Are you a fan of all-things musical theater? Are you obsessed with listening to people talk about Broadway productions? Are you intrigued by just exactly what goes on behind the curtain?
DUH, of course you are. (That's my answer, too.)
Here's some good news: There's a podcast out there that's perfect for us. It's called The Ensemblist, and it 100 percent delivers on its tagline, "Broadway from the inside out." But the best part is that because it speaks to Broadway ensemble members about musical ensemble-y things, there. is. so. much. dance.
Mo Brady and Nikka Graff Lanzarone of The Ensemblist—the podcast with the cutest theme song ever (PC Kevin Thomas Garcia, courtesy Mo Brady)
A recent episode, "Ballet on Broadway," for example, talks to Sara Esty, a former Miami City Ballet soloist who's in An American in Paris; Christopher Vo, who toured with Lar Lubovitch Dance Company and now in The King and I; and Stephen Hanna, a former New York City Ballet principal who's in On the Town. There's another about the responsibilities of an associate choreographer, one about what it's like to be an understudy, one about dealing with split tracks—you get the picture. Each ep is jam-packed with info and advice for young performers. To find out more, I spoke with creators, hosts and Broadway vets Mo Brady and Nikka Graff Lanzarone.
Dance Spirit: When did you two meet and how did this start?
Mo Brady: We met around 2012. We have the same agents, so we first made contact at a Christmas party. But we actually became better friends through Twitter, tweeting to one another about sort of nerdy public radio and theater things. I had this idea for a podcast when I was in the Addams Family on Broadway. I was fascinated by the ensemble members I worked with. They were all incredibly talented and had great stories. Nikka and I have always looked up to ensemble members—we spent our childhoods tracking performers from one cast recording to the next, noting who was in which show. I was also interested in public radio, and as my idea grew, I just reached out to Nikka to see if she would be up for it—and she was!
Nikka Graff Lanzarone: I loved the idea immediately. After Mo approached me, I said, "Oh, of course—and here are 87 ideas that I didn't even know I had!"
Nikka Graff Lanzarone (center) as Velma Kelly in Chicago on Broadway (Photo: Jeremy Daniel)
DS: Why a podcast?
MB: The podcast felt like the right form. We often take an aspect of a Broadway ensemble that's very important but also very small, and show just how essential and exciting it is. And with a podcast, you can add in narration and help people see the larger context.
NGL: Plus, we can tell the same story from different angles. There are so many things in a show that go largely unknown. This is our way of saying here's what it really means to be working on Broadway.
DS: What do you want listeners to get out of The Ensemblist?
MB: For someone who's hungry to be a Broadway dancer, there's a lot of information out there already about auditioning and performing. But everything else that goes on behind the scenes is sort of a mystery. Like, what does it mean to be a swing? How do you learn all those tracks? How many tracks do you have to know? What is a track?! All these things are normal, but pretty special. We're trying to add to that conversation.
Hooked? Go check out The Ensemblist's website to learn more.