Summer Swimwear: 8 Broadway Stars You Should Know

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Making it on Broadway is hard to do, and just getting cast in a show can be the fulfillment of any former theater child’s dreams. However, how do you move up from ensemble to star?

Broadway Style Guide gathered some of the hottest up-and-comers around, many of whom cut their teeth in the chorus and are now leading Broadway shows, national tours, television series, or even international productions. To kick off what is certain to be a hot and sexy summer, we suited up — forgive the pun — with Scott J. Campbell (Gerry Goffin in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical on Broadway), Kearran Giovanni (Det. Amy Sykes in TNT’s Major Crimes), Carly Hughes (Velma Kelly in Chicago on Broadway, most recently), Alison Luff (Miss Honey in Matilda on Broadway), Melanie Moore (Peter Pan in Finding Neverland on Broadway), Brandon Rubendall (Tony Manero in the Asian tour of Saturday Night Fever), Wallace Smith (Enjolras in Les Miserables on Broadway), Alex Wong (Ensemble in The King and I on Broadway).

Check out what these stars have to say about making the move from ensemble to lead — and find out their favorite summer swim essentials!

 

BROADWAY AND TELEVISION AND ASIA, OH MY!

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Brandon Rubendall has gotten the chance to work with both Kearran Giovanni and Alison Luff. Rubendall covered Fiyero while Luff starred as Elphaba on the first national tour of Wicked, and both Rubendall and Giovanni appeared in Anything Goes on Broadway together.

Now the three find themselves flung across the globe from one another. Luff is currently starring in the smash hit Matilda as the quietly passionate schoolteacher Miss Honey who befriends the title character. For Luff, her moment of going from understudying leading ladies to leading a show “all happened with Wicked.”

“When I got called in for Wicked, the call was for Elphaba/Elphaba Standby/Elphaba Understudy,” Luff says. “I knew for a long time that I wanted to play that role, but I had just made a promise to myself that if I wanted to transition to principal roles that I would not accept another understudy role… So naturally, I was going to be tested. I received a callback for Elphaba Understudy. As hard as it was, I gracefully declined and said, ‘I am really only interested in playing the role or standing by.’ It was terrifying to say that!!!!!! I didn’t want to come across as ungrateful, and I didn’t want to miss the possible chance to be a part of one of my dreams shows. A few days later, I was called back in front of the entire creative team to be considered for the role/standby. As fate would have it, I then got the call 30 minutes after I left the audition with an offer to play the role. You have to go with your gut. You have to be brave and confident but remain humble and things will fall into place as they should.”

Giovanni spent many years in the theater, starting out on The Lion King national tour and then starring in Sweet Charity on Broadway opposite Christina Applegate. And now she’s made another transition, which she calls “a career goal.” She’s been a series regular on Major Crimes on TNT for the past four seasons, playing Det. Amy Sykes. “It has been wonderful, and the doors for theater folk to come into TV have really opened in the last five-ish years,” she says, but she adds that she doesn’t think her ultimate dream role has been written yet. “I want to play a character with no expectation of performing it ‘like someone else.’”

Rubendall made a similar pledge to Luff’s: no more ensemble roles. He admits he put himself through his own “Leading Man Boot Camp” in 2014, after which he booked the role of Jamie in The Last Five Years which had been a dream role for him. “I had one of those Oprah A-ha moments where I realized I wasn’t being challenged enough in the ensemble,” he explains. “I was becoming bored with performing, and I knew that if I wanted to continue in theater, I was going to have to make some big changes.”

“Ensemble members who have crossed over and have created successful principle careers in theater really inspire me,” he continues. “Those are the people I watch and aspire to be. Yes, I love the stars who started out as that, but there is something really special about seeing someone work for their dreams and watch it as it becomes a reality.”

Learn a little bit more about Brandon, Alison, and Kearran below!


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Brandon Rubendall

When did you know you wanted to be on Broadway?
I was pretty lucky because I always knew. I grew up doing theater so my journey was pretty clear to me from a very early age.

What was the first role you ever had on Broadway?
My Broadway debut was in Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, and I played Dr. Connors/The Lizard. And boy, oh boy, what a debut that was!

