Talking With Joey LaBrasca: His Life on Broadway and the Magic of Theatre

Being 21 years old and being a part of a Tony-award winning Broadway play (6 Tonys’ to be exact!) is something most performers dream of. For Joey LaBrasca, that dream is a reality. This star of a performer has been a part of the award-winning play Harry Potter And The Cursed Child Parts One and Two for two years now and is constantly making magic onstage in this spectacular show. I got to talk to Joey recently about his life on Broadway and the absolute magic of theatre. Read below for my interview with Joey!

How has the transition been from being in the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Year 1 cast to being in the Year 2 cast?  

The transition from the original broadway company to year two has been thrilling. It’s inspiring to see the way a new company of actors can approach a story you’ve heard literally hundreds of times and find new ways of telling it. Furthermore, I have the privilege of going to work with a bunch of really smart, hardworking, kind individuals which is a bonus.The tone of this year is also somewhat less manic. There was an anxious excitement that colored the first year company. It was easy to get distracted by things that existed outside of the work. We were the exciting new show on the block and I definitely got swept in the pageantry of it all. Of course the build up to opening the show was a dream, but it’s nice to get to settle into the show now and really just focus on the storytelling. 

Who have been your biggest inspirations in your career, both onstage and offstage? 

I have so many it’s hard to keep track. The first and most obvious is my dad, I tend to not be very shy about telling people that. James Dean, Albert Camus, James Bond (and several of the actors who have played him), Daniel Day Lewis, Andrew Scott, my english teacher sophomore year of highschool… I mean the list really does go on and on. I’ve had the privilege to work with some really brilliant people in my career thus far and I’ve learned lots from them. Noma Dumezweni comes to mind, as does Poppy Miller, Geraldine Hughes, and Kathryn Meisle. I did a reading with John Gallagher Jr. a few months ago and was kind of speechless the entire time. I guess if I was looking to mimic anyone’s career (which I’m not) it would be his.

You play Dudley Dursley, Karl Jenkins, and Victor Krum in the show. Dudley and Victor have already been established in the original book series whereas Karl is a whole new character. What was the process like of approaching each character?

It’s undeniably special. I mean it’s not every day that you get to play in a world created by Jo Rowling...as far as any sort of development of Karl, much of what makes Karl Karl is based on his dynamic with the other students. So that’s subject to change show to show. At the top of the show, I have great opportunities to connect with some of the other students, and the game is seeing how that develops over the following 5 hours. As far as Viktor and Dudley go, both of those characters are so extreme and exist so briefly that there was never any feeling of living up to a preconceived expectation of what the character was supposed to be like. Dudley has been a fun excuse to be silly with some seriously talented people though, last year I shared that scene with Kathryn Meisle and Byron Jennings and now I share it with Fiona Reid and Stephen Spinella. I have to keep reminding myself that the opportunity to work with people that brilliant on a day to day basis doesn’t come along that often.

You understudy both Albus and James Sirius in the show. What’s it like covering two different tracks? Do you have a favorite track? 

Understudying and covering were new to me at the beginning of the process. And anyone who has covered on this show can attest to just how challenging it can be. But I was being asked to tackle a challenge that I was really passionate and excited about, so that mitigated the anxiety a bit. Of course it is a lot of material to remember, but I figure I’m in the wrong business if I have a problem with memorizing stuff. Potter also does a great job of creating companies that are incredibly supportive, which gives an understudy the freedom to relax a little, and ultimately improves the quality of the show. I like different parts of all three tracks I know, so I don’t know if I could call any of them my favorite.

What is your favorite scene of the show that you aren’t in? 

This one is tough. I love when I have an opportunity to watch the show from the audience’s perspective, because this show is all about where you see it from. I have a dream of calling out of the show one day just so I can sit in the back of the theatre with a hat pulled low over my eyes and see what all the fuss is about. I guess my favorite scene in the play is one I’m not allowed to talk about. I will say the way we come to the climax of part 2 is pretty intense for anyone who has a history with the Harry Potter canon. And the way that entire sequence is devised is just really really good theatre. The writing is powerful, the perspective isn’t what you expect as an audience member but it makes so much sense, the tech for the moment is so simple and yet so emotionally complex, the music is just so impactful (I swear Imogen Heap is not of this earth), and as I’ve said before, the performers I work with are so smart and pick apart the complexity of the moment so well, it’s awesome to watch.

