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Q&A

In the Beginning: Broadway Stars Reveal First Crush, First Kiss, First Job & More

01.15.20

BY: ELIZABETH DURAND STREISAND /ILLUSTRATION BY: SAMIA FAKIH

January is a time for firsts: first workout, first detox, first breaking of your resolutions. To kick off the new decade right, we caught up with six of Broadway’s brightest to hear about some of their most memorable firsts. From starring roles to survival jobs to crushes, these triple-threats will inspire you to hit the ground running in 2020 and beyond.

Adam Dannheisser, Beetlejuice

Adam Dannheisser, the Obie Award-winner who plays Charles in Beetlejuice, got his first role at an early age – with a part invented just for him! “When I was five years old, I was given the (made up) role of the Bagel Man in a camp production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolored Dreamcoat,” he recalled. “I got my line out with force and gusto. “Bagels! Bagels! Hot, delicious bagels!” I was hooked for life. On theater and bagels.”

Later in life, Dannheisser moved on from bagels to drinks when he got his first survival job as a bartender at the phenomenally named midtown watering hole, Arriba! Arriba! “I had no idea how to bartend,” he admitted, noting that he left the gig when he took out a “huge student loan” so he could focus on acting exclusively. “But I can make a mean margarita to this day,” he added.

Jessie Mueller, The Minutes

Tony winner Jessie Mueller, who stars in Tracy Letts’ new play The Minutes, remembers her first on-stage kiss well. “I think it was in high-school. We did a production of A Streetcar Named Desire. Age-appropriate, no?” she joked. “I was Stella and I had to kiss my Stanley. I think the lights started to dim pretty much right as it happened.”

But that moment paled in comparison to her first crush, which was none other than Bono. “I used to sit in my room and sing “With or Without You” along with him and think, ‘I know, Bono, I know your pain. I know you’re singing about me. Don’t worry, I’m thinking about you too.’”

Nadia Brown, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Nadia Brown, whose first Broadway role is the role she currently plays – Rose Granger-Weasley in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – made her theatrical debut with a family member by her side. “In kindergarten we devised a piece about deforestation and how that affects animals. I played a bumble bee,” she revealed. “Fun fact: I nominated my father to play the part of the lumberjack who was cutting down all of the trees in our forest, so my dad and I made our acting debuts together. He also retired from acting that day to continue to pursue being a medical doctor.”

Becky Gulsvig, Come From Away

Before your first Broadway role comes your first Broadway survival job – just ask Come From Away’s Becky Gulsvig. “I waited tables at Sam’s Restaurant on 45th (now gone) and JR’s on 46th (also gone) for just under a year,” she recalled. “I remember waiting on Matthew Broderick and I got super excited (‘Oh, it’s YOU!’ just burst out of my mouth!) and then I was super embarrassed and turned bright red. So lame!”

When she did land her first Broadway role, it wasn’t exactly the way she’d imagined. I was surprised that people could be ‘over’ being on Broadway. I was so excited to get there and it was a shock to hear people complain about their jobs.” Gulsvig took that experience to heart. “The biggest lesson I learned for next time: I learned it’s important to find the sunshine and joy in your own way and not to rain on anybody else’s parade!”

Caitlin Houlahan, Girl From the North Country

Caitlin Houlahan, who hits Broadway this season in Girl From the North Country, explained her first on-stage kiss was something … well, it was something. “I was a swing in my college’s production of Titanic. I was thrown on during a rehearsal and got to make out with a super-handsome upperclassmen. He’s still has no idea it was my first onstage kiss,” she explained. “I was sweating profusely and I was most definitely horrible.”

Aneesa Folds, Freestyle Love Supreme

Aneesa Folds, a graduate of the Freestyle Love Supreme Academy (which runs all year) who now performs with the show on Broadway (until it shutters on January 12), almost didn’t get on stage for the first time at all. “My first ever role was Bloody Mary in South Pacific,” she shared. “I was in the sixth grade and a super shy kid at this time with crippling social anxiety. I found out that another girl in my class wanted to play the part of Bloody Mary so I told my music teacher to give the role to her instead. My music teacher realized what was happening and that I was scared out of my mind. She proceeded to tell me to shut up and suck it up. Wouldn’t be where I am today without her.” So just in case you needed a reminder that teachers are the bomb, you got one.

You know who else is the bomb? Folds’ first crush. “This is embarrassing, but … Lil Bow Wow,” she laughed before adding, “My taste has evolved.”

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