I don't know about you, but we're feeling 22!

Happy 22nd Anniversary Chicago the Musical!

On November 14, 1996 the Chicago revival opened on Broadway and here we are in 2018, 22 years later, still going strong! We are playing to sold houses 8 times a week, thanks to our incredible cast, musicians and crew. What a team! I am forever grateful to be a small part of this legacy.

Check out our special 22nd anniversary video:

Broadway in Bryant Park

When I first moved to New York City, I remember finding out that every summer Bryant Park offers free concerts of Broadway shows and I just HAD to be there as often as I could.  For a struggling actor it was a gift from above to see Broadway stars without paying a dime.  This past week I got to be a part of the first Broadway in Bryant Park of 2018!  And the cherry on top was that I got to perform the role of Roxie Hart!  It was a full circle moment to know that there might be a struggling actor out in the audience who was watching me live my dream up on that stage and is inspired to keep working and striving and dreaming no matter what.  I am so thankful for where I am right now.  These highs allow me to look back on all the rejections, self-deprecating times, tearful phone calls to my mom, and career choice questioning.  I am on the right path.  It hasn't been easy, but hard work pays off!

Watch highlights of our performance here: 

https://www.broadwayworld.com/videoplay/BWW-TV-CHICAGO-Paints-the-Town-at-Broadway-in-Bryant-Park-20180714

Don't quit your daydreams!

Inside Broadway

Inside Broadway is an nonprofit organization that works with New York City public schools to enrich their students lives through musical theatre. On June 12th, I had the privilege of getting to perform some of "Chicago" for two sold out houses of students.  Some of these students have never had the opportunity to sit in a theater like the Ambassador Theater, much less see Broadway performers do what they love to do.  It was an experience I will never forget.  Singing and dancing for them and feeling their love and joy was so special.  Even after the show, coming out of the stage door they made me feel like a super star. "There she is!" "I love you. I'll miss you!" Followed by screams of excitement!  I love giving back to the community. Who knows, maybe we could have inspired one student in the audience to pursue a carer in musical theater and they could be the next big Broadway star!!

 

Roxie Hart

Being an understudy is hard work!  You must be able to perform a leading role at the flip of a hat. Sometimes even switching tracks in the middle of a show! I thrive on that pressure and thrill.  The shortest amount of notice I have received is one hour before curtain!  But other times it is pre-planned because of a Personal Day or vacation, which allows for friends and family to come and support me.  Getting to watch so many different Roxies perform every night helps shape my performance when I get to go on.  It will never be exactly what I want it to be because I never get to settle into the role, but there is excitement in flying by the seat of my pants and being in the moment and trusting that I know what to do and that my scene partners will be there with me.  

"Chicago" Turns 21!

We're finally legal! Yay!  Chicago opened on Broadway November 14, 1996 at the Richard Rogers Theater and here we are 3 theaters and 21 years later still going strong, 8 times a week on Broadway.  We had a little birthday party and it was fantastic! 

The Name on Everybody's Lips is Gonna Be....

....Jessica Ernest!

On Monday, October 16th, I made my Roxie Hart understudy debut.  It was an incredible night, surrounded by people I love, getting to perform a principle role on Broadway!  What a rush!  Honestly, I don't remember a lot of what happened that night, but I am proud of myself for being able to perform with 3 days notice.  Getting to play Roxie Hart was really a dream come true.  I love this show so much and getting to see it from a different perspective made me truly appreciate my cast mates and the show that we are putting on 8 times a week.  I know that next time I get to go on will be even better!

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Broadway in Bryant Park

Last week, I got to perform at Broadway in Bryant Park with "Chicago".  It is a weekly concert series held during the summer here in NYC at Bryant Park that showcases different Broadway shows each week.  We performed alongside "Miss Saigon" and "The Great Comet of 1812". I met Tony-nominee Eva Noblezada, who plays Kim in "Miss aiagon", and she was so sweet. I was fan-girling!! I love doing press and getting out to meet the fans and other Broadway performers!  We performed a few numbers from "Chicago" to a huge crowd.  If you are ever in NYC during the summer, make sure you check it out!

Broadway.com Interview

I am still pinching myself!  Broadway.com reached out about doing an interview with me about making my Broadway Debut in "Chicago" and what life is like being in the longest running American musical.  I am thrilled with the way the segment came out.  Take a look and let me know what you think!

Interview with Dance Informa

Here is an interview I did with Mary Callahan for Dance Informa Magazine about making my Broadway debut.  I am so pleased with how well it turned out! Enjoy!