If you could play any other character in the show, who would you play and why?

Draco for the ponytail.

What message do you hope audiences take away after seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Broadway? 

Parents are imperfect, children are imperfect, everyone is imperfect. The standard of perfection is unrealistic and yet we hold others to it all the time, and we hold ourselves to it almost constantly. Everyone has problems they’re trying to solve, demons they’re trying to exercise. Oftentimes we don’t ask for these problems, they’re simply dumped on us and we’re left to blindly pick up the pieces.  I think Cursed Child is the opposite side of the same coin Harry dealt with for seven books. Harry spent his childhood dealing with problems he didn’t ask for. Over the course of the play, Albus does the same thing. Albus says he “didn’t choose to be his son,” Harry says he didn’t “go looking for danger he was forced into it,” and even in the emotional resolution of the play he says he’s “flying without wires here.” Nobody has any idea what they’re doing, we are all figuring it out as we go, making decisions on the fly, “flying without wires” as it were. You play the hand you’re dealt and at the end of the day, that's the best you can do. I think if we gave people more credit, and worked harder to understand that everyone around us is just trying their best to get by, we might not be so critical of one another. It’s only when Albus and Harry are able to be honest with one another, about their insecurities, their fears, and what concerns them, that they can recognize, in spite of the burden they place upon one another, that the love they have for each other is the only thing that matters.  

Fun Question! If you could pick any show to be revived on Broadway right now, which would it be? 

I’d want to revive a Miller and Tysen musical called “The Burnt Part Boys” and give it the broadway run it deserves. If you haven’t listened to it, it’s all on Spotify and it is awesome. Michael Park and Young Noah Galvin are on the recording. Skylar Astin was a part of it for a while.  The score has this insane bluegrass inspired musical theatre sound that Miller and Tysen do so well. Hands down, no questions asked. 

You can keep up with Joey by following his social media, listed below:

Instagram: @jlabrasca

Twitter: @joey_labrasca

And, make sure to catch Joey in Harry Potter And The Cursed Child Parts One and Two playing at the Lyric Theatre!
Thank you to everyone who read this blog post and to Joey for taking the time to answer these questions!

Sending love and light,

JuJu

JuJu Jaworski
Magic In The Air: Seeing Harry Potter and The Cursed Child Part One and Two on Broadway!

On Wednesday, August 31st, I waited patiently in a curved line outside of the Lyric Theatre. I stood in a bustling sea of people, from children tugging their parents’ hands to young adults chatting eagerly. The minute I walked to the theater and saw posters donning emblems of the four Hogwarts houses, I felt a smile spread across my face. I was seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two on Broadway.

Harry Potter was a phenomenon that I have loved ever since I was young. I, as most children, went dressed in my Hogwarts robe for Halloween (I was Hermione and even left my hair in braids overnight to mirror Emma Watson’s infamous curly hair). I read the books at a rapid pace, becoming enchanted and mesmerized by the magic of the Wizarding World. I visited Universal Studios with my family for the sole purpose of seeing Hogwarts and trying the much-talked about butter beer right after the park’s opening of the Harry Potter World section. I even got my own wand! (And proceeded to drop it down a flight of stairs at my hotel. I was a bit of a klutz but, fear not, the Universal workers gave me a new one. Shoutout to them for their kindness. Middle school JuJu and present-day JuJu appreciate it immensely.)

When one of my best friends, Jani, approached me about seeing the show, I was, of course, excited. I expected to enjoy it and knew it would be well done but, little did I know I would fall in love with the world created onstage. I walked out of the Lyric Theatre convinced that this was easily one of the best shows I have ever seen on Broadway. And that rings true. Whether you are a fan of Harry Potter or only know briefly of the franchise, I highly encourage you to see this marvelous show. Shows like this are what motivate me to create theatre. Being able to captivate an audience and entirely transport them to another place within a theater is something few shows are capable of, but Harry Potter and The Cursed Child does it with ease.

