Broadway Vets Nikka Graff Lanzarone and Mo Brady Are Now Casting (Podcasting, That Is)
Mo Brady and Nikka Graff Lanzarone, the triple threats behind "The Ensemblist" (Matthew Murphy, courtesy Brady and Lanzarone)
What do you get when two Broadway veterans decide to make a podcast together? That'd be “The Ensemblist," which covers Great White Way trends, productions and insider secrets—all from ensemble members' perspectives. While each episode of “The Ensemblist" welcomes three different Broadway gypsies, the hosts, Nikka Graff Lanzarone and Mo Brady, really know what they're talking about: The accomplished triple threats are no stranger to Broadway ensembles themselves.
Thanks to Lanzarone and Brady's expertise, “The Ensemblist" has gained solid recognition since launching in the summer of 2013. Its 60-plus episodes have been downloaded more than 180,000 times, and the creators have even started a second series called “The Ensemblist Unedited," which airs extended interviews with guests from the main episodes.
Though Brady and Lanzarone still consider “The Ensemblist" a passion project (they don't earn money for it yet), they're excited by its growth. “We really enjoy having a creative outlet to share our love of theater and tell our friends' stories," Brady says. Read on to find out how the duo balance podcasting and performing.
Nikka and Mo Meet for Lunch
Originally from L.A., Lanzarone graduated with a BFA in musical theater from The Boston Conservatory. She moved to NYC shortly after, and starred in the original Broadway cast of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, as Marisa, and as Velma Kelly in the Ann Reinking–choreographed revival of Chicago. She met Brady in 2013. “We have the same agent, and we kept crossing paths," she says. “We started following each other on Twitter and discovered a common interest in NPR and podcasts."
At the time, Brady, who had recently finished a run in The Addams Family on Broadway and was dancing on NBC's “Smash," had an idea brewing. “There's so much press for the big Broadway stars," Brady remembers thinking. “But there are equally fascinating and talented people in the ensemble who never get any press." Brady felt a podcast could be the perfect medium. He thought Lanzarone—who shared his interest in podcasts—might be a great partner, and the two set up a lunch date to talk. Not long after, “The Ensemblist" was born.
Nikka and Mo Get to Work
Despite their enthusiasm, creating a podcast wasn't something either of them had much experience doing. But the duo started small. A little help from Google pointed them in the right direction—and they bought some recording software. Brady and Lanzarone conducted a few interviews with friends from the Broadway community over Skype, and then recorded their narration separately. “The Ensemblist" released an introductory podcast in June 2013, which was quickly followed by its first full-length episode, “Dance Partners," with six guests discussing choreography for duets in various shows like Cinderella, Movin' Out and Promises, Promises.
Lanzarone and Brady share most of the podcast-creation process—brainstorming topics, choosing and interviewing guests and writing episode scripts—but they've learned to split up the more technical duties. Lanzarone, for example, works as webmaster, making sure the episodes are accessible online, while Brady does most of the episode editing using Apple's GarageBand. They keep a staff of three interns who manage “The Ensemblist" website and social media channels and help edit and transcribe interviews. Sponsors, including Broadway Dance Center, the Drama Book Shop, Ripley-Grier Studios and Samuel French, have helped cover expenses to keep “The Ensemblist" up and running.
Nikka and Mo Balance It All
Balancing their performance careers with a labor-intensive side project can seem overwhelming at times. Lanzarone and Brady are often juggling auditions, readings and workshops with “The Ensemblist," but both hosts agree: The extra work pays off. “The podcast really keeps us engaged with the Broadway community," Brady says. “It doesn't feel like we do it instead of our performing careers. They each enhance the other."
Listen to “The Ensemblist" on their website (theensemblist.com), through the iTunes store, or on podcast platforms like Stitcher radio, TuneIn and Podbean.
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
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Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.
Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."
Maddie has an expressive face, endless extensions, and a quiet command of the stage. She dances with remarkable maturity—a trait noted by none other than Jennifer Lopez, one of the judges on NBC's "World of Dance," on which Maddie competed in Season 2. Although Maddie didn't take home the show's top prize, she was proud to be the youngest remaining soloist when she was eliminated, and saw the whole experience as an opportunity to grow. After all, she's just getting started. Oh, that's right—did we mention Maddie's only 14?