Imagine: One week you spend your Friday night babysitting for a little extra cash to pay for dance class, and less than a week later you’re making your Broadway debut in one of the most legendary dance musicals of all time. Sounds like a dream, right? Well, that dream came true for Jessica Ernest, who recently landed the role of Go-To-Hell Kitty in Broadway’s longest running American musical, Chicago. From babysitter to Broadway performer, Ernest’s life changed almost overnight. Her exceptional story is every dancer’s dream: that with passion, hard work and a little luck, the Great White Way is not so out of reach. In the midst of her magical first week of performances on Broadway, Ernest shared her exciting journey with Dance Informa.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from, and how did you begin dancing and performing? What brought you to NYC, and what have you been up to (before Chicago)?

“I am from a small town in southern Maine. I would bring home all the sheets from school about extracurricular activities to participate in. My mom wanted me to play basketball; I wanted to do ballet — nothing but ballet! So I started taking ballet lessons, and eventually that lead to school plays, private voice lessons, jazz class, community theater shows, and I was hooked for life. All that led me to get my BFA in Musical Theatre at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA.

Up until now, I’ve been a singer on a cruise ship, a showgirl in Las Vegas and a performer at a bunch of regional theatres in Maine, California, Florida and Montana. Last year, I traveled around the country as Ulla in the national tour of The Producers.”

How did you prepare for the Chicago audition? Did you think it went well?

“I didn’t have much time to prepare because it was a ‘last-minute replacement’ audition. But I felt really great about the audition after I left. I had just returned to the city after a refreshing weekend at home in Maine with my family, and that always has a way of grounding me. But I am so used to rejection in this career, that I have started to try my hardest to leave everything in the audition room. There are no answers in this business; the majority of our time is spent waiting and wondering. So, I made sure I left feeling like I did my absolute best.”

Where were you when you got ‘the call’?

“I was in my apartment with my boyfriend and my roommate. It was late afternoon the day after the audition, and I was just enjoying my lazy morning when I got a call from an unknown number. I don’t normally answer phone numbers I don’t know, but I answered anyway. And it was one of the best calls of my life! It reconfirmed that everything I’ve been working toward wasn’t a waste. That I was on the right path, and that persistence and perseverance is key. Of course, when I got off the call, I threw myself on the bed and cried tears of joy and relief! Then I called my mom.”

What role do you play/cover in the show?

“I play Go-To-Hell Kitty, and I understudy the five ‘Cell Block Tango’ girls.”

How did rehearsals work? How long did you have to rehearse?  Was it nerve-wrecking to be thrown into a production where some cast members have been performing it for many months or years?

“Rehearsals were amazing. David Bushman, our dance captain, made rehearsals fun and informative. He knows the Fosse style so well and was able to impart all his knowledge on to me. I feel so lucky to have been trained by his extremely capable hands. I had only seven rehearsals and one day of rehearsal with the cast before performing on that Broadway stage. It was a complete whirlwind. But like someone said to me, ‘You’ve trained all your life for this moment. Just go and do it!’ And when the lights came on Thursday, April 13, I was ready.”

Fosse choreography is deceiving. It looks so simple but is incredibly detailed and stylized.  What’s it like to perform this choreography every night?

“It’s hard work! Watching it, the performers make it look so fluid and easy, but doing it correctly requires strength and an internal fire. And that isn’t easy! I have gained muscles in places I didn’t even know I could have! But feeling the energy that the whole cast brings on stage makes all the difference and makes the impossible feel possible.”

How did the cast treat you when you joined the Chicago family as the newbie?

“My cast is incredible! They have made me feel so welcome and a complete part of the company. I had my parents and some very close friends in the audience for my debut, who also made me feel so special. My dressing room station was flooded with flowers and treats. I felt like a star!”

What was the hardest or most challenging part of this process?

“I think it would be the process. In all the shows I have done in the past, I have been a part of the show since the first rehearsal (on to fittings, tech and then finally opening). But this show was different. The first time I ran the show with lights, costumes, wig, microphone and full cast was for a paying audience and was my Broadway debut! It was challenging but so worth it!”

What was the best moment of making your Broadway debut?

“Coming out of the stage door and seeing all these people who have helped shape me and my career was one of the most amazing feelings. I am so grateful for what I get to do every night.”

How does it feel to be a part of such an iconic dance show — and the longest running American musical at that?

“It’s amazing. Knowing that this show has been running for 20 years and that I am now a tiny part of this incredible masterpiece gives me a whole new family. I am so looking forward to meeting all the people who come into the show in the future and knowing that I am connected to such a legacy.”

Before making your Broadway debut, you led the life of a gypsy — performing professionally (regionally, on tour and in NYC), dancing and modeling at special events and babysitting. Your life changed almost overnight. Are you pinching yourself?

“I’m totally still pinching myself. I get a grin on my face every time I walk under the marquee and into the stage door. It is a dream come true! Never give up. I am living proof and inspiration that even after years of rejection and struggling, our dreams are still attainable. It isn’t all easy or fun or pretty, but if you put yourself on the path to success, visualize it and work hard, it will only take time for you to get there.”

 

http://www.danceinforma.com/2017/05/20/broadway-dreams-come-true-for-chicagos-jessica-ernest/