How One "Hello, Dolly!" Dancer Booked Broadway…After 14 Years

April 27, 2017

Elizabeth Earley’s path to the Great White Way was fueled by perseverance. C
urrently a swing and co-dance captain for Hello, Dolly!, she shared her journey with Dance Magazine.

When I was a freshman at New York University’s musical theater studio, I cut class to attend a singers’ Equity Chorus Call for The Phantom of the Opera. I had no idea how casting worked. I hoped they might realize I was a ballet dancer and put me into consideration for a ballerina. After waiting in line for hours, I sang “Falling in Love with Love.” The team asked, “Is this your first New York audition?” They said, “You are so cute,” but there was no callback. Later, I saw the show was holding an open dance call. I went. The line wrapped around the block. We did two pointe combinations. But again, I was cut.

I decided to keep my focus on school instead of auditions with the exception of summer stock, which I worked every season. After graduating, I developed this idea that I wasn’t ready to be seen by Broadway casting teams. I only auditioned for stock, theme parks, cruise ships, regional theater and national tours. I eventually booked them all. As I started to gain more experience, auditioning went from being overwhelming to exciting.

After returning from the national tour of Whistle Down the Wind, I started to actively pursue roles. In 2009, I was up for my first principal role in a regional union show, Cassie in A Chorus Line. Having worked nine shows at this particular theater as ensemble, dance captain, minor roles and understudy, I was thrilled to be in the running for a lead. I felt strong as I danced, sang and read. Then someone on the casting team said, “She’s not hot enough.”

I realized I couldn’t control what other people felt, but I could control my mind-set. Keeping positive and being my daily best became vital in moments like that. I actually did end up booking Cassie in that production. I even went on to play her elsewhere and returned to the same theater to play Mary Poppins years down the road.

Earley as Cassie in a regional production of A Chorus Line. Photo by Alicia Donelan, Courtesy Earley

While I auditioned for Broadway regularly starting in 2008, I landed national tours for years. In 2015, I decided to dig my heels into the ground in New York City. That year, I attended an invited call to hire one female swing to cover the miscellaneous dance and singing tracks in a brand-new show. I almost didn’t go. I was so tired of pounding the pavement without making headway. On the day of the audition, I saw Eric Giancola, to whom I had taught Mary Poppins on the national tour when I was dance captain. He was leading the audition! He knew my work and work ethic. After passing the test with Phil Reno, the show’s musical director, and after approval of the director, I booked a job as swing in the original cast of Something Rotten! I finally cracked the glass ceiling of Broadway. All of the training and relentless work helped make it happen.

After a year in Something Rotten!, I auditioned for Hello, Dolly! by attending the dancers’ Equity Chorus Call. I danced and sang the first day after the team made a cut. I was called back to audition with the girls from the agent invited audition. More cuts were made as we danced, two by two. I had to dance with Jessica Lee Goldyn, who played Val in the Broadway revival of A Chorus Line. She is a terrific dancer! Years of auditioning taught me not to get nervous, but to get excited, saying “I get to dance with Jessica!” More days of auditions happened where we danced, sang, read for roles and partnered. I sang a song from Kismet. I was asked to sing and read for the character of Irene. I ended up booking swing/co-dance captain, and am very excited for my next Broadway experience. Though the road has been winding, I’ve learned not to compare my journey to others’. One of the most wonderful things about theater is that everyone takes their own unique path there. But in the end, we all share the same stage.