As a child, it was Alisa Hauser’s dream to perform on Broadway, a dream she later fulfilled by appearing in a number of Broadway shows, including the 2002 Tony Award-winning Broadway production of Thoroughly Modern Millie.
Now, 15 years after that production, the MSU Department of Theatre faculty member returns to Broadway to reunite with the original cast members of that show for a special one-night-only benefit celebration.
This 15th anniversary reunion concert will be presented Monday, February 12, at the Minskoff Theatre in New York City to a sold-out audience.
“Reuniting with friends and colleagues and performing a show that was so special will surely be a night to remember,” said Hauser, who is an Academic Specialist in Musical Theatre in MSU’s Department of Theatre. “I know it’s been 15 years, but as I was going over my harmony and dance steps, I couldn’t believe how quickly it all came back to me.”
Hauser played Alice, one of Millie’s friends, in Thoroughly Modern Millie. It was her third Broadway show, but her first original cast as an on-stage performer.
“With Millie, I got to create the role of Alice,” Hauser said. “That was another dream come true.”
The 2002 production of Thoroughly Modern Millie was nominated for 12 Tony Awards, winning six, including Best Musical, Best Costume Design, Best Choreography, and Best Orchestrations.
“Being on Broadway is amazing,” Hauser said. “At times, it is glamorous and exciting, and at times, it’s a job. Yes, there is opening night, and the cast party, and in the case of Millie, the excitement of performing on the Tony Awards. But then you settle in for hopefully a long run. In a Broadway show, you do eight shows a week, and if you are lucky, your show runs a long time.”
Hauser stayed with Thoroughly Modern Millie for the whole run, which was two and a half years.
“There are days when you are tired, or had a bad day, and you still have to give the audience the same show as if it were opening night,” Hauser said. “That becomes part of the job too – how to keep the show fresh and new when you are on the eighth show of the week.”
The 15th anniversary reunion concert, benefitting The Actors Fund, will star Sutton Foster, who earned a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her 2002 performance of Millie Dillmount; Harriet Harris, who also earned a 2002 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of Mrs. Meers; and Tony Award winner Gavin Creel, who played the role of Jimmy Smith in Thoroughly Modern Millie.
Hauser recalled what it was like auditioning for Broadway – the long arduous process of getting callbacks and auditioning several times in order to finally earn that coveted spot.
In the case of Thoroughly Modern Millie, she auditioned three times before she received a part. Hauser first auditioned a few years before the Broadway production, when they were doing a workshop of the show, and again a couple years later for the pre-Broadway tryout. Both times, she didn’t receive a part, but she didn’t let that discourage her.
“There was something about the sensibility of the show that made me feel I was so right for it,” Hauser said. So when they were getting ready to do the show on Broadway and were seeking a few more cast members, she auditioned once more.
“I guess the third time is the charm because that’s when I got cast,” she said. “I honestly think I got that job not just because I could sing and dance, but because my sensibility was so right for the show. My quirky humor and energy was the right match. I advise my students all the time not to try to be like anyone else, but to be themselves and allow their own authenticity to shine.”
Other Broadway performances Hauser has had include playing Frenchy in Grease! and appearing in the original cast of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, in which she was the understudy for 10 women in the ensemble.
Hauser said she plans to bring her most recent Broadway experience back to the classroom when she returns to Michigan State University after the Thoroughly Modern Millie reunion concert.
“The process has been an affirmation of so many things that I teach every day,” she said. “To watch Sutton, Gavin, and the rest of the cast work is like a masterclass in musical comedy, yet I’m right there in the room with them. I’m able to experience it as a fellow performer as well as a teacher.
“It’s also been incredible to talk to my friends who are still performing eight shows a week on Broadway and find out what has changed about the industry in the last 10 years (since I was performing) and what hasn’t. These new insights into the business of the business will be invaluable for my students.”
Hauser is one of the Department of Theatre’s voice teachers and also spends time working at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts on programs in the Institute for Arts & Creativity. In 2014, she was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Music and Lyrics for a song she wrote, No Trouble for A Christmas Carol – The Concert, which was televised on PBS. With music by Bob Christianson, Hauser wrote the book adaptation and lyrics for this symphonic retelling of the Dickens classic.