What was the point where you felt like, I’ve made it?
I hope I never feel that way. And if I do, I’m clearly not challenging myself hard enough in my career.

What advice do you have for going on tour with a show?
My advice for tour? Save. That. Money. And have fun. Good tours are hard to come by these days so if you book one, pack light, see the sights, and meet tons of locals. And again, Save. That. Money.

What is your next career goal and why?
I’ve always had goals and plans plotted out for myself, and this is the first time in my life where I am letting the universe show me the way. And it is. And I am listening closely. Right now, I feel like I am in a dream as I prepare to open Saturday Night Fever in the Philippines. However, I do keep “joking” that I’m going to stay here and become a pop star. Soooo, maybe that?

Growing up, did you see Broadway as a glamorous place?
Maybe I should give a PC answer, but I’m gonna be real. No. So thank you Broadway Style Guide for finally pushing this industry in the right direction. At one point in time it was glamorous. Unfortunately, though, we lost our way over the years. It’s really exciting to see Broadway fashion finally getting back to where it should be.


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Kearran Giovanni

When did you know you wanted to be on Broadway?
High school. It was the first time I entertained the thought that I could do this as a career.

How did you make the transition from ensemble to lead? Do you remember the audition/moment?
I remember it because they were trying to make me look older in the audition by changing my hair [for Sweet Charity].

What was the point where you felt like, I’ve made it?
Broadway has a reputation for keeping you very grounded. Just when you think this is it, there can be a spell of ensemble again. I’d say, when I was called to do a show without auditioning.

What advice do you have for going on tour with a show?
Talk to yourself about your goals for taking it — whether it be saving money or playing a great role that wasn’t available on Broadway for you and give yourself a time limit and stick to it. Broadway moves fast. Come back.

Growing up, did you see Broadway as a glamorous/fashionable place?
I didn’t know about Broadway until I was a little older, but It still seems glamorous and definitely fashionable in its own way!

Who inspires you and why?
My children. I have two girls — they’re 5 and 7. When you have other people to strive for besides yourself, the stakes really change. They are my lifeline to reality and what is important.


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Alison Luff

When did you know you wanted to be on Broadway?
When I was about 4 or 5, I saw Beauty and the Beast in Houston before it transferred to Broadway.

What was the point where you felt like, I’ve made it?
Hahaha… Ummmm, I’m not sure I’ll ever feel that way. Sounds boring.

What is your favorite role you have ever played—on Broadway, tour, high school, anywhere—and why?
Elphaba. I just love her. I love her power. I loved singing that ridiculously fun score every night, and I loved being onstage with people who are now some of my best friends.

What is your next career goal and why?
I would love to originate a role. I’ve been lucky to have done a lot of readings this past year and have found there is no feeling like getting to create with brilliant people. You fall in love with the character even more when you help create her.

How does being a lead affect your day-to-day life differently than being in the ensemble?
It depends on the demand of your role. You have to take care of yourself period. Whether you’re in the ensemble or a principal. I find sleep is the most important thing for me to stay healthy.

Who inspires you and why?
My mom. She is resilient, brave, funny, compassionate, independent, and loves unconditionally. She is my hero.


THE BEAUTIFUL REVOLUTION

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Okay, so the subhead is pushing the connection between these performers, but from these gorgeous photos, who wouldn’t want to see these three together in anything? Carly Hughes and Scott J. Campbell have a Beautiful connection, as Hughes was part of the original cast and Campbell currently stars as Gerry Goffin in the Carole King tuner.

Smith has gone back and forth between leading shows, like The Lion King and others, to being in the ensemble, in American Idiot and others, but now he’s back on top starring as the revolutionary Enjolras in Les Miserables. “I’m always striving to get better at my craft and the industry is always changing,” Smith says. “If you’re really trying to keep up with the constant changes of the industry, you’re never settled. Ever.”

