Double Duty: Bring It On and Motown's Ariana DeBose Talks About Performing Twice at Her First Tonys

By Michael Gioia
June 4, 2013

In the course of a single Broadway season, twentysomething actress Ariana DeBose made her Broadway debut in Bring It On: The Musical and scored her second credit with the hit-filled musical Motown. Her first season will culminate with a trip to the Tony Awards, where she will perform — twice.



"Two just seems to be my lucky number this year," DeBose told Playbill.com with a laugh, following the news that she would perform with the Tony-nominated Best Musical Bring It On as well as the high-grossing new musical Motown at her first Tony Awards June 9. The rising star, it should be noted, also recorded her first two original cast recordings.

"Okay, I'm getting a little sentimental," she confided. "When [the cast of Bring It On] came back [to New York City] off of tour from Canada, it was right around Tony time, and I went to Times Square, where they play the Tonys on the big JumboTron, and I stood there and watched everybody's acceptance speeches. I watched Audra McDonald win her Tony. I watched it happen. I watched the performances…and I [thought], 'I want to do that — so badly.' We knew we were coming to Broadway [with Bring It On], and I thought, 'One day, if I work really hard — if we all work really hard — maybe we'll all be there next year… Maybe.'"

DeBose and the cast of the high-flying musical Bring It On got their wish when the production, which featured music by Tom Kitt, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Amanda Green, received a 2013 Tony nomination for Best Musical.

"I didn't see the live nominations, but my jaw hit the floor when I read them on Playbill.com," said DeBose. "I was thrilled. For something to be closed… I mean, we had a good run, but we're clearly closed, and we still got a nomination, which I think is the Tony [committee's] way of acknowledging that…the show is good."

The 22-year-old actress, who made her Broadway debut last summer as Danielle's sassy sidekick Nautica in Bring It On, claimed that she was bit by the theatre bug when she landed the title role in an amateur production of Aida in North Carolina, her home state, although her love for the arts began with dance.

DeBose in Motown.
Photo by Joan Marcus
The "So You Think You Can Dance" alum trained at CC & Co. Dance Complex in Raleigh before attending Western Carolina University, where she met 2013 Pippin Tony nominee and teacher Terrence Mann, WCU's Carolyn Plemmons Phillips and Ben R. Phillips Distinguished Professor in Musical Theatre.

"Terrence Mann is nominated," continued DeBose, who admitted that — before she made her debut with Bring It On — she left WCU to "pound the pavement" and hit the non-Equity audition lines. "He has become a great mentor in my life. To be there and perform at the same Tonys where he is nominated and acknowledged for his work, I'm so proud of that."

Newcomer DeBose will not only perform with the Tony-nominated Bring It On, but will also sing with her fellow Supremes from Motown (although the production was not Tony-nominated for Best Musical), in which she plays Mary Wilson and understudies the role of Diana Ross, performed nightly by 2013 Tony nominee Valisia LeKae.

"It is overwhelming," confessed DeBose, who was brought in by the Motown creative team specifically for the track she created. "I mean, I honestly try not to think about it! But then you can't not think about it because it's so cool. I don't know many people who have had the experience I've had because everybody's path is different, but it's really just mind-boggling because I started out as just a dancer who did not sing… And then I ended up here so fast, and now I just [think], 'All I ever wanted, once I decided I wanted to work in theatre, was to be on Broadway, and I've now got that and then some.'"

"To the outside world and to a wide-eyed girl from Raleigh, North Carolina, the Tonys are the epitome of Broadway," added DeBose with a smile. "You feel like somebody when you get to go. It's really a dream come true, and I feel like Cinderella."

(Playbill.com staff writer Michael Gioia's work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com. Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.)

DeBose documented her Broadway debut with Playbill Video. Watch it here: