Broadway Chatter Talking to the People Who Make the Magic
Jagged Little Pill's Jane Bruce
Jane Bruce made her Broadway debut as a member of the “Jagged Little Pill” cast as both an ensemble member and an understudy. Jane performed in the Broadway hit musical from the out-of-town try-outs, through opening night, and until the show’s closure in December 2021. Prior to that, she performed in numerous shows, including touring company of “Elf”, and “The Other Josh Cohen” off-broadway. Jane is an accomplished actress and musician, who has worked on projects such as “Marvel’s Jessica Jones” and “Law & Order: SVU”. Jane sat down with Broadway on a Budget’s Maddie Marcus to discuss her career, where it’s been, what’s ahead, and what advice she has for aspiring performers.
In Jagged Little Pill, all of the songs were classics. How was working with Alanis to reinterpret them for the stage?
It was really cool. When we were doing the out of town run, she came to the last rehearsal in New York before we went to the ART in Cambridge. Everyone was so nervous and the stakes felt so high! Afterwards, she just talked about the story and the characters from a much more spiritual perspective, and didn’t really have critiques for us on music and how we were singing it. Along the way, everytime she would get involved, it was almost always about that and about how we could deepen the material, find more truth, and allow the story to be more raw and vulnerable. She was just in awe of everyone and that was really special and amazing to get to experience.
You were in the national tour of Elf. How was being on Broadway in comparison to tours? Was your pre show routine any different? How did your experience of Off Broadway compare to this?
The Elf tour was my first job after college. It was a great way to figure out what touring was like, and on a holiday contract that was a much shorter commitment. I really enjoyed traveling to different places, being in different environments, and bonding with the cast. I’m still incredibly close with the actor who played my son (yes, I played the Beth Leavel mom role at 23) and his whole family!
I don’t even know what my pre-show ritual was! I’ve never been great at that… I take my work very seriously, and always have, but I do struggle with time management, so my pre-show ritual hasn’t ever had a lot of consistency. Jagged was so physically demanding that I definitely tried to make time for a physical warm up or some PT exercises before the show, even if it was just crab walking backstage for the three minutes before the overture would start! On my best days I steamed, did a full vocal warm up (usually at home or at the theater super early because there aren’t really spaces to warm up in an ensemble dressing room), and got onto the stage for a full physical warm up before the house opened. But more often than not I’d be coming down the stairs a minute or two after places was called, still putting on my jewelry. Don’t be like me!
I’d say the biggest difference between tour and broadway in regards to pre-show, is that when you’re on tour, it’s your whole life, you’re not doing anything else. Whereas working on Broadway, you still have your day-to-day life, so it felt a lot more full time in a way. I was also 8 years older, so I had a different outlook and more of a life built than I did when I was on the road for two and a half months. I think that the intensity of Jagged was definitely the biggest surprise for me in making my broadway debut. Having that big, shiny Broadway dream come true, there were definitely some hard realities to face of how challenging the schedule is and how physically demanding the show was, and I was not physically prepared… Though I don’t know that you ever really can be! I learned a lot about my body’s limits.
“The Other Josh Cohen” Off-Broadway was an incredibly fun group of people and a really fun and crazy show to do. It felt really exciting, and playful, and never the same twice. When you’re playing 20 different characters it is going to have its own life every time, which I love. I live for that. Even in Jagged, some of my best memories were of the back-to-back scenes with the coffee shop moms before “Smiling” right to bitchy Lily in “Ironic”. I swear, every night I would go into my most actor-y actor mode and be like ‘alright how am I going to differentiate them today? How am I going to make sure my voice, and physicality are changing in between the two? Today I’m going to focus on listening, or having a certain backstory, etc.” and I love that. For me that was the highlight of being in Jagged, so being in a show like “The Other Josh Cohen” where that’s the whole thing, was such a treat. It was still 8 shows a week in midtown, so there was still the wild running-around-constantly feeling, but the show was about half as long as Jagged, which helped a bit for maintaining a decent work-life balance.
You have appeared in numerous films/TV shows such as, Law and Order SVU and Jessica Jones. How do your experiences with filming compare to working on stage?
At first, when I did a couple small TV things, like Jessica Jones, I went into it feeling this pressure to make my five lines feel so special, but actually it’s just this blip in the story and there are so many things going on, so I wasn’t sure it was for me. The beginning to end journey of being on stage resonates with me so much. Then, when I got cast on SVU the second time (playing a different character), I had a much longer arc than I’d had before on TV and the director was amazing. We shot the whole story in chronological order, which is not always the case, and I felt totally different about on-camera work after that. It was very fulfilling and exciting! I also think that the money to time ratio is significantly better in film/tv than it is working at a high level in theater, which is sad but true. Theater will always have my heart, but I’ve been really loving feeling like a student again as I learn more about on-camera acting.
Last year after Jagged closed, it was a really devastating time in a lot of ways, but I was starting to get excited about what the next thing could be. I loved so much of the experience of Jagged, but I was eager to get out of the ensemble and really sink my teeth into something. I told my team that I wanted to do either film and TV more specifically, or wait for roles in theater that really spoke to me. It can be so easy to live in a scarcity mindset with acting work and feel like you have to say yes to everything, or take every job or every audition or else you might become irrelevant and forgotten. The fear of making the wrong steps, or missing your chance is so real, but as much as I hope to make a steady income from being an artist, I’m also an artist because I love it and I have my own creative values and perspectives that are important to prioritize and lift up, even if it means making scary decisions sometimes, or saying no.
So the last year has been really interesting. I considered grad school (for like the 12th time), but I ended up getting into a lot of classes for on-camera work in the city and on zoom, and I’ve been learning so much and really re-connecting with why I went into this field in the first place! I got to work on two indie movies last summer, shot an episode of F.B.I. Most Wanted, and was very fortunate to be cast in the Disney Discovers Talent Showcase, which was an amazing opportunity and boost of confidence. Between music, theater, and film/TV, I feel like film and TV is the medium that I’m still wrapping my head around fully. It doesn’t come as naturally to me as singing or being on stage does, but I am enjoying pushing myself, and in a way having less of my identity as an artist attached to my success in that genre of work has been refreshing! Since before I went to Michigan for MT, I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself to live up to my own expectations for myself and those of others as a musical theater performer – because I know I’m damn good at it! But even if on-camera work doesn’t come as naturally to me, it feels good to be doing the work and trying to figure it out. My idea of what success looks like in that genre is much more flexible!
I feel like I’m in a big squishy learning place again, which at times feels very scary and uncertain, but ultimately has re-invigorated me to stay at it in all of the mediums I’m passionate about. I may not get the kind of role I’ve always dreamed of any time soon, but dammit, I’m sticking around until it comes, and I’m going to keep learning and growing and pushing myself all the while! Because that’s the joy of being an artist – it’s a continuous quest!
The University of Michigan seems to be a great training ground for Broadway. Is there anything that you would say to college kids who dream of Broadway one day?
I think that wherever you go, it’s important to always be a sponge. I think that the most important thing is to never assume as an artist that you have it all figured out, or that a certain accomplishment means that you’re ‘toss toss [hair toss] IT!’, because then you just stop learning. And it also closes you off from making relationships that can come back around at any point. As Sasha Colby said on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” this season, “You have to be a delight in every room you’re in” and then people will keep wanting to work with you. That and being a sponge are my biggest pieces of advice.
Also, there’s a million different paths of being an artist and I think when you’re 18 and trying to make this huge decision, with so much pressure on that decision to be on a certain path, it’s hard to trust that it’s okay if you want to get off that path and reevaluate. I think it’s important to know that art is a big, wonderful, unknown, messy thing, and I don’t think musical theater should be exempt from that, just because it can feel like there’s only one path to success. I recently heard another teacher relate all the ways you can become a professional actor to all the different ways you can get into a pool. BFA programs like Michigan are great, and will teach you how to be a precision diver, but that doesn’t mean you can’t cannonball into the pool! Or dip a toe in and decide if you want to take the plunge. So many paths and if you want to get in that water there’s no “right” way.
You recently released your album, “My Bed” on all streaming platforms. What is your creative process like when writing music?
I wrote my album when I was at ART doing Jagged. I was living alone, going through this massive breakup from someone who I thought that I was going to spend my life with. The break-up was my choice, and writing the album was so healing. I tend to start writing by trying to learn songs by other artists that I’m really loving at the time, and as soon as I feel some of that in my hands on the guitar, I’ll be able to reconfigure it somehow and add in my own things, and that is usually a launching pad for something that just comes out of me emotionally, which then can be turned into a song. Historically my process with writing has always been really fast, but it always revolved around being in a quiet grounded space by myself where I can let whatever I’m feeling come out on the page.
