First experience with Hal Prince's material: This audition was the first time I had ever listened to She Loves Me, and I'm singing "Will He Like Me?" in the show, and I [thought], "This is an interesting song." And, everyone has come up to me — cast members have been like, "That was my first audition song" or, "I love that song. It means so much to me," and I'm like, "Oh! I never even listened to the show before." Of course I know Company. I know random pieces of his work, but honestly — this sounds terrible — sometimes if there's not a role for me, I'm like, "Oh, no. I'm good on it." And, I never thought Amalia would be a black woman. I just never thought that, and now I'm getting to do it. I get to do this different side of me that isn't always represented in theatre or television or film, so I feel really excited to be able to dabble.
What she's singing in the show: I get to sing "Cabaret," which I've literally been singing since I was 14. I've always wanted to be the first black Sally Bowles, so this is like a dream. And, I get to sing "Another Hundred People," which is one of the best songs in the canon, and "Can't Help Lovin'…," so it's very exciting. And then I'm working with Jason Robert Brown, so the high-school kid in me is freaking out!
Getting lucky: I had my debut when I was 24 with Ragtime, the revival. Now, we may have only run a minute, but it was totally by chance that I even got that. I was working at a small theatre in West Virginia, and a friend of mine said, "We've got to go. There's an open call for Ragtime in DC." Complete luck that that even worked out and that it got moved here. All of these opportunities that I've been able to have… I've always been able to work with legends for some reason. Porgy and Bess was like a dream come true. After Midnight, with all the stars coming in… It was lessons, not just on what to do onstage, but how to carry yourself in life [and] how to be a star without the ego. It was like all these amazing lessons, and I'm honestly very lucky to be here. I've never had to wait on tables, which is crazy, so I just feel very blessed. I don't call it luck; I call it blessed.
What she's singing in the show: I get to do "Ladies Who Lunch" from Company and "Send in the Clowns" from A Little Night Music and "Now You Know" from Merrily We Roll Along, so that's just sort of an idea of the kind of stuff that's in here. It's a knockout show. It really is, and even if I wasn't in this show, I'd be like, "I want to see that show!"
First experience with Hal Prince's material: I think it was Sweeney Todd when I was about eight years old. I remember it blowing my mind and haunting me — having dreams about it afterwards. That whistle — that creepy whistle! [Laughs.]
Getting lucky: Yes, it's talent. Yes, it's: you're working hard, but it's also about being in the right place at the right time, being in the right rooms with the right people, who can see that you're smart and talented. It's all that stuff. I think when [Hal Prince] talks about luck — yes, he was very lucky, but he was also smart enough to surround himself with incredibly smart people if you look at Hal's career. You start with George Abbott, and he ended up hooking up with Sheldon Harnick — [Jerry] Bock and Harnick, and [John] Kander and [Fred] Ebb and [Stephen] Sondheim. He was a very, very smart person who worked hard, and then the luck was on top of that, I think.
Jason Robert Brown
First experience with Hal Prince's material: The second show I saw on Broadway was the revival of West Side Story, but by then, I had seen Fiddler on the Roof on TV 200 times, and I had seen West Side Story on TV 100 times, and my parents played Company in the car. They played the cassette. An even weirder story — here's one that doesn't involve me — but the first Broadway show I saw was The Wiz, and famously Hal was called in for the out-of-town tryout because they were in trouble, and Hal went and saw the out-of-town tryout, and he looked at them and said, "You don't need me! This show's great!" And, they didn't touch it and left it as-was, and it became an enormous hit because Hal didn't do it. He had the sense to look at it and say, "This doesn't need me." There's no element of the theatre, especially with theatre that I grew up on, that Hal didn't touch upon in some way.
Getting lucky: Luck, for me, is that I walked into a piano bar one night, and [there was] a girl… We had this really great conversation about the kind of work that musical theatre wanted to be and all of that, and she was working with a cabaret group, and I ended up playing piano for them. Her name was Daisy Prince, and Daisy and I started working together, and Daisy happens to be Hal's daughter. Because I had been working with Daisy, Hal would pop around every now and then and say, "What kind of stuff are you doing? What's all that going on?" So that's how Hal and I ended up meeting and working on Parade together. There's a lot of luck just in which piano bar I happened to walk into that night.
