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Broadway Q&A: Brooks Ashmanskas of 'The Prom'

Category Broadway

|by Jeryl Brunner |

Broadway veteran Brooks Ashmanskas shares why 'The Prom' is his ultimate party

Brooks Ashmanskas stars as diva Broadway actor Barry Glickman in the hilarious and touching new musical, The Prom. Directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, the show centers around a 17-year-old lesbian high school student who lives in a small Indiana town (Caitlin Kinnunen). She is barred from taking her girlfriend (Isabelle McCalla) to the prom. So four vain Broadway vets (Beth Leavel, Ashmanskas, Christopher Sieber, Angie Schworer) and their press agent (Josh Lamon) blow into town convinced they will solve everything (and get some good PR for themselves). Ashmanskas is a Broadway vet in his own right, and a Tony nominee for Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me. His credits include Sunday in the Park With George, Shuffle Along, Something Rotten!, Bullets Over Broadway, Promises, Promises, Present Laughter, The Producers, Gypsy, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and The Good Wife

Beth Leavel and Brooks Ashmanskas in ‘The Prom’ on Broadway (Photo: Deen van Meer)

Beth Leavel and Brooks Ashmanskas in ‘The Prom’ on Broadway (Photo: Deen van Meer)

When did you first hear about The Prom
Brooks Ashmanskas
: Seven or eight years ago, I was at either an opening at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, or a benefit for the Public Theater. There was an outdoor dinner. Casey Nicholaw, our director/choreographer, was there. And I had not seen him in a while. We started chatting, and he said, “I have something I want to talk to you about. It’s just at the beginning stages, but you’re doing this.” I remember we didn’t even talk about what it was. I just said, “Well, call me whenever.” And he did. Not long after, we had the first reading. But I remember feeling very excited, and also honored that they would just sort of hand it to me. It is not usually the way it works out. 

What qualities does your character, Barry, have that you find really interesting? 
: I like how Barry uses his sense of humor in many different ways. He uses it as a sort of armor, and does that to distance himself from his heart. And when he gets to the high school, he meets people, especially the girl. Then he starts to use his sense of humor as an empowering tool that can help and raise people up. I love that about this script.

Barry offers wonderful guidance to 17-year-old Emma. What was some of the best advice you have received when you were starting out? 
: When I was very young, someone said to me, “Just say yes, just say yes.” That is especially important when you’re first starting out. Say “yes” to everything, and you will thrive. I did a reading probably 28 years ago with Casey Nicholaw, the director/choreographer of this show. We were just at opposite ends of the table for a day. And now I’m in his show.

What do you love to do when you are not working? 
: Cook and eat. And then I think about what to cook and eat next. Also, I like to lie around with my dog, Wilma. 

What was the Broadway show you saw? 
: I grew up in Portland, Oregon. But as soon as I showed an interest in theater at a young age, my dad would take me on trips to New York. We had family in New Jersey and Boston, so we went back and forth a lot. He would take me to see everything. So I believe my first Broadway show was A Chorus Line, the original. I was young when I saw it. Around that time, we also went to the original Sweeney Todd. So it was one of those two. And those were good shows. I remember thinking that looks (like) exactly what I want to do.  

Can you talk about your Broadway debut
BA: My first show was How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying with Matthew Broderick. I replaced someone in it the last year of the show. When I got the call that I was cast, it was crazy, crazy. I mean I still feel that way. I feel that way about The Prom. The show makes me very excited.
For more of the best of Broadway, check out our list of the Top Shows in New York in February 2019.


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