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June 5, 2018

Alisa Hauser: Broadway Rebound

Alisa Hauser is an academic specialist in the MSU Department of Theatre. She is a voice teacher and also spends time working at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts on programs in the Institute for Arts & Creativity. In 2014, she was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Music and Lyrics for a song she wrote “No Trouble for A Christmas Carol – The Concert,” which was televised on PBS. With music by Bob Christianson, Hauser wrote the book adaptation and lyrics for this symphonic retelling of the Dickens classic.

As a child, I dreamt of performing on Broadway. My dream was fulfilled by appearing in a number of Broadway shows, including the 2002 Tony Award-winning Broadway production of "Thoroughly Modern Millie."

In the case of "Thoroughly Modern Millie," I auditioned three times before I received a part. I first auditioned a few years before the Broadway production, when they were doing a workshop of the show, and again a couple years later for the pre-Broadway tryout. Both times, I didn't receive a part, but I didn't let that discourage me.  

There was something about the sensibility of the show that made me feel I was so right for it. So, when they were getting ready to do the show on Broadway and were seeking a few more cast members, I auditioned once more. 

I guess the third time is the charm because that's when I got cast. I honestly think I got that job, not just because I could sing and dance, but because my sensibility was so right for the show. My quirky humor and energy was the right match. I advise my students all the time not to try to be like anyone else, but to be themselves and allow their own authenticity to shine.

Fifteen years after that production, I had the opportunity to return to Broadway to reunite with the original cast members of that show for a special one-night-only benefit celebration. This 15th anniversary reunion concert was presented Feb. 12 at the Minskoff Theatre in New York City to a sold-out audience.

Reuniting with friends and colleagues and performing a show that was so special was a night to remember. I know it’s been 15 years, but as I was going over my harmony and dance steps, I couldn’t believe how quickly it all came back to me.

I played Alice, one of Millie's friends. With "Millie," I got to create the role of Alice, which was another dream come true.

The 2002 production of "Thoroughly Modern Millie" was nominated for 12 Tony Awards, winning six, including Best Musical, Best Costume Design, Best Choreography and Best Orchestrations.

Being on Broadway is amazing. At times, it is glamorous and exciting and, at times, it's a job. Yes, there is opening night, and the cast party and, in the case of "Millie," the excitement of performing on the Tony Awards. But then you settle in for hopefully a long run. In a Broadway show, you do eight shows a week and, if you are lucky, your show runs a long time.

There are days when you are tired, or had a bad day, and you still have to give the audience the same show as if it were opening night. That becomes part of the job too – how to keep the show fresh and new when you are on the eighth show of the week.

The 15th anniversary reunion concert, benefitting The Actors Fund, starred Sutton Foster, who earned a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her 2002 performance of Millie Dillmount; Harriet Harris, who also earned a 2002 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of Mrs. Meers; and Tony Award winner Gavin Creel, who played the role of Jimmy Smith in "Thoroughly Modern Millie."

The process has been an affirmation of so many things that I teach every day. To watch Sutton, Gavin and the rest of the cast work is like a masterclass in musical comedy, yet I'm right there in the room with them. I'm able to experience it as a fellow performer as well as a teacher.

It's also been incredible to talk to my friends who are still performing eight shows a week on Broadway and find out what has changed about the industry in the last 10 years (since I was performing) and what hasn't. These new insights into the business of the business will be invaluable for my students.