My fierce Broadway buddy, Ariana Debose nominated Brittany for FFB so it was no surprise that she is absolute gold, and also a tiny, but blazing firework of positive energy. Brittany also toured with my best friend, Cassie Silva, who championed her all the more to me. *Jazz hands for fierce ladies championing other fierce ladies!* Brittany dove into this interview, sharing so much amazing info for you guys about persistence, taking care of your instrument, working as dance captain, touring, and being Fit for Broadway!
NOTE FROM BRITTANY: Hi! I’m Brittany Conigatti and I am beyond excited to be apart of a Fit for Broadway Feature! I am an original cast member of the Broadway show A Bronx Tale The New Musical where I am the Dance Captain and known as the Italian Girl in the blue capris! I was born and raised in Staten Island, NY. I attended Fiorello H. LaGuardia H.S of Music & Art and Performing Arts where I was a Dance Major. I graduated from AMDA (American Musical and Dramatic Academy) as a Musical Theatre Major and went on to get my BFA in Musical Theatre from The New School. I have worked professionally since I was 17 and have traveled around the USA and Canada performing! Some of my favorite jobs have been: 1st National Tour and Toronto Company of Matilda, 1st National Tour of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, five productions at Paper Mill Playhouse- Disney High School Musical, Hairspray, Elf, A Bronx Tale, and West Side Story, The Music Man at Maltz Jupiter Theatre, Sweet Charity at Caper Playhouse and Rock of Ages on board the Norwegian Breakaway. I love spending my off time with my family and friends, teaching dance, and making the most of life’s adventures!
Q: Brittany, You’re such a light and I’m so grateful we’re getting to finally connect for a feature, highlighting your Broadway debut not to mentioned Dance Captain over at A Bronx Tale! Let’s start from the beginning. What was your journey to Broadway?
A: I have always LOVED theatre and constantly was seeing Broadway shows growing up since I was born and raised here in New York. I went to LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts (The FAME School) and was a Dance Major there, so theatre wasn’t actually what I thought I would do with my life. It wasn’t until my senior year in high school that I auditioned for a show at Paper Mill Playhouse on a whim. My mom saw an audition notice that called for hip-hop and jazz dancers who could play teenagers in their production of Disney High School Musical. I went to the audition and out of hundreds of performers trying to make it into the show; I kept getting callback after callback. I never took voice lessons before this audition so I only knew one song from a group lesson in my elective at school, which was “All That Jazz” and when asked to sing, that was the only song I had and knew. Shocked, the casting director, choreographer, and director all gave me the shot to sing that song, and a week later I got a call while I was in my science class that I booked the show! In disbelief, I couldn’t believe that the girl, who knew nothing about theatre, just booked a show at one of the most prestigious theaters in the country! With having a wonderful department head at LaGuardia, Michelle Mathesius, supportive classmates and teachers, they all made it possible for me to be apart of the show. The experience I had at Paper Mill Playhouse is what truly paved the way for me to want to pursue Musical Theatre. From the backstage crew, to the Artistic Director, Mark Hoebee, they took me under their wings, taught me everything I know, and took a chance on 17 year old me.
After getting the acting bug, I was determined and persistent to try and achieve my dream of being on Broadway. I started how everyone else did, as a non-eq performer trying to make it on the Great White Way! Being from Staten Island, I would have to be up at 5am to hop on the ferry to get to Manhattan and sit in a holding room for hours on end not knowing whether I would be seen or not that day, while still going to school. A few months into doing that, I went in search of an agent and at 18, signed with the agency I am still currently with, Bloc. After graduating from high school I knew I needed more training in acting and singing. Attending AMDA allowed me to get training and audition in NYC at the same time. I have since then been on many auditions, appointments, offered my time up for free for various choreographers, non-eq jobs, and after getting my equity card, continued to work my way up.
I have been a part of two National Tours, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and Matilda, worked on the Norwegian Breakaway in their Broadway production of Rock of Ages, and have been apart of many top notch productions at regional theaters such as Paper Mill Playhouse, Maltz Jupiter Theatre, and Cape Playhouse, all while finishing my BFA online through The New School.
