to dance with the company.
It was a huge transition for me—no more pointe shoes, and I really had to learn to drop my weight. But all of Lar’s movement is based in the ballet vocabulary. You always have to find clarity in your lines. Honestly, I don’t think he would’ve hired me if it weren’t for my solid ballet foundation.
(Photo courtesy Jacob Guzman)
When Jacob Guzman takes the stage in the latest Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof this month, he’ll be among some pretty strong dancers. That’s because contemporary choreographer Hofesh Shechter, whose work has been performed by Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet and Nederlands Dans Theater, is reimagining the choreography. (Jerome Robbins set the musical’s original dance numbers in 1964.) But Guzman, a former comp kid who trained at The Gold School in Brockton, MA, isn’t a stranger to dancer-heavy ensembles: He made his Broadway debut in Newsies in 2012. Guzman also appeared in NBC’s “Peter Pan Live!” and has performed at Dancers Responding to AIDS’ Fire Island Dance Festival. Want to know more about Guzman? Read on for The Dirt. —JO
What’s one food you can’t live without?
What’s your favorite dance movie?
What’s the most-played song on your playlist?
"The Wilhelm Scream" by James Blake
What’s your most-watched TV show?
"Criminal Minds" on Netflix
Do you have any nicknames?
Jaob. I received fan mail at Newsies and the sender forgot the "c" in Jacob and it stuck.
What’s something you’re most proud of?
Making my Broadway debut with my win brother in Newsies
What’s your advice for young performers?
Always be yourself.
It's no secret we were pumped when we heard the official announcement: Ricky Ubeda is joining the cast of On the Town on Broadway. You may recall, we were so excited, we couldn't wait to see him in costume—so we got a little Photoshop-happy with the pictures from Ubeda's DS cover shoot...
LOL. (Original photo by Lucas Chilczuk for Dance Spirit)
Judging by Ubeda's Twitter, it seems like "America's Favorite Dancer" has fallen in love with life on Broadway. Plus, on Friday, Playbill released 43 glorious photos of the men of OTT at NYC's South Street Seaport, and Ricky looks right at home among these "hunky sailors." Here are a few of our favorites:
All photos by Monica Simoes for Playbill.
Looks kinda familiar, don't you think?
Not sure what's going on here, but we love it.
So perfect, right?! Click here to see the full gallery, and for even more Ricky-in-OTT action, check out this behind-the-scenes video from the shoot:
Fairchild in rehearsal for the "Miss Turnstiles" number in On the Town (photo by Monica Simes, via Playbill)
Back in June, we shared the exciting news that New York City Ballet principal Megan Fairchild will play Ivy Smith in the upcoming Broadway revival of On the Town. If you're not familiar with the show, New Yorker Ivy Smith is chosen to represent the NYC Subway for a month as "Miss Turnstiles" (smh at odd 1940s customs...). Ivy's picture on the subway comes into play later, when the show's protagonists—three sailors on a day off from the Navy—embark on a quest to find her.
Recently, Broadway.com shared a rehearsal video of the "Miss Turnstiles" routine. Watch it once, and you'll know exactly why the NYCB principal was chosen for the role. Much like the rest of the show, this number is packed with difficult choreography. Everything from crisp petit allegro to some seriously intense lifts, from an epic menage to about a bazillion fouettés, choreographer Joshua Bergasse did not go easy on her. And quite frankly, we're thrilled—because watching one of our favorite ballerinas completely nail an action-packed Broadway number makes us feel happy inside.
Check it out!
On the Town officially opens October 16, but preview performances have already begun at Lyric Theatre on Broadway. For tickets, click here.