Ana Villafañe’s ‘Chicago’ Performance Is a Love Letter to Broadway

Video Source: Youtube

The following audience Q&A for our on-camera series Backstage Live was compiled in part by Backstage readers just like you! Follow us on Twitter (@Backstage) and Instagram (@backstagecast) to stay in the loop on upcoming takeovers and to submit your questions.

Ana Villafañe is back on her feet. The actor made her Broadway debut playing a young Gloria Estefan in 2015’s “On Your Feet!” after being discovered by none other than the singer herself. Now, she’s returning to the Great White Way as Roxie Hart in the long-running revival of “Chicago.” The role will mark a homecoming of sorts for Villafañe, as the actor spent much of the pandemic exploring the world of television, from featured roles on “Younger” and “New Amsterdam” to shooting NBC’s remake of “Night Court.” Villafañe jumped on Instagram Live to chat about Broadway’s reopening and stepping into those legendary jazz shoes.

Villafañe is honored to be reopening Broadway.
“We talk a lot about Broadway and how Broadway’s reopening. But regional theaters, tours, all of the performing arts—all of [these] artists have been out of work and have been really suffering. It’s not even about having the jobs; it’s about having the hope. You can wake up and say, ‘I’m going to at least audition—put myself out there.’ We can’t let that die. I think a lot about people who haven’t had their break yet. Just being part of the reopening, for me, is very much a love letter to the artist community at large.”

She says that the creative team treated the post-pandemic iteration of “Chicago” like an original show.
“I was extremely empowered by the creative team. When I met with [director] Walter [Bobbie] initially about this, I was honest with him, and I was like, ‘I’ve never seen the show on Broadway.’ And he was like, ‘That’s a good thing, because you’ll create it from your own perspective, and you won’t be trying to redo someone else’s version or trying to paint by numbers in any way.’ And he was in the rehearsal process with us; he built this show as if it was an original company, and preexisting cast members had to relearn the show…. I’m very, very grateful that I got that time to really discover, because usually it’s like, ‘Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am.’ They just inject people in, teach you with stage management and dance captains on your own for a couple days, maybe a week, and then you jump into the show. Kind of [a] trial by fire.”

Becoming a professional actor requires constant improvisation.
“Back yourself. No one can do that for you; no one will do that better than you. And there’s only one of you, so [bringing anything] to the table that comes from a place that is specifically yours—or comes from any place of truth—is irreplaceable. And I think a lot of times in this business, you’re made to feel like you are replaceable. And sure, there’s always going to be someone waiting in line; there’s always going to be understudies and all these things. So if you approach it with humility but with enough confidence to back yourself, you’re setting yourself up to win. And you have to be adjustable. That’s the thing about this career: It’s a constant improv game.”

This story originally appeared in the Oct. 14 issue of Backstage Magazine. Subscribe here.

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