First experience with Hal Prince's material: The first thing I ever saw that he did was Phantom of the Opera. I saw the tour of it when I was a kid. I was probably 13, 14, 15 — somewhere in that range. I saw Phantom of the Opera, the tour, [and] I was watching André and [Firmin] — the theatre owners — and even at that early age, I was like, "That's who I want to be. I want to be the character parts." And, I wanted to meet the guy. I look in the Playbill. The guy's name was David Cryer, who was playing the theatre owner that I liked the most, and I wanted to meet him after the show, and he didn't come out the stage door, so I never got to meet him. Flash forward like 15 years, I had moved to New York. I had been here for a couple years, a friend of mine came into town and said, "I want to see Phantom of the Opera." I was like, "Okay, we'll go see Phantom." David Cryer was playing the same part, but now on Broadway — all those years later — and I was like, "This is like fate. He was the guy I wanted to be when I was young." I think he left the show now, but I never got to meet him! I felt stupid for stage-dooring Phantom… So I didn't do it, but I should have!
What he's singing in the show: I do the Emcee in Cabaret. I do George in She Loves Me. I do Molina in Kiss of the Spider Woman, and I do Hero in Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Those are my big numbers, and then of course, we're all supplying the subsidiary support when necessary.
Getting lucky: Luck has been, ironically, not a huge part of my life. Just the opposite of it. I understand what Hal means when he talks about it and what the show means when it talks about it. It is really either being at the right place at the right time or the wrong place at the wrong time. So much of becoming a well-known actor or director is about the right material crossing your path at the right time. Your particular instincts on a role, or your particular instincts as a director — the way it lines up with a particular show is kind of that weird "X Factor" that no one can quite pinpoint. That's the luck. That's what he means by that, but I think he also shortchanges himself… Luck is required to kind of spark some things in this business a lot of the time, but then talent is what keeps you there. You start making your own luck, you start forging your own connections and making it happen.
First experience with Hal Prince's material: Well, for me, I couldn't really pinpoint where I started listening to music that he was involved with… I mean, Phantom was the first time I had worked with him, but as a musical theatre girl growing up…you are raised on stuff that he has a hand in. Some of it you don't even realize he did, like the Show Boat revival. I mean, it's really incredible when you think of all of the things he has taken part in. This show — I find it to be a new celebration of all of those works.
What she's singing in the show: I'm doing West Side Story with Ramin. We're doing the balcony scene, and then we're doing "Music of the Night" together as well. I come out, and I sing "Wishing [You Were Somehow Here Again." I'm doing "Lovely" from Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum with Josh Grisetti. Obviously, Show Boat with Bryonha, who is fantastic… Ridiculous! The amount of talent — unfathomable. I'm obsessed with her.
Getting lucky: If you would have told me a year ago that I would be here, I would be like, "No way." I firmly believe that luck plays a huge, huge portion of how I got here because I was starting my junior year of school [at Point Park University] when they pulled me out to do Phantom. I was a musical theatre major there, and just by luck and by happenstance — being at the right place at the right time — I got the audition for Phantom. And, by luck I met Hal. Because of that luck, I'm here, and I get to perform with all of these incredible people and meet so many of these legends.
First experience with Hal Prince's material: I think the first musical I ever saw was Phantom of the Opera — a tour of Phantom of the Opera in Miami. And then I'm familiar with Sweeney and all of the shows he's produced… West Side [Story] and everything.
What she's singing in the show: I get to play Eva Peron. There's an Evita sequence, so I do "Buenos Aires" and "Don't Cry for Me Argentina." And then I'm a part of the Company sequence and Follies. There are a lot of ensemble pieces as well that we're all a part of.
Getting lucky: I wasn't exposed to musical theatre at all growing up. I come from a Latin background, and musical theatre is very much an American art form, so I think the luckiest moment of my life was somebody playing the Rent cast recording for me and me being like, "Wow. That's really cool." And, that's kind of how it all started. Had it not been for that, I don't think I'd ever been here.
First experience with Hal Prince's material: Phantom changed my life when I first saw it — just that one show, let alone all these great hits that were part of the DNA of music theatre here in New York City, which then obviously went around the world. To be here, in the heart of it all [is] amazing.
What he's singing in the show: Well, I get to revisit Phantom; Tony from West Side Story — slightly too old, but I'll shave… You hear those opening chords of West Side Story, it's just beautiful. I love doing [It's A Bird... It's A Plane... It's] Superman; that's a lot of fun. I love being part of the Follies section — there are some great people in that. Tony Yazbeck, when he does "The Right Girl" — I wish you guys could see that. I think it's almost ten minutes long, and it's just a one-man tour de force. [I'm singing "Being Alive" from] Company. I love doing Bobby. That's a role I would love to play, so I love being part of the ensemble stuff with everyone. We all bring to life all of these little characters… I'm just having a blast.
Getting lucky: Luck for me was meeting a bona fide agent, not knowing — just through singing for someone at someone's house, and he was like, "I know an agent." Brings him over next week, he liked what I did, and my luck was that he was the real deal. He didn't offer me the world, other than, "I like what you do, and I'd like to try and represent you." He didn't say, "I'll make you a star" — anything like that — but he did. He backed up, he made the phone calls to try and get me auditions and helped build my career, so that was my luck.
What he's singing in the show: I get to do Tevye: "If I Were a Rich Man." I do Sweeney Todd. I'm in Follies, Company… I'm in Evita. Not only do we get our big show numbers, but we're in the ensembles of other numbers, so it's all these shows that honestly I wasn't familiar with, but they're just fantastic.
Getting lucky: I was doing Phantom of the Opera in Germany, and I found out about the National Theatre doing a production of Oklahoma!, and my wife is British, so knowing those variables, I made sure I was over in London and knew Jud Fry, and got into see [director] Trevor Nunn, and that was one of my big breaks — doing Jud Fry in that production. There are a lot of elements involved [with luck]. It's about pursuing it, but knowing not to give up, but to make yourself available for those times when everything aligns. I think that's what Hal's talking about.
First experience with Hal Prince's material: I think it was West Side Story. I was obsessed with West Side Story as a kid, and I still am. It's my favorite show of all time. No wonder he was a part of it because he's connected to so many emotionally deep, though-provoking, heightened musicals. That one, as a song-and-dance man, was what I connected to so much as a kid, as a dancer growing up, so to have all of these works represented — and to have the man, himself, in the room every single day putting his stamp on it — is really exciting for me.
Getting lucky: It's funny. He says luck. Sometimes it is luck, and sometimes it's just being in the right place at the right time, which I guess can be luck. A lot of my jobs over the last couple of years have been that way. I mean, if you look at On the Town and how that happened — John Rando gave me a call and said, "Do you want to do a show in the Berkshires? It's On the Town again." And, I just said, "Yeah, I'd love to work with you." Nobody ever thought that would go to Broadway, but it did somehow, and then the Tonys came around, I was like, "Yeah, right," and when they gave me a nomination, that was just crazy. You could call that luck, I guess, but sometimes, out of nothing, a birthing of a show happens, and you get to be a part of it, and people get to see your light shine a little bit, and that's pretty lucky because this business is really hard for all of us, so to have the opportunity like that is incredible. To be able to work with him, I'd say that's pretty lucky as well because I never knew that would happen.
First experience with Hal Prince's material: Well, of course, the ones he produced like Damn Yankees and Fiddler and She Loves Me, but I think the one that I really loved the most was A Little Night Music. I was quite moved by that because it was about a seasoned romance and the different characters, and I love the three-quarter-time music of Sondheim. The one that was like, "Wow. What is this?" was of course Sweeney Todd. I thought, "This is incredible." I remember being quite impressed and floored about the staging of Evita when I saw it. I couldn't believe what he had created onstage, so I've had many times in my life where I saw a Hal Prince show and went, "Whoa!"
Getting lucky: Well, [my] luck is really Hal Prince, to be quite honest, because the opening number is called "All I Need is One Good Break," which is written by Kander and Ebb; it's from Flora the Red Menace. And, one of the first jobs I got as a choreographer was an Off-Broadway [production] of Flora the Red Menace that Hal Prince came to see. Right after he saw it, he called me, so that was a really lucky break for me. So, for all of us in the theatre, too, that song "All I Need is One Good Break" really resonates with all of us. You just have to be prepared for that break when it happens to you.
Getting lucky: Dancers don't get an opportunity like this to be choreographed by Susan Stroman… And, Susan Stroman is also a director, so Susan understands the acting… When luck comes to you, you have to grasp it like Hal did.