It's been a banner year for actor Jenn Colella, who plays several roles, including airline pilot Beverley, in the award-winning new musical Come From Away at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. The big-voiced Colella, who has previously impressed Broadway audiences in productions of Urban Cowboy, High Fidelity, Chaplin, and If/Then, was nominated for a 2017 Tony Award for her work in the new musical and also won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance. Here, the multi-talented artist shares the Broadway performances that have most affected her as an audience member.
Lisa Vroman as Christine Daae in The Phantom of the Opera
This was my very first Broadway show. Lisa Vroman was a pal of a pal, and she agreed to let me chill in her dressing room and observe her getting ready before the show. I was in the front mezzanine, and I nearly fell over because I wanted to be as close to her and her delicious voice as possible.
I mean, Audra in anything, am I right? I found this entire production to be absolutely stunning. The moment when she first cried, “Old maid?!” is seared into my memory forever. In that one line, she aptly and authentically delivered sheer anguish, disgust, fear, and defiance. I bow down.
I remember feeling like I was watching a master class in musical theatre acting. LaChanze's ability to seamlessly grow and shift as Celie got older was mesmerizing. When I learned I was playing her wife, Anne, in If/Then, I had to pinch myself several times a day.
I remember sitting in the third row for the invited dress and having my mind blown by this entire production. When Ms. Chenoweth launched into “Popular,” I giggled with glee and squealed like a child. I remember thinking, “Now here's a performer who knows who she is and celebrates her uniqueness.” Also… She. Is. So. Damn. Funny.
Amy Morton as Barbara Fordham in August: Osage County
At the end of Act 2, Amy Morton screamed with the fury of 1,000 women, “I AM RUNNING THINGS NOW!” and the original mic drop was born. I'll never be the same.
I saw this performance with my buddy Beth Malone. At the curtain call, we were both crying. When Chita took her bow, I yelled, “BRAVA!” and she reached up with her hand, seemingly grabbed my accolade out of the air and held it in a fist above her head. Beth turned to me and said, “Did you see that? She just caught your ’BRAVA.’” When asked how she can do a show over and over again and keep it fresh, this legendary gem said, “It's never the same. If you're bored, then you're boring.” She is equal parts grace and strength, and she makes me swoon.
Beth Malone as Big Alison in Fun Home
Beth and I attended grad school together and became fast friends. I have admired (and stolen from) her since I first laid eyes on her. To me, she was the glue that made Fun Home so extraordinary. Her heartbreaking performance of “Telephone Wire” left me breathless and immeasurably proud.
Marin Ireland as Steph in reasons to be pretty
So, I'm realizing now that my list consists of all women, most of whom are my friends. All I can say is, sorry/not sorry, and you're welcome. Marin Ireland is the Meryl Streep of our generation. I had the good fortune to share the stage with her in The Beebo Brinker Chronicles Off-Broadway and I became an instant fan. In reasons to be pretty, lights came up on her firing on all four cylinders, and she never once let that fire die. She is raw, captivating, authentic, diverse, unapologetic, and brave as hell.
That voice, that voice, that voice. I just want to wrap Kelli O'Hara's voice around me and roll around in it. This was perhaps the finest ingenue performance of all time. She combined innocence and strength in a way that has yet to be matched. It's worth noting that Kelli is also one of the funniest and kindest women I've ever known and, ahem, I'm madly in love with her.
Idina Menzel as Elizabeth in If/Then
I had the distinct privilege of singing and playing with this beautiful creature eight times a week for over a year. Her work ethic is incredible, her musicianship is unparalleled, and her ability to fully live in the present moment are all qualities I deeply respect and admire. She is warm, generous, and funny onstage and off, and I would follow her to the ends of the earth.