For Hughes, the moment she got cast as the Leading Player in Pippin was a defining moment in her career. “I read and sang every single page of that 35-page packet to get it!!” she says. “Then I found out I booked it… as the understudy. I was about to politely turn it down — as I had the fiercest track in Beautiful at the time — when I got a call from casting saying, ‘Strike that, reverse it. The team wants you so they’ve asked Diane [Paulus] to fly in, and if she likes you, you’ll take over as the role.’ I went in two days later, before my matinee of Beautiful, and did a third and final 35-page audition for the full team and found out between shows that I would be starting rehearsal the next day, as the new Leading Player in Pippin, talking over two weeks later. Yowza!”

Beautiful is also monumental for Campbell, who says Gerry Goffin is his favorite role he’s gotten to play. “It’s a rewarding role with a complex journey, and I keep discovering new things every time I take the stage to perform it,” he says. “My co-workers inspire me. I really love going to work every day, and everyone at the Sondheim does a fantastic job.”

Learn more about Scott, Carly, and Wallace below!


Wallace Smith

When did you know you wanted to be on Broadway?
I never had that illumination. It was something that found me. I’ve always loved to sing and started acting when I was 15, but coming from California, Broadway wasn’t the goal; it was definitely more TV and film.

How did you make the transition from ensemble to lead?
I’ve had several ensemble to principle opportunities which I’m really grateful for. After The Lion King, I joined the ensemble of the revival of Ragtime on Broadway. That show closed really early, and I didn’t know what my next step would be. Hair was in its second year, and they were replacing the original cast. I went in for the ensemble/tribe, and before I knew it, Diane Paulus asked me to come in and read for the role of Hud. It was a magical day in my life. Before I left the audition, I knew I had the role and I was beside myself.

What is your favorite role you have ever played — on Broadway, tour, high school, anywhere — and why?
Nicholas in the The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. I was a senior in high school, and it was my final year to be with my fellow theater friends. My mentor cast me in a huge role that I felt very intimidated by. I grew so much from that experience. That’s when I fell in love with the art of acting.

What is your next career goal?
I have some things that are in the wash waiting to see if they pan out, but I’m constantly working on my music and writing. One of my best friends and I are talking about starting a writing team.

What is your dream role and/or dream show?
Dream role? That’s tough. I don’t think I have one at the moment. Dream show? My own tv show! The Wallace Smith show! Lol!

Who inspires you and why?
My mother. The older I get, the more I realize the sacrifices she made for my sisters and me to have many of the opportunities we’ve had. That inspiration never allows me to stay down for long.


Scott J. Campbell

When did you know you wanted to be on Broadway?
I knew I wanted to perform professionally when I made the decision to enroll in a performing arts program at college. So when I was 17 or 18.

What was the first role you ever had on Broadway?
My first role on Broadway was as a swing in Jersey Boys, covering seven roles. I had been in to audition for the show numerous times before, and finally booked it on my seventh audition for the gig. Persistence is key!

How did you make the transition from ensemble to lead?
Kind of seamlessly, actually. I left Jersey Boys and later that year, I booked the first national tour of American Idiot. I remember really connecting with the material at the audition, and feeling the whole thing “click”.

What was the point where you felt like, I’ve made it?
The goal is just to work, and to do good work. Hopefully that mindset begets more work and other opportunities. So I don’t feel like I’ve made it, by any means.

What advice do you have for going on tour with a show?
Make a plan so you can save as much money as possible. See as much of the country as possible!

What is your next career goal?
Next up, I’d like to either originate a role in a Broadway production or tackle a TV series or movie. Writing is also a passion, and I’m trying to nurture a couple of projects to fruition.


Carly Hughes

When did you know you wanted to be on Broadway?
After watching That’s Entertainment, Vol. 1 in probably sixth grade.

What was the point where you felt like, I’ve made it?
Definitely any moment I was on the trapeze flipping around 30 feet off the ground, hula hooping while walking and singing across the stage, or any time I danced the Mansion Trio [in Pippin], I’d think, “This is the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life! I’ve made it!”

What is your dream role and/or dream show?
Hmm…I’d love to be the animated voice of a Disney character! Maybe a new princess?

How does being a lead affect your day-to-day life differently than being in the ensemble?
It depends on the show and the role. When I was in Pippin, I was on Carly lockdown in every way. I had no choice with that role and everything it asked of me. But when I joined Chicago, I was able to resume my normal day to day again.

