In theatre, leading roles may get the final bow, but ensembles make the first impression. The ensemble (or chorus), particularly of a musical, are the scaffolding on which a production is built. Filled with triple threats—who are asked to do more and more as musical theatre evolves and creators add everything from skateboarding to gymnastics to playing your own instruments to their duties—theatre’s ensembles are home to some of the hardest working people in show business, tasked with creating the onstage world. That’s why our friends at The Ensemblist recognize four individuals who represent the creme de la creme. Last year’s winners—Kevin Worley, Gregory Haney, Kim Faure, and Denis Stowe—each named their pick for this year’s Fourth Annual Ensemblist Awards, created by Mo Brady and Nikka Graff Lanzarone of The Ensemblist podcast. Look out for these four actors who embody the ensemblist spirit:
Beth Johnson Nicely
Current Show: Chicago
Broadway Credits: Spamalot, White Christmas, Bullets Over Broadway, Something Rotten!
First ensemble: My high school’s production of Bye Bye Birdie! Professionally, the 1st National Tour of 42nd Street.
Your most memorable ensemble experience: My Broadway debut was Spamalot, and during bows, Tim Curry (who played King Arthur) stepped aside and moved me forward into his spot in the principal bowline. I’ll never forget that moment and how gracious he was to me.
Why you’re proud to be an ensemblist: The ensemble is the heart & soul of a show. Being in the ensemble is unselfish. You serve the show not for accolades for yourself but as a unit. It’s refreshing to see a group of people not serving themselves but serving the story. The ensemble works so hard for the love of art. There’s nothing I’m more honored to be a part of than giving 150 percent in an ensemble, even if I’m in the back corner upstage. That’s a true ensemblist.
Nominated by Kevin Worley: “First of all, her performance is ALWAYS 110 percent and always flawless!” says Worley. “Secondly, she may be the nicest and most positive person ever to grace a Broadway stage. Thirdly, she is the true embodiment of family, tribe, ensemble, pack, herd, whatever you want to call it. She organizes, she promotes, she participates, she brings goodies and she always says ‘yes.’ She is a JOY to work with!”
Current Show: Waitress
Broadway Credits: Tarzan, Hair, Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, The Book of Mormon, Violet
First ensemble: My first professional ensemble job was a Dynamite in Hairspray.
Your most memorable ensemble experience: Getting naked in Hair the musical or flying in Priscilla.
Why you’re proud to be an ensemblist: I’m proud because I am a part of a community of fabulous artists who love to tell stories!
Nominated by Gregory Haney: “The only way to describe Anastacia is exceptional,” says Haney. “She’s everything you want in a performer. Genuine, generous, smart, and captivating. I love her!”
Current Show: Hello, Dolly!
Broadway Credits: On The Town, Kiss Me, Kate, Into the Woods, Nine, Wonderful Town, Young Frankenstein, Anything Goes, Cinderella, On The 20th Century, Beautiful: the Carole King Musical
First ensemble: On The Town directed by George C. Wolfe.
Your most memorable ensemble experience: Kiss Me Kate stands out in my mind as an exceptional experience. The director, Michael Blakemore, really drove home the fact that the work of the ensemble is extremely important. I remember him saying that the world of the show is conveyed by the specificity of the ensemble. The deeper the work from the ensemble, the more rich the world of the show will be.
Why you’re proud to be an ensemblist: What is the quote from Angela Lansbury? “Have you ever been in the ensemble?” “No.” She said, “I’m not talented enough to be.” Something to that effect.
Nominated by Kim Faure: “Linda Mugleston is the unsung hero of Broadway, in my opinion,” says Faure. “She is the most gracious, professional, wise, and hilarious dressing roommate and ensemble member, and then transforms effortlessly into every major role she understudies with poise and confidence. I have had the honor of performing in two Broadway shows with Linda, and have looked up to her since the first day I walked into the Anything Goes dressing room.”
John Eric Parker
Current Show: The Book of Mormon
Broadway Credits: Rent, All Shook Up, Memphis
First ensemble: My first ensemble was when I was a senior at LaGuardia High School here in New York City. We did Marat/Sade. Initially, I was secretly mad that I hadn’t been cast in a role. I didn’t want to be in “the chorus.” When my professor Bill Britten got wind of it he said, “You’re not in the chorus, you're in the ensemble…there’s a difference.” I carry that with me today. Even when I’m in what looks like a “chorus” I work from the “ensemble” point of view. I’m nobody’s backdrop. Big or small, my contribution matters.
Your most memorable ensemble experience: I got a chance to see The Book of Mormon in London. Watching another cast do a show that I had a part in creating and seeing it live and breathe was thrilling. I saw all the work that we did here in New York City come to life somewhere else. That makes my current ensemble the most memorable.
Why you’re proud to be an ensemblist: I’m proud to know that what I do and how I do it can resonate and inspire other artists. You never know how you can change someone’s life by the work you do and how you move through the world.
Nominated by Dennis Stowe: “I choose him because he’s not only one of my oldest and dearest friends but also extremely talented, a consummate professional, and the epitome of grace when balancing life and career and someone who I strive to be more like,” says Stowe. “Absolutely deserving of this honor!”
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