Now, I’m in this incredible relationship with a fellow writer, who works from home, and I’ve had to really figure out how to carve out space for myself to be creative and to write without it needing to be under the specific circumstances of ‘I must be totally alone in the middle of the night and I must be in some sort of vibe’. I’ve been doing more co-writing for my next project, which I’ve been loving! I’ve also been trying to cut down on my social media time and stay present in the world as a creative being. I think as you get older and life gets more stressful, it can be hard to turn off the part of your brain that’s worrying about things and be present enough to allow whatever you’re feeling come to the surface, and I think I haven’t always had a very good balance with that. That’s a big goal of mine this year, especially in this transitional phase that I’m in with theater, and with the writers strike going on. I’m also in a playwriting class and getting ready to take a show I’m creating with a good friend to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer! That has been a really exciting development in my writing journey, and I can’t wait to see what’s next!
Hopefully I’ll be back in the studio recording another album in the next year, and this album will have a bit more of a country lean. I love how much story-telling is in country music, and excited to have more of my music in the world.
How old were you when you first started writing music?
I started playing guitar and writing when I was around 14 or 15. I was really dedicated to theater by then and my parents were always so supportive and really great about voice lessons and letting me do a thousand shows at once, so when I said I wanted to start playing guitar they were skeptical about whether or not I’d stick to it because I was already so busy. I borrowed a guitar from a friend that was missing two strings and I taught myself for 6 months. My parents surprised me with a beautiful Martin for my 16th Birthday – much better than a car! It’s the guitar I still primarily play. In high school I was critical of myself in a lot of ways, but in terms of being an artist or an actor, I had so much confidence, I just wrote songs! I really allowed myself to create things without worrying if it was perfect or good, and for a really long time, music was just my creative outlet and hobby. If someone wanted to hear a song, I never hesitated to play it. I didn’t feel shy to play, but also I never really thought of it as being a career for my future. As I’ve gotten older, sometimes I’m like ‘Oh damn I’m really good at this, maybe I should be putting a little more of my time into this seed that’s planted’, but it’ll happen with time. I’m grateful to have so many creative irons in the fire!
What was your favorite song to write and what is your favorite song to perform?
I am really proud of “Best of Me” and every time I play it, I’m like ‘Yeah. That’s a good song’. Even before Elliah and I were dating, I remember I came back from ART and showed him this batch of songs. When I played him that one he was like, ‘Oh my God, that is one of the best songs I’ve ever heard’, and he is a TOUGH critic. That’s the song that I still feel the most connected to every time I play it. The song is about my struggle with pleasing people and that idea of ‘everyone has to like me’, but I also really value trying to be transparent, vulnerable, and real. So, I feel like that song just feels like a perfectly honest thing. It’s also my favorite song to perform; I’ve gotten really good at the little lick in it, so when I play it I always feel like a badass.
What advice would you give to young people interested in art and theater?
Find a way to be happy enough that you feel connected to your creativity, your ideas, and your community even in the times when you’re not “working” or booked. Making your own work, or just continuing to be inspired by the world and people around you at all times is an amazing life-line for when the going gets rough, and it always does! Don’t let anyone box you into one thing. One of the things that I wish I worked on in myself a little earlier, is just having the confidence to put stuff out there and just do it! Finishing a project is its own muscle, regardless of what it is, and quieting the voices of ‘what if it’s good or not’ is hard work, but so important. Again, it’s that curiosity and that spongey learning brain that makes for a happier life and makes you a more well rounded person and thus a more well rounded artist. Hang on to your happiness and don’t let it get wrapped up in your resume. And therapy. We love therapy.
Some Like it Hot's Devon Hadsell
Broadway’s new musical comedy “Some Like It Hot” has quickly become a favorite for many theater goers this Broadway season. A highlight of this show is the incredibly talented ensemble with their joyous tap routines and musical numbers. Among these spectacular performers is Devon Hadsell, who made her Broadway debut in 2018 in Tina Fey’s “Mean Girls”.
Broadway on a Budget’s Maddie Marcus sat down with Devon to discuss her experience on Broadway, and get an inside look at the behind the scenes fun of “Some Like It Hot”.
How did it feel the first time you ever walked out onto a broadway stage with an audience? How did it feel walking out onto the “Some Like It Hot” stage for the first time?