Without giving away any major plot points and in an attempt to keep the magic concealed (#keepthesecrets!!!), I want to highlight some of my favorite moments and aspects of the show. Although the show is a play, there are choreographed numbers to instrumental music and they are absolutely beautiful. The choreography is so perfectly placed and quite literally, (no pun intended), magical. Two of my favorite sequences have to be Wand Dance and the Staircase Ballet.

I have to highlight the performances of Nicholas Podany as Albus Potter and Bubba Weiler as Scorpius Malfoy. These two actors are two of the most captivating performers I have ever seen on a Broadway stage. They completely nail the dynamic between Albus and Scorpius and emphasize just how much they need each other, even if they don’t always say it. Both Nick and Bubba are able to highlight their character’s high and lows, their funny moments and emotional fatigue. When looking at Scorpius and Albus’ friendship and dynamic, I’m definitely more of a Scorpius! But, being able to see parts of myself in both characters was such an amazing experience for me. The last theatrical characters that have really resonated with me have been Evan Hansen (Dear Evan Hansen) and Dmitry (Anastasia). Seeing these two characters and being able to see myself in bits and pieces of them was unexpected but, made the experience all the more special.

Seeing Albus seem to struggle with living up to his parents expectations and his inherent pressure to succeed resonated with me. In this day in age with our fast-moving world and social media, it’s so easy to feel this weight of needing to succeed in all you do. Also, seeing Albus struggle with being different from others in his family is something I related to. He has to deal with not falling under the umbrella of the “typical Potter” but instead, being himself. Watching Albus find himself throughout the show and seeing his character development was so important. Nick’s portrayal of Albus is truly incredible. 

Scorpius’ qualities really resonated with me as a whole in the sense that his extrovert exterior and his bubbly personality was a way to mask his inherent insecurities and loneliness. Scorpius aches for friendship and companionship; he consistently wants what is better for the other person. At a certain point in the show, when everything seems to be going wrong for everyone else but him, he says “I am better off […] But, the world is not better. And I don’t want that”. (Tried to make that as ambiguous as possible in an effort to keep the secrets!) Sometimes when I find myself in certain situations, I find myself putting others needs before myself. This is not always a bad thing, but sometimes I allow it, even if it comes at the cost of my own happiness. Scorpius is the same way in that he would rather take care of others and preserve their happiness. I believe Bubba portrayed every aspect of Scorpius in such a real and honest way.

The show, aside from having complex characters, was visually stunning in every way. As someone who aspires to work in the theatrical industry, a show such as this one serves as inspiration to me. Every single ensemble member and principal cast member moved as one and worked as one to tell this incredible story.

Getting to stagedoor the show just made the night even better. It was Harry Potter’s birthday and getting to talk to James Snyder (who plays Harry Potter) about his “second birthday” was so much fun. I also got to talk to Joey LaBrasca (who plays Dudley Dursley, Karl Jenkins, and Victor Krum) who is one of the kindest people. Joey was so amazing to see perform onstage. I also got to talk to Nick and tell him how cool it was for me to see parts of me in his portrayal of Albus. Every actor at stagedoor greeted everyone with a smile and were more than happy to talk about the show and the great world of the Harry Potter franchise. The Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Year Two cast was beyond kind to everyone at stagedoor and made this experience all the more special.

In conclusion, I have definitely found a new favorite show of mine. If you are able to see this show, please do. Whether it’s the New York production, London, Melbourne, San Francisco, Hamburg, or Toronto, you will walk out amazed by the magic of this show and the magic of theatre itself. I hope I get to stop by the Lyric Theatre again soon. I’m so glad I got to see this great show with great friends (shoutout Jani and Emily! Row A forever!) Thank you to the entire cast and creative team of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two for a fantastic experience. And, always, keep the secrets!

Look below for my photos from seeing the show and stagedooring!

