Each year Playbill and The Ensemblist present a snapshot of Broadway’s musical ensembles: How many actors are actually working in them, who comprises them, are we improving in terms of representation, are we improving in terms of employing more actors? As all ensemblists and thousands of theatre professionals are currently without employment, we want to celebrate those whose work was seen during the now-abbreviated 2019–2020 Broadway season.
The season kicked off May 27, 2019, and was put on pause March 12, 2020.
Represented in this count are musical productions still running in May 2019 that closed throughout this season: Kiss Me, Kate; My Fair Lady; The Prom; King Kong; Pretty Woman: The Musical; The Cher Show; Beautiful: The Carole King Musical; Waitress, Tootsie, and now Beetlejuice and Frozen.
Also included are the long-running shows—Aladdin; Chicago; Hamilton; The Lion King; Mean Girls; The Book of Mormon; The Phantom of the Opera; Wicked—as well as shows that opened as part of the 2018–2019 season that remained going strong—Ain’t Too Proud and Hadestown.
The State of The Ensemblist also included shows that opened or played at least one preview in 2019 or 2020 prior to the Broadway shutdown: Company; Diana; Girl From the North Country; Jagged Little Pill; Moulin Rouge!; Mrs. Doubtfire; Tina: The Tina Turner Musical; and West Side Story.
Based on data from the Playbill Vault and Actors’ Equity Association, 747 performers were employed under 859 ensemble contracts in 29 musicals in the 2019–2020 season. Unfortunately, this is down 13 percent from last year—but we must take into account shows that were unable to begin previews, such as Flying Over Sunset and Sing Street. Good news: 118 performers made their Broadway debuts in an ensemble this season. Broadway also managed to shrink the gap between male and female ensemblists. While the COVID-19 pandemic may have prevented as full a season as anticipated, 2019–2020 still brought extraordinary work to the stage.
See below for a full picture of the season that was.