That moment felt like a dream! I was in disbelief because it almost didn’t feel real. In “Mean Girls”, many of us were making our Broadway debuts, which made that moment extra special. For “Some Like It Hot”, we have more Broadway veterans in the cast, but it’s been just as magical, especially the first time we had an audience to perform for. People have been going WILD for our show, which we love hearing every night on stage. When we first got to the Shubert Theatre, they did a special reveal of the set for the cast and we lost our minds. It was a breathtaking introduction to our new space.
How was the creative process different for Mean Girls vs Some Like It Hot?
About half the creative team from “Mean Girls” is also on “Some Like It Hot”! I enjoyed this, because I went into the process knowing some of the people involved from the get-go. However, because of Covid, there was no out of town try-out for “Some Like It Hot” like we had for “Mean Girls” (which was in Washington, DC). Instead, we only had a quick workshop in New York and then a 6-week long preview process at the Shubert Theater. The preview process for both these shows were very grueling, but because “Some Like It Hot” is more physical for the ensemble than even “Mean Girls” was, I’d say it takes the cake for the most challenging of the two.
3) How was it different working with Casey Nicolaw in different shows?
Casey is an absolute JOY to work with. He loves to push all the boundaries of a show until he finds out what works, which is extremely inspiring to watch. In “Mean Girls”, the cast was much younger and I remember we all called him “Dad”. For “Some Like It Hot”, we have an older cast and he makes us feel as if we’re all his good friends. He has such a knack for hiring and bringing together wonderful people who are kind, talented, and work their asses off, but also know how to have a good time.
What was your experience the first time you ever went on as an understudy? What were you feeling? How did you feel the first time you went on as an understudy in “Some Like It Hot”?
The first time I went on as an understudy, I played Gretchen in “Mean Girls”. I got the call about a day or two before it was supposed to happen, and my family was in town so they got to see me do it! I was so nervous after I got the news, but I told myself, “Devon, you’re prepared. You got this.” I luckily didn’t get too nervous and got through the performance! For “Some Like It Hot”, it was a little different. I understudy the role of Minnie, but it wasn’t made a principal role until later in the creative process (which is when then they decided she needed someone to cover her). The performer who played that role got Covid only a couple weeks after I was asked to cover it, so I had to learn it very quickly. I went on and it all went well! When I play the role of Minnie I get to play the drums, which is a blast.
How were your experiences performing on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? Was one experience much different than the other?
The year we opened “Mean Girls”, we performed “Fearless”, which was an incredible experience. It was crazy because it was 19 degrees that morning and they had to bring in big heating tubes to keep us warm while we were outside. It was so thrilling and high energy, and it went by so quickly. We had to be at the theater at 6am, get dressed into our costumes and wigs, get on the bus to Macy’s, rehearse outside for the cameras, sit in a trailer until it was our turn, go out to perform, then get back on the bus to the theater. We were done with everything by 9:30am (and both years I remember going home to bed and sleeping lol). With “Some Like It Hot”, it was pretty much the same thing except it was much warmer that morning (the upper 40’s), and we performed the title song as our number. I loved every minute of it both years!
What was it like performing on the Tony’s?
The Tony’s in 2018 were actually a very similar experience to the Macy’s Parade. We got ready at the theater and got on a bus to go to Radio City. We didn’t get to stay and watch the actual awards, but what was really cool was being able to sit and watch all of the other shows rehearse in the morning. It was so fun and such an awesome moment to experience. The stage was enormous! It felt like four of our stages put together! Afterwards, we all went to Haswell Green’s to watch the rest of the live show with the whole cast. I’m hoping I’ll get to perform on the Tony’s again, but this time for “Some Like It Hot”!
If you could give advice to young people interested in theater today, what would you say?
The most important thing is to never forget why you love performing. I’d also recommend being as versatile a performer as possible. There are so many different types of shows out there right now, so if you’ve never done tap, don’t be afraid to take a beginners class and start learning how to do it. Same goes for any other style of dance and genre of singing. Being as versatile as possible only gives you more opportunities for getting hired. Currently, you have “Sweeney Todd” which is classical, you have “Some Like It Hot” which is more jazz and tap oriented, you have “& Juliet” which is more pop and contemporary, etc. I would also say don’t be afraid to take your insecurities and embrace them. Use them to your advantage in every single audition. That took me a long time to learn, so I love passing that wisdom on.