In the Heights’ Andréa Burns’ 5 Most Memorable Nights Onstage

Diva Talk   In the Heights’ Andréa Burns’ 5 Most Memorable Nights Onstage From an onstage injury to working with Nathan Lane, the On Your Feet! and In the Heights star details the standout moments of her theatrical career so far.
HR - Andrea Burns.JPG
Andréa Burns
Andréa Burns in <i>On Your Feet!</i>
Andréa Burns in On Your Feet! Matthew Murphy

Andréa Burns, who made her Broadway debut in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, was most recently seen bringing a magnetic charm to the role of Gloria Estefan’s mom, Gloria Fajardo, in the critically acclaimed new musical On Your Feet!, which continues to play Broadway’s Marquis Theatre. The fiercely talented singing actor also created the role of the outspoken Daniela in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning In the Heights, and her Broadway resume also boasts The Nance, The Ritz, and The Full Monty.

The gifted artist will bring her wonderful concert act to Playbill Travel’s Rhine River cruise in August, a star-studded adventure that will also feature the talents of Seth Rudetsky, Faith Prince, Terrence Mann, Charlotte d’Amboise, and Santino Fontana. (Playbill Travel is now also booking Broadway on the Danube River for November 2017, with celebrity guests to be announced.) Visit PlaybillTravel.com for booking and information.

I recently asked Burns to pen a list of her most memorable nights in the theatre; her responses follow.

Beauty and the Broken Foot

I was onstage being thoroughly enchanted by Lumière (the late Patrick Quinn) and the spoons, knives, and forks that were singing “Be Our Guest” all around me. As Belle, I participated in a charming cancan routine with all of the dancing napkins. That’s when my shoe caught a track, and I broke my foot. Right in the middle of the number. I knew something was wrong, so when it was time for Lumière to grab my hands and spin me very fast, I tried to ask him to go slower, because I thought I might be injured. He misunderstood me and said, “Faster?!” and spun me with all his might. I braced myself and kept smiling all the way through that kick line at the end. Somehow I finished the act. When I was taken to the emergency room on crutches during intermission, Pat was pretty mortified, but we had a good laugh about it.

Sunday in the Museum with Seurat
This moment wasn’t necessarily on a formal stage, but during my run as Dot in Gary Griffin’s landmark production of Sunday in the Park With George at Chicago Shakespeare, Robert Petkoff (George) and I were asked to sing “Color and Light” at a private event at the Chicago Art Institute.  It was evening. The museum was closed to the public, and a special reception for donors took place in the room where Seurat’s masterpiece, “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” hangs in all its resplendent glory.  We sang “Color and Light,” and then I sang “Children and Art,” in front of the actual painting! The spirit of Seurat and all of the muses of his canvas seemed to be present. Actors and audience were in a communal state of awe while it was happening, knowing the moment was larger than any of us. 

The Nance: A Burlesque

Acting in a play for Lincoln Center with Nathan Lane felt exciting and right.  However, performing the burlesque stripteases required of my character was definitely outside of the box for me. The brilliant Ann Hould-Ward was wonderful in helping me bring my sense of humor to these with her costume design. Regardless, the first time I “stripped” in a Broadway house, I was terrified, even though I could hear the audience was enjoying the number. When I came offstage, though, I was still shaking  (this time not my booty, just internally shaking).  And, then I got that feeling a kid has after going on a scary rollercoaster. My heart said, “That was crazy! Can we do it again?” By the end what was scary had become liberating, and I had a ball!

In the Heights Closing Night

We’d spent most of the weekend fighting tears, but for this final performance, we were ready to just savor every moment of our last night in the barrio. The audience broke into entrance applause for every character and then just didn’t stop. Phones lit up during the blackout, the flags flew during “Carnaval.” That night was just a passionate love affair between audience and company. They screamed, and we just gave them everything we had. 

The Old Red Hills of Home
We opened the national tour of Parade in Atlanta. Alfred Uhry, an Atlanta native, took us to see Mary Phagan’s grave (still adorned with fresh flowers and stuffed animals in remembrance). David Pittu (our Leo Frank) had been affectionately referred to as a “Yankee Jew“ in this old-timey restaurant we’d attended the day before. The Mary Phagan murder still seemed so personal to the town that David not so humorously joked, “I hope someone doesn’t shoot us during the curtain call.” When the performance was over, the audience was silent for a moment, David and I squeezed hands, a bit terrified. The audience rose to its feet and burst into applause. We just stood there, stunned and relieved.

Senior editor Andrew Gans is also the author of the monthly Their Favorite Things column.

LOVE BROADWAY? CHECK OUT THE NEW ARRIVALS AT THE PLAYBILL STORE!

Recommended Reading: