Brittain Ashford recently made her Broadway debut as Sonya in Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812. A talented musician in her own right, we discussed how this role was tailor made for her and the challenges of performing in such a unique venue.
Joy: When did you start acting and singing?
Oh, well, gosh. I always sang. When I was a little kid I used to make up songs. I really liked to sing when I was a kid. I did choirs throughout school and I briefly took piano lessons, and I really started playing music and singing a lot in high school. And I did a little bit of theater in high school, but it never was really on my to‑do list. I knew I wasn’t going to go to college for –
I mean, I loved doing it but even in high school, I was like, “oh, this seems like a really difficult professional life choice.” I was 17 and I was like, “I think this is too hard.” And then Dave [Malloy] asked me about this show. You know, a little more than five years ago was our first workshop with this show, and he actually approached me with the idea because we were friends and when he first asked me, I said no. I had never done actual theater before. I was like, “you probably want a professional,”–
Serena: When Dave first approached you, did he already have the music or was he still in the process of writing it?
He had already written “Sonya Alone” for me to sing. He was like, “I have written this thing, I love your voice, I really want you to do it,” and I was like, “oh, I am incredibly flattered,” and I loved his work. I had seen both Three Pianos and Beowulf at that point and I thought they were both amazing. So he twisted my arm a little bit, and I was like, “okay, fine, I will do your workshop.” But if he had asked me five years ago, or even if he had asked me four years ago, I think I would have been “Broadway” – I mean, the show has changed a lot.
J: You have been with it the whole time?
The whole time.
J: That’s so cool and probably a lot of fun to see it grow and change.
Absolutely. It’s actually one of my favorite aspects of doing the show for so long.
J: What’s your favorite change from the beginning or something that you are really annoyed that was taken away?
Well, there are lots of things that were cut for the sake of clarity and brevity which I support that decision. Sometimes you need to trim it down, but there are so many wonderful lines that probably – I mean, if you saw it in this house, you wouldn’t necessarily enjoy them. But you know, I miss a lot of those little silly things and just overall it’s been really magical to watch it grow. It’s kind of like a child.
J: Your staging for this show is very unique – you are all over the place. What’s that like when you are not actually on the stage