In this second edition of “Broadway Q & A,” we chat with Gabrielle McClinton, who currently plays Annie in the female ensemble as well as understudies for Velma Kelly in Chicago on Broadway!
How long have you been in the musical Chicago?
I’ve been in Chicago for almost a year.
What was your audition experience for the show?
Funny enough, my audition experience for this show went on for years. I first auditioned for the show three years ago right after I left another Fosse show, the 2013 Broadway revival of Pippin. I went in for a work session to play the role of Velma and then I went in maybe six months/a year later to audition again for the same role. The first session was thrilling because I got to work privately with the dance supervisor. The second audition was more of a big dance call with about 15 dancers all auditioning for Velma. This one was really fun because I was with many of my friends from the industry. Lastly, I went in a year ago to be in the female ensemble and understudy Velma, and it hit this time around! There were a lot of amazing women there, most of them my friends/peers, and everyone came to book the job. Full costumes, full beat, the whole shebang. We learned two or three dances, and they did about three cuts. Afterwards, some of us sang from the show and read the Velma sides. Most of the creative team was there, and they were super supportive. I’m glad that I kept going in because if you stay persistent eventually it’ll work in your favor one way or another. Also, it was cool to see how I had grown over the years transitioning from my early to late twenties and to see how that translated into my work as an artist.
Gabrielle as the Leading Player in Pippin on the 1st National Broadway Tour. Photo courtesy of Roy Beusker
How does it feel to perform in such an iconic show choreographed by Bob Fosse & Ann Reinking? Was it a challenge to learn the work?
Fosse is a huge challenge because it’s extremely specific but what I love about it is that it’s specific to who YOU are as a dancer and artist. I feel extremely lucky to perform the iconic choreography every night. I mean, the show has been kicking for 20 years! How amazing is that! To know that all of the greats like Chita Rivera, Bebe Neuwirth, Charlotte D’Amboise, Amra Faye-Wright have stepped into the shoes of these iconic charactres makes it that much more special. Chicago is a classic and there’s nothing like it on Broadway.
What is your most memorable moment from your time with Chicago thus far?
We did a special performance to celebrate John Kander’s birthday, the composer of Chicago. Many of the original cast came back to celebrate, and I was truly living a childhood dream. Chita Rivera opened the show as Velma and she performed “All that Jazz” like no time had passed. She’s still got it folks. That’s a special memory that I’ll never forget.
Gabrielle before she went on as Velma in Chicago the Musical on Broadway last year.
Are there any behind the scenes facts or secrets you can share?
This is definitely not a secret amongst our company but certain men (who shall not be named) love to scare the living crap out of people backstage. You always have to watch your back. God knows it is dark enough, you never know who’s lurking in the shadows.
Do you have any advice for dancers aspiring to be in this show or Broadway in general?
DO YOU. Never sacrifice your self-worth for anybody or anything and that includes any job. Work harder than everyone else, believe in yourself, and keep a positive attitude. As my dad says, “Stay above the fray.” Don’t listen to the noise but keep peace within and keep moving. Don’t give up, what’s meant to be yours will be. Namaste.
Catch Gabrielle at the Ambassador Theater 8 shows a week!