In 1984, Cynthia Nixon became the stuff of Broadway trivia legend when she appeared in two non-repertory roles on Broadway at the same time. The actress would perform her role as Donna in the first scene of David Rabe’s Hurlyburly, then travel two blocks from the Barrymore to the Plymouth Theatre (now the Schoenfeld) for her scene as Debbie in Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing, both directed by Mike Nichols.
The path from the Rodgers to the Booth is one block shorter, and he’s not scheduled to perform at the latter every night, but it is possible that James Monroe Iglehart, Hamilton’s current Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson, will be repeating Nixon’s feat when he drops in occasionally to join the Freestyle Love Supreme ensemble. The schedules are somewhat staggered, and who needs a day off, anyway?
“If I’m not doing something, I get antsy,” says Iglehart, which is only part of the reason he’ll be dashing from one theatre to another some Sundays to pick up a mic with the recent Tony-winning hip-hop improv group. Freestyle Love Supreme was founded in 2004 by Anthony Veneziale, Thomas Kail, and Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Iglehart AKA J-Soul has been a usual suspect with the rotating ensemble—or the Freestyle Love family as Iglehart often refers to them—for the last 15 years. The group debuted on Broadway in October 2019, with Iglehart then also doing the same Hamilton/Freestyle Love Supreme double-duty.
But he’s not just juggling blocks on his schedule; he’s also working with a few different skills.
“With Hamilton, it really is about memorization and listening,” he says. A lot of the audience already knows the lyrics by heart, but they’ll get a different show than what they hear on the cast recording. Things will be said with different tones, inflections, or attacks. “It’s not just doing a concert...it’s about the ebb and flow of acting.”
Every performance of Freestyle Love Supreme is completely improvised. There is no script, but the group has a set of different games that they play using suggestions from the audience to fill in the scenarios. Those games are rehearsed, but the words are not. “We have to be ready for any scenario that comes up,” explains Iglehart. “It’s about our minds being open and our spirits being open to whatever comes in. If the scenario is that there is a talking lobster, then that’s what it is, and you have to go with it. There is no moment in your head when you go, ‘No, no, no, lobsters don’t talk.’ You go ‘Yes, lobsters talk.’ You open yourself up to the child that’s within you, like when you used to play make believe on the playground. It’s there if you believe it.”
He also admits that the ensemble kind of lives for performing without a net. “But like any good acrobat, we rehearse a lot to be able to do what we’re about to do.”
It’s not just the restlessness of inactivity that really drives him, though. “Honestly, I love performing. I love entertaining people,” he says. Iglehart insists that he does sometimes slow down and take a break—or rather, he credits his wife Dawn of almost 20 years for suggesting that he do so—but flip through the digital pages of Playbill.com and the Tony-winning performer’s name shows up a lot. Even during an 18-month shut down of the theatre industry, he kept himself busy with projects ranging from the newly released theme song for Apple TV+ animated Get Rolling With Otis to producing and directing a concert version of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas benefiting Lymphoma Research Foundation and The Actors Fund.
“I’m blessed to do what I want to do. And you never know when it’s going to end, so you want to do it as much as you can and have as much fun as you can,” he says.
But if you happen to see him cutting through the walkway from 46th Street to 45th, maybe don’t stop him to chat. He’s likely got someplace to be.