5 Broadway Stars Reveal: What’s It Like to Perform in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade | Playbill

Holiday Coverage 5 Broadway Stars Reveal: What’s It Like to Perform in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Anastasia's Christy Altomare, SpongeBob's Ethan Slater, Dear Evan Hansen's Will Roland, and more share their memories.
Tom Turkey Joseph Marzullo/WENN

While turkeys roast and pumpkin pies bake on Thanksgiving Day, Broadway’s best are still hard at work because it’s the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. A time-honored tradition, select Broadway musicals perform on the stage in front of the Macy’s flagship store (typically in the 9AM hour on NBC, with additional taped performances broadcast on CBS). That means it’s early rising for Broadway talent who have to warm up vocally and physically to showcase their production in front of a national audience.


Shows do rehearse on an evening prior to Thursday morning to allow for camera blocking, so that the morning of, the broadcast team can capture the best moments up close, head-on, and in bird’s-eye shots. On the day of the parade, they gather at their respective Broadway theatres before being bussed to 34th Street where they rehearse on last time and try to keep warm. (Tune in November 22 to Playbill’s Instagram and Snap Chat for LIVE behind-the-parade coverage from Mean Girls and The Prom, both of which will perform.)

We asked five Broadway favorites to share their memories from Turkey Day morning at Macy’s:

Christy Altomare
Performed with: Anastasia in 2017

Christy Altomare and Derek Klena Eric Liebowitz/NBC

“Performing in the Thanksgiving Day Parade is magical! You really get to see firsthand how everything comes together so seamlessly with so many audience members/ cameras/ video screens/ security checkpoints/ and heating machines making it all happen! There was tons of energy and excitement, but when our song began I remember going into a zone. Suddenly, everything around me disappeared and I was transported back to St. Petersburg, Russia, home again, striving to let go and connect to the simplicity and honesty of the present moment.”

Ethan Slater
Performed with: SpongeBob SquarePants The Musical in 2017

Cast of SpongeBob SquarePants Eric Liebowitz/NBC

“Waking up pre-dawn is not something I generally look forward to. And yet, on Thanksgiving morning, I leapt out of bed ready to get myself to the theatre and then to Macy's. There is no feeling like stepping foot on the green concrete that is in and of itself a Thanksgiving legend, preparing to perform for families across the country. So many times I was on the other side of that television screen in awe of the performers; but this time, along with my newly found SpongeBob family, we would get to actually do the thing. And, very much in the spirit of the holiday, we would get to do it all together. Huddling for warmth. Giddy with excitement. Making jokes to calm our nerves. Overwhelmingly proud of our show, and thrilled to share it with the world.”

Will Roland
Performed with: Dear Evan Hansen in 2017
Upcoming: Broadway's Be More Chill

The cast of Dear Evan Hansen

“The Parade was such an insane and wonderful experience. We got to the theatre around 5AM, we were at Macy's rehearsing by 7AM, and the whole thing was over by 10AM, which is usually when I like to wake up! It was FREEZING, but also a ton of fun. Afterward I took off to have a regular Thanksgiving with my family, and watch it re-air while we stood around the kitchen.”

Ephraim Sykes
Performed with: Hairspray Live in 2016
Upcoming: Broadway’s Ain’t Too Proud

Ephraim Sykes Chris Haston/NBC

“Performing ‘at’ the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with Hairspray Live was an incredible experience...extra special because we weren’t even there!l [Laughs] We filmed it on the Universal Lot [in California], it was my first time being filmed by a drone that was flying around our heads as we were singing and dancing! Sounded like a swarm of bees that wouldn’t stop following us!”

Kenita R. Miller
Performed with: Once On This Island in 2017

Cast of Once on This Island Eric Liebowitz/NBC

“Performing in the Thanksgiving Parade is an absolute dream come true! Participating in the parade last year with Once On This Island marked was my second opportunity, and it was as exhilarating as the first. It’s something special to be a part of an event that brings all of the city together in absolute holiday cheer and magic!”

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