Growing up, did you see Broadway as a glamorous place?
Yes! I wasn’t able to see any live Broadway growing up and what I did see was on TV or rented movies on VHS tapes from the public library or Blockbuster. It wasn’t something I had access to so I didn’t know how or if it was attainable.

Who inspires you?
My friends in the business because sometimes they’re what get you through.


DANCE LIKE NOBODY’S WATCHING

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So You Think You Can Dance? has launched a lot of careers, and many of them have been on Broadway. Judge Nigel Lythgoe made his Broadway producing debut with On the Town this season, and it seems like everywhere you look a choreographer, like Sonya Tayeh who’s choreographing The Wild Party at Encores, to dancers, like the two champions featured here, are dancing their way to the stage in their Broadway debuts.

While they haven’t necessarily transitioned from ensemble to lead, just dancing major featured parts in brand-new Broadway shows is a career highlight for them. “I’ve said that I wanted to be on Broadway for as long as I can remember,” says Melanie Moore, who plays Peter Pan in Finding Neverland. “I would sing and dance for anybody who’d listen. I started my performance career in the dance world first, and just recently made the move over to Broadway and I LOVE IT. I can honestly say I feel like this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.”

And for Wong, Broadway was not a lofty aspiration, “It just seemed like a place to perform,” he says. However, he knew his talent would lead him here. “When I was a kid, my teacher did musicals,” he says. “And so naturally, I dreamed at some point in my career that I would like to do Broadway.”


Melanie Moore

What is the best piece of dance advice you ever received?
Never get too comfortable with where you are in your career. Always strive for something more, and don’t be afraid to find yourself in uncomfortable places. If you’re uncomfortable, it usually means that you’re growing, learning, and becoming a better artist and human. Mandy Moore (choreographer, not singer) is a genius and my go-to lady for advice in the “biz.”

What is the worst piece of dance advice you ever received?
“Dancing should be for yourself — it’s not about pleasing anybody else as long as you feel good.” While I’m all for taking a feel-good class, we’re performers!! Our job is to tell a story! You’re never going to get a job if you don’t care about making other people feel something!!

What was the point where you felt like, I’ve made it?
I still don’t know if I feel like “I’ve made it.” I have so many things I want to do! I feel like I’m just getting started!

Growing up, did you see Broadway as a glamorous place?
Of course! We used to take trips to New York City every year when I was a kid around Thanksgiving and see shows while we were here. I was always amazed with the gorgeous costumes, wigs, and sets.

Who inspires you?
My mom, Sutton Foster, Chita Rivera, Mandy Moore, Al Blackstone, Laura Michelle Kelly, Mary-Mitchell Campbell, Crystal Pite… I have so many!

How do you get your body beach ready?
Doing our show eight times a week is the best summer body prep, but I also love hot yoga.

What is your signature beach dance?
The twist!


Alex Wong

What is the best piece of dance advice you ever received?
Be like a sponge and absorb everything and have a good attitude.

What is the worst piece of dance advice you ever received?
The worst was definitely to stop or limit taking other forms of dance — tap, jazz etc. — because the training would hinder my ballet training, not because of the time spent, but because of the different muscles used. Total BS! Good thing I didn’t listen.

What was the point where you felt like, I’ve made it?
There were actually three distinct moments. After I joined my first ballet company American Ballet Theatre, being promoted to principal soloist in Miami City Ballet, and making SYTYCD.

What is the best dance move that is also a workout move?
Ballet. All of ballet class. Hold an arabesque, and you’ll get a pretty good butt workout.

What is your favorite childhood summer memory?
Spending my summer at Joffrey ballet school in NYC. What a bunhead thing to say, but it was my first time in NYC!!!!!

What is your signature beach dance?
A series of bad dance moves followed by failed patterning lifts

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Swimsuits by Charlie By MZ.
Shoes by Nina Shoes, Delman Shoes, and Pikolinos.
Jewelry by E. Shaw Jewels and Designs by Rose Berger.
Styling by James Brown III.
Make-up by Cesar Abreu, Erin Acker, Steve Schepis, and Brittany Spencer.
Hair by Erin Acker.