In celebration of Black History Month, Blackfilm.com caught up with Frozen‘s Noah J. Ricketts and Aisha Jackson as each talked about starring in one of Broadway’s biggest shows. Ricketts, a former ensemble member who understudied the role of Anna’s love interest Kristoff, assumed the part full-time from original cast member Jelani Alladin this past Tuesday on Feb. 19. Jackson is on the show as the Standby to Patti Murin’s Anna as well as part of the ensemble cast. In March of 2018, when Jackson stepped in for Murin, she became the first Black actress to portray Anna on Broadway.
Frozen has joined Disney Theatrical hits Aladdin and The Lion King on Broadway, playing at the historic St. James Theatre. The new Broadway musical opened on Thursday, March 22, 2018 and has been in the top 10 best-selling shows every week, establishing itself as the biggest musical hit of its season.
Based on the 2013 film written by a trio of Oscar winners, Frozen features music and lyrics by the creators of the film score Kristen Anderson-Lopez (Up Here, Winnie the Pooh, In Transit) and EGOT-winner Robert Lopez (Avenue Q, The Book of Mormon, Up Here) and a book by Jennifer Lee (Zootopia, Wreck-It Ralph), the film’s screenwriter and director (with Chris Buck). Frozen won 2014 Oscars for Best Song (“Let It Go”) and Best Animated Feature.
Black History month coming up now, how does it feel.
Aisha Jackson: It’s beautiful, I’m always honored and very, very glad to be able to represent us all on stage. The best moments are when someone comes up to me like this little girl who was sitting next to her mom and she’s like “mommy she looks like me” and so that to me is why I’m doing this and just to inspire other little chocolate drops that they can do it to.
You really stepped up too, tell me the story behind it:
Aisha Jackson: It was the day before the first understudy rehearsal, which means they usual rehearse the people that are on stage all the time first and then they get to us. So I sit and I’m watching and I’m writing everything down but I haven’t had rehearsal since we did it in Denver which was 3-4 months prior so it was a different show, and coming to New York we changed a lot of things. So it’s the day before and Mrs. Murin (Patti Murin) had bronchitis and she did the matinee and everyone was freaking out and I was like “I’m not gonna freak out until they tell me”. But I warmed up in between shows since it was a 2 show day and in between shows my stage manager came to me and was like “so she’s gonna pull through it’s OK” and I was like “OK” and I was on stage with my dance captain just running through things.
So then they come back like ten minutes later and said “so you’re on tonight,” I looked at my dance captain and I just started crying. But you know I had prepared something I like to say is “stay ready so you don’t have get ready”. So we rehearsed like two hours, we rehearsed up to ten minutes before the show. At the end I was walking out to take my bow and that’s when it hit me. It a dream of mine to be on Broadway. It was beautiful and I was really proud of myself for being prepared because God forbid I didn’t know all the things I was suppose to know.
Noah Ricketts: She was more than prepared.
How important is it for you doing Broadway during Black History month:
Noah Ricketts: It’s very important, I would say. I think even the last five years Broadway has changed so much in terms of representation and so I know when I was growing up and coming to see shows in New York I saw black people on stage but telling only black stories. And so to see people now accepting these stories and seeing them in a new way and being part of that change for younger generation is just incredible.
How is it for you to be a Black Princess on Broadway? There aren’t really a lot of Black Princess…
Aisha Jackson: Right, I think for me something that I find beautiful is that I am able to go on stage and just be like this corky, honesty, goofy girl and it doesn’t…and it’s beautiful and for these little girls to see themselves like as royalty, and as like “oh I can be unique i can be myself, I can speak my mind and be honest” so for me that’s beautiful because they don’t have many princess to look up to and so it’s nice that they can see that just because Anna is white in the movie doesn’t mean she can’t be portrayed by anyone…Anna is a character and she can be portrayed by many different ethnicities.
Was there any specific actor that inspired you to be on Broadway?
Noah Ricketts: Any specific actor? I would say yeah…I would say Norm Lewis was a big inspiration for me. He’s an African American male with an incredible singing voice so seeing him play these like iconic roles is what inspired me to get into it in the first place, but the short of that is I was suppose to go to sports camp one summer when I was nine years old, went down on a skateboard, broke my wrist and was sent off to musical theater camp and I was completely obsessed. I was up there doing School House Rock with a cast on my arm singing my little heart out and I haven’t back since.