Sending light and love,

JuJu

JuJu Jaworski
Pronoun Showdown is Back!

If you’re a Broadway fan, you are extremely likely to have heard of the widely popular cabaret show Pronoun Showdown! And, if you keep up with Broadway By JuJu then you know that I got to attend the last Pronoun Showdown installment in April, celebrating the show’s one year anniversary.

Pronoun Showdown is created and produced by Abby DePhillips and Kimberly Jenna Simon, and with music direction by Benjamin Rauhala. It is a star-studded event full of your favorite Broadway performers singing along to everything from show tunes to medleys of hit songs on the radio.

Today, Abby and Kimberly made a special announcement via Abby’s Youtube…. Pronoun Showdown is BACK! And, when two of your favorite producers (and ladies) bring back a fabulous show series, you have no choice but to write about it!

The next show will be on August 20th at the Green Room 42. You can purchase tickets using the link below! So excited for another amazing installment of this fabulous show! As someone who aspires to produce and enter the Broadway industry one day, being able to see shows like these come to life makes my heart so happy. Congrats to the whole Pronoun Showdown team!

Buy tickets here: https://thegreenroom42.poptix.com/show/details/K1GflMbVR4pVLTK5VzZJ/1566351000000

Sending love and light,

JuJu

JuJu Jaworski
I Got You, Babe!: Seeing the Cher Show on Broadway

Let’s do this, bitches!”

I think that one sentence, spoken by Stephanie J Block (The Tony-Award Winning actress who plays Star the oldest of the 3 Cher’s), sums up the infectious energy that is The Cher Show on Broadway.

The Cher Show was a show full of energy, heart, and happiness. With Stephanie J Block, Teal Wicks, and Micaela Diamond as the 3 Chers’, the show is power-packed with a star studded cast.

Seen in the audience are smiling faces singing along to crowd favorites such as “If I Could Turn Back Time” and “Believe”. A standing ovation followed by a dance party in the crowd is common for the Cher Show finale. This show is definitely one for the ages and a true beaming light on Broadway.

Make sure to catch the fabulous company of The Cher Show before the show’s closing on August 18th and see the touring production in 2020!

Sending light and love,

JuJu

JuJu Jaworski
73rd Annual Tony Awards Recap!

Last Sunday was the 73rd Annual Tony Awards which honored the best and brightest of the Broadway community! If you missed the awards ceremony, here’s a recap of the winners!

Best Musical: Hadestown

Best Play: The Ferryman

Best Revival of a Musical: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!

Best Revival of a Play: The Boys in the Band

Best Book of a Musical: Tootsie, Robert Horn

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre: Hadestown, Music & Lyrics: Anaïs Mitchell

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play: Bryan Cranston, Network

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play: Elaine May, The Waverly Gallery

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical: Santino Fontana, Tootsie

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical: Stephanie J. Block, The Cher Show

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play: Bertie Carvel, Ink

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play: Celia Keenan-Bolger, To Kill a Mockingbird

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical: André De Shields, Hadestown

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical: Ali Stroker, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!

Best Scenic Design of a Play: Rob Howell, The Ferryman

Best Scenic Design of a Musical: Rachel Hauck, Hadestown

Best Costume Design of a Play: Rob Howell, The Ferryman

Best Costume Design of a Musical: Bob Mackie, The Cher Show

Best Lighting Design of a Play: Neil Austin, Ink

Best Lighting Design of a Musical: Bradley King, Hadestown

Best Sound Design of a Play: Fitz Patton, Choir Boy

Best Sound Design of a Musical: Nevin Steinberg & Jessica Paz, Hadestown

Best Direction of a Play: Sam Mendes, The Ferryman

Best Direction of a Musical: Rachel Chavkin, Hadestown

Best Choreography: Sergio Trujillo, Ain’t Too Proud — The Life and Times of the Temptations

Best Orchestrations: Michael Chorney & Todd Sickafoose, Hadestown

Congrats to all the nominees and winners!


Sending light and love,

JuJu

JuJu Jaworski