Seven Broadway shows (with another one heading to NYC this upcoming Spring). Two out-of-town runs. A BFA from University of Michigan. Shina Ann Morris has the Broadway resume most performers dream of and is constantly onto her next project. I have gotten the privilege to see Shina perform in Anastasia on Broadway three times and the rumors are true: she is an absolute star! Shina is not only an amazing performer, but one of the kindest people I have ever met. Recently, I got to interview Shina about her life in college, on Broadway, and advice she would give to aspiring performers. Scroll below to read my interview with Shina!
When you were younger, did you always know you wanted to be a performer?
I think I did always know I wanted to be a performer. I specifically remember two moments where I felt this twinge like I should be doing this. I remember being about 2 or 3 and seeing The Nutcracker on TV for the first time. I told my mom, "I want to do that!" So she enrolled my sister and me in ballet & tap at a studio in our hometown. The other memory I have is my grandpa sitting with me as we watched ANNIE and MARY POPPINS. Those movie musicals really spoke to me as a little kid, and I've been dancing ever since.
I did have a lull (as lots of adolescents tend to do) around middle school where I wasn't sure if I wanted to keep dancing. That's when I found out my studio was joining up with the theatre in the same building, and they needed dancers to be in the cast. That's basically the moment I got the music theatre bug. Once I found out you could make a living in musical theatre, I think I kicked it into gear. I got my BFA at University of Michigan for Musical Theatre, moved to NYC after our Senior Showcase, and hit the ground running.
You just finished your out of town run of Tootsie: The Musical, what is it like getting to develop a show right from the beginning? What are you most looking forward to when it transfers to Broadway?
This is now my second out of town run (ANASTASIA being the first), and it's still a very surreal thing to me. I have wanted to be with a show from the ground floor my whole career. The thing is, I wasn't with these shows in their actual beginning stages; I wasn't a part of the readings or labs they worked on to get the show in the shape it was for us to go out of town. It's truly remarkable what a production goes through in order to get that far, and I applaud every single person in every single area of putting a show together.
I guess as far as being with a show out of town, you have the opportunity to see what works with audiences not in NYC, and there are so many dance steps, costumes, songs, lines, props that get cut or morph throughout that time. Some that totally make sense to say bye to, others, it's sad to see those steps or costumes go. But changes we make out of town are in the show's best interest, and hopefully the audiences in NYC agree with us!
I'm most looking forward to seeing how much more we grown once we transfer to Broadway. We of course have tons to continue to work on, so I'm very excited to just get back in the room with all those wonderful, fun-loving people and experiment and play!
Who was your biggest theatrical inspiration growing up?
Audra McDonald and Ann Reinking were my two biggest theatrical inspirations growing up. Obviously, since I was so obsessed with the 1982 movie musical; I would watch Ann Reinking dance "We Got Annie" over and over and over again. That then took me down the Fosse rabbit hole. Just her style and physicality were mesmerizing to me.
Audra captured me with her voice. RAGTIME is still one of my top 3 favorite musicals, and she can absolutely do no wrong in my eyes.
What’s the most important lesson you took away from your years at University of Michigan?
The most important lesson I took away from my years at U of M (and I wish I had realized it sooner), was to not let the teachers pigeon hole me into one label. I came to the program as dancer first, my singing and acting skills the ones that needed more work. But I was easily just always that. And I think I wasn't given the opportunity to work more at my "weaknesses", but I also could have pushed myself farther without help from the inside. I learned in hindsight, that I wasn't as great with time management as I thought I was. I was working to pay for living expenses 6am-10am, and then I had class until I had rehearsal. There was not really time for me to do outside productions that would have let me explore a bit more, and that was a hard lesson to learn.
I know now that it is MY responsibility, not the responsibility of my teachers, to push myself and prove that I am more.
You have an amazing Broadway resume! From West Side Story to Anything Goes to Nice Work If You Can Get It to Annie to Cinderella to Holiday Inn to Anastasia, you’ve been in some amazing shows. what has been your favorite show to be a part of?
I have had the luxury of loving the shows and the people in the show with every production I have been a part of! But if I had to pick, my two favorite shows to be a part of: WEST SIDE STORY and ANNIE.
WEST SIDE STORY is my favorite musical of all time, and to have had the chance to work with THE Arthur Laurents, and sing and dance that incredible choreography to that glorious music every night, was a dream. I was lucky enough to do that show for a year and a half, but I truly could have done that show for years.
I loved being a part of ANNIE because KIDS! DOGS! CHRISTMAS! What more do you need!!??! I did love (after I stopped being terrified) getting to stand on the stage and sing N.Y.C. staring out into the gigantic Palace Theatre house every night.
If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring performer looking to make it in the Broadway world, what would you say?
My advice would be to work hard. There will be some days you don't feel like putting in the work. There will be some days when you will think giving up would be easier. So many people say it, and it's true. This business is hard. But if you can't handle 100 NO's for every YES, then keep at it.
I would say don't limit yourself. Believe in yourself, because there are plenty of people that can doubt you, but you can always have yourself on your side.
Make sure to stay up to date with Shina by following her on social media!
Make sure to see Shina shine onstage in Tootsie on Broadway spring 2019! Previews begin March 29th at the Marquis Theatre.
Thank you so much to Shina for taking the time to answer my questions and thank you to all reading this post!
Sending love and light,