Magazine article Variety

The Soul Sisters of Broadway

Magazine article Variety

The Soul Sisters of Broadway

Article excerpt

If you haven't seen "Hamilton yet, it s easy to believe thatthe blockbuster musical is all about the men. Actors easily outnumber actresses among its leads and featured players, and the guys - Lin-Manuel Miranda, of course, but also director Thomas Kail and actors Daveed Diggs and Christopher Jackson - have all put in appearances on late-night TV in recentweeks. Five ofits actors are nominated for this year's Tony Awards.

It may surprise first-time "Hamilton" viewers when, about 20 minutes into Broadway's zeitgeist-catching juggernaut, the women take center stage, and the fierce bond between Eliza Hamilton and her sister Angelica Schuyler, played by Tony-nominated actresses Phillipa Soo and Renée Elise Goldsberry, respectively, develops into a central element of the story. The characters - and the actresses who play them - are arguably the show's secret weapons.

"I hope it's not a secret. They are the heartbeat of the showf says Kail. "Those ladies, the bond they have, the love they have for each other, is so palpable. It's why that number when we meet them is such a wave of oxygen."

Twenty years apart in age and coming to "Hamilton" at differing stages of their lives and careers, Soo and Goldsberry share a sisterly connection offstage, too. It's a friendship intensified not only by the solidarity of being among the few women to play significant roles in the founding-father musical - but also by the unique, frequently astonishing experience of living in the middle of a cultural phenomenon.

A couple of hours before a recent performance, you could find the two of them huddled together on the stairs backstage, debating the sushi order they'd share. Later, enjoying some late-afternoon sun near the tiny urban garden that cast members have set up atop the marquee of the Richard Rodgers Theatre, they trade admiration and answer questions in unison. Their dressing rooms are right next to each other. "When my stage manager told me he was putting them in there, I said,'You might as well just take the doors off the hinges,' " Kail jokes.

"All I really do is just love on these two girls through the whole showf Goldsberry says of Soo and Jasmine Cephas Jones, who is double-cast as the third sister and as the woman who becomes the subject of Hamilton's scandalous Reynolds Papers. "If you love what I'm doing, it's because you love me loving them."

Soo agrees. "If I didn't have Renée and Jasmine with me in this experience, being the way that it is, I feel like I'd have to do a lot more thinking about how to create the relationship of these sisters. But because of our relationship, just as who we are, it all kind of just flows out onto the stage seamlessly."

Adds Goldsberry: "We both feel this way about the women that are in this business with us. We lean into each other, and we lean on each other, even just when we see each other in an audition room. They're our resource and our strength and our sanity"

Goldsberry, a 45-year-old Houston native, has a hefty amount of industry experience. Her résumé includes recurring TV gigs on "Ally McBeal" and "The Good Wife," plus Broadway work in "Good People,''"The Color Purple" and "Rent," in which she was part of the final Broadway cast. Her longevity in the business has informed her reaction to the hype of "Hamilton," which, in the New York theater industry, began early. Goldsberry first noticed it in the audience response to a developmental workshop in 2014.

Between those workshop performances and the start of the 2015 Off Broadway run at the Public Theater, she ran into a fellow actor. "He said,'So I heard that you're in the best show that ever was - ever: And I was like,'Oh, we're screwed.'Who can live up to that?"

"Hamilton" is only the second highprofile stage job for the 26-year-old Soo, so she didn't feel the pressure as much. …

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