If you didn’t grow up going to the theatre, you may not have understood the lasting impact a play or musical can have on a young mind. Maybe you didn’t see the appeal of sitting in a dark room filled with strangers, suspending reality for a few hours as actors wearing other people’s clothes spoke other people’s words in a make believe world. But chances are that in 2015, your mind was forever changed. When Hamilton: An American Musical debuted on Broadway at The Public Theater, even the most skeptical among us took note of the shifting tides. All of a a sudden, plays were not only cool, they were necessary. Mixing hip-hop with history, Lin Manuel Miranda created a world we all wanted to get lost in. Miranda ushered in a new wave of theatre lovers—but he had some pretty talented help.
Renée Elise Goldsberry as Angelica Schyuler was a revelation. A hail Mary full of grace that Broadway desperately needed. The Great White Way, to that point, had been living up to only one part of its name and Goldsberry restored the balance. Her meticulous melodic vocal prowess, remarkable acting chops and stunning stage presence helped to make Hamilton the hottest ticket in town. A Tony and Emmy-nomination later, Renée is rescuing Broadway again. This time, she’s doing it in LEGO® Store: The Musical with some of theatre’s biggest names. The showstopping original Broadway-style opening number celebrates the launch of another iconic NYC experience: the new flagship LEGO Store on Fifth Avenue.
We caught up with the Girls5eva star to talk bringing the house lights down as the marquees come back to life this fall!
Iman N. Milner: Who is Renée Elise Goldsberry as a performer and a person?
Renée Elise Goldsberry: I am comfortable in my own skin and excited about telling a very unique story.
IM: For so many Broadway has been such a beacon of hope and opportunity---what did it mean to be part of the welcoming wagon as the lights prepare to come back on?
REG: Ugh! It’s a long time coming. I feel like our community spent so much of the year and half finding really creative ways to encourage each other and to come together in whatever way was responsible in the moment. As we get closer and closer to the return of Broadway, I feel like the best of our behavior is being rewarded. And we appreciate, in a greater way, some of the things we used to take for granted.
IM: You were part of, arguably, one of the most popular shows in Broadway history, as well as being Emmy-nominated. Congratulations!
REG: Yes, thank you!
IM: Of course! You’re really stage royalty, how did you cope being away from that last year?
REG: It was really challenging but I had a unique situation because Hamilton came to streaming this time last year. I’m always better when I have a job to do—so that was the challenge. I didn’t know understand what my job was at that time. The promotion of that show was really an opportunity to speak on who and what matters in the world. And to do that through theater and being able to come together on Zoom, it was special. I needed that. In some ways, that’s what LEGO Store: The Musical is about. Like you didn’t know that you can combine some really iconic things in order to make a really positive message in the world at a time where things feel really crazy. I was able to do that a lot through the pandemic—from my house most of the time—so, it’s nice to be back in New York City, walking the streets. We don’t stop. We never stopped. Under the biggest threat, we don’t just quit and sometimes we actually get better.
IM: How did this project come together and how did you find yourself part of it?
REG: I just got a phone call! My life happens so often like that. Lego decided that they wanted to be part of this wonderful celebration of coming back. Everybody’s figuring out “how do we represent the best of us?” What’s iconic about NYC? What’s iconic about Broadway? What’s iconic abut Lego and what is the most positive way to show who we are now and what we’ve done that’s beautiful during these very challenging times? And they decided, “let’s do a musical!”. They brought together great choreographers, directors and composers. Look around, look around and lets celebrate the great people right here in this city. You can go into a store again and build and dream. I just got a call to be part of this big musical and I was excited to dance in the streets of New York in a red dress. It was nice to do that again together with people. Do you know how hard it is to do that on Zoom? It’s not possible.
IM: You’re in such a special position because you get to take part in the magic of both theatre and TV. Tell me a little bit about moving through both of those worlds.
REG: It’s really lovely because it’s kind of seamless now. I grew up loving musicals. That was my entry into the industry—being in a play. And when I looked at TV or film, I didn’t understand why it felt like theater was a nerdy stepchild. What I love now is that no one’s ashamed to love a musical now. At least, no one that talks to me. I spend a lot of time on television shows where people may be dancing and singing at some point. And I love that. I love that for children. I’m glad there’s this synergy and it’s celebrated across all mediums.
IM: Lastly, what’s next for you. Right now, you’re on Girls 5eva and in this amazing production Lego Store on 5th Ave but any other shows we should get tickets for now?
REG: There are a lot of really wonderful shows that are coming back to Broadway but I believe there are a lot of opportunities in Broadway houses to bring people in for smaller periods of time just to draw people back to the theater. I can’t really talk about them yet but I am excited about the possibility of showing up on a Broadway stage somewhere for a week or two in the fall. Broadway is going to be a big shiny thing to lure people back outside and into community with others—and I’ll be part of that for sure.