My journey specifically to make it to Broadway with A Bronx Tale started 2 years ago. I had the chance to audition for the developmental dance lab for A Bronx Tale. I had never worked with anyone on the creative team, let alone seen the movie (terrible Italian!). I went in to dance for Sergio Trujillo, whose choreography is always so exhilarating and technically a challenge. I immediately fell in LOVE! I have gone in for Sergio’s productions of Memphis and Flashdance a bunch of times, and always made it to the finals for those. This audition felt different. I felt completely at home and in my element, embracing the strong and powerful Italian women he was looking for, and in my head said I NEED to get into this lab. I knew that this truly was “my show.” After some rounds of callbacks in the same day, singing and reading, I got that phone call the following week asking if I was available to be a part of the developmental dance lab for A Bronx Tale! I was one of the only ones in that room on the first day that hadn’t worked with someone on the creative team, so it was an experience where I needed to put the work in, but also be aware of the impression I would make daily. When the lab ended, I felt incredible about the relationships I formed there. I was told I would be doing the workshop for A Bronx Tale which came after doing the dance lab. When the time came, they gave out contracts to three other girls, meaning I wouldn’t be a part of it as I had anticipated. Incredibly crushed and of course going through and questioning everything I did in that lab, it just never made sense why I didn’t get the contract for the workshop. Speaking with the musical supervisor for the show, I found my voice wasn’t as strong as they needed for the upcoming workshop and they were going with completely different girls who vocally were stronger. Great, I got exactly the answer that I needed that pushed me to get my booty into voice lessons weekly, and from the time the lab ended to the time auditions rose for the production they would be doing at Paper Mill Playhouse, I worked day in and day out on my voice and the material in the show.
The time came when I was on the road with Matilda and I got a message from the Associate Choreographer asking if I was still interested in A Bronx Tale. My response, “I was never not interested, so of course I am interested!” Fast forward, I went in to a final audition for A Bronx Tale which was held onstage at Theatre Row, and walked into a theatre filled with people- from Robert DeNiro to Chazz Palminteri to Tommy Mottola to Alan Menken to literally everyone on the creative team, producers, whoever you could think of was in that theatre, all about to sit and listen to me sing and watch me read the sides. Talk about sweat! I was a nervous wreck!! I kept telling myself, “They called you back, they want you to succeed and at this point you still have a job if this doesn’t work out, so just breathe and go in there and put it all out on the stage and leave knowing you did your absolute best.” Well talk about a whirlwind of emotions and nerves, I left there with my head held high and confident that I did all I possibly could. 4 days later, I was back on tour in my apartment with some cast mates and got the call that changed it all! I was asked to be apart of the production of A Bronx Tale at Paper Mill Playhouse. Screams, jumping, hugging all ensued and about a month later my time on tour with Matilda ended and it was back to NYC!
Being a part of this show from the ground up truly was inspiring and one of the best times in my life. I became the Dance Captain of the show about two weeks into the rehearsal process and worked extremely hard to show the team that I was a right choice. When we all found out that the show was going to Broadway, about a month after we closed at Paper Mill, all of the emotions and nerves came back to await the call if I’d be moving with it or not. I was in rehearsals for West Side Story at Paper Mill when I saw my agent calling. I ran into an empty rehearsal room and received the call of a lifetime- I’d be making my Broadway Debut that fall, as the Dance Captain and Italian Girl, in a brand new Broadway show! Tears, screams, disbelief that it was coming true, all swooped over me as my agent kept saying the words I was waiting for! Immediately I got off the phone with my agent, and FaceTimed my mom from the rehearsal room crying- she thought something was wrong and all I could blurt out was “It’s happening, we did it! I’m making my Broadway Debut Mom! I’m going to be in A Bronx Tale and be the DANCE CAPTAIN!” After celebrating somewhat fast as we were in a run of the show next door, I had to wipe my tears, pull myself together and finish our rehearsal day! That night, I immediately drove to the theatre that A Bronx Tale would later be in and took a picture outside of it. I used that picture to tell all of my close family and friends. My shirt in the picture said, “Live the life you’ve dreamed” and I sent the picture with the caption “My new home this fall!” The amount of love and excitement I got to share with my family and friends was incredible. Everyone saying, “We all made it to Broadway!” shows how close I am with my family and friends. Without them, I would not be where I am today. Continuing the journey with them has been absolutely incredible and on my official Opening Night (Preview on Nov.3rd) I had 55 close family and friends in the audience! My mom was the first one to call the box-office and reserve the seats for our first paying audience to see!
Q: How have fitness and health been intertwined into your career as a performer?
A: I have always had to be aware of my health and fitness because at such a young age, I knew I wanted to be a professional soccer player or a dancer. Both of these require a lifestyle that is dependent on eating healthy and working out regularly to make sure your body, which is your instrument, remains healthy and strong. Being a dancer first, most of my fitness and health was to ensure my body was always at its best. Once I entered the theatre world, it was just as important to keep my voice healthy. I have found myself being more conscious of what I put into my body because I know these are the things I need to fuel my body. Constantly being on the go, I have had to find ways to maintain a healthy way of eating that would keep up with my busy lifestyle. I have a love for Acai bowls and smoothies. I find that is the easiest way for me to get all the nutrients I need. I also love having Greek yogurt for breakfast and different kinds of salads for lunch. I know staying hydrated is a big part of remaining healthy, and for me, I can’t get enough seltzer! I also love tea! I try and drink matcha before a rehearsal I have to run, or before the show because I feel it has a lot of natural ingredients that give me energy and it is packed with antioxidants.
I have found that because of my background in dance, continuing to take class in varying styles has been a huge part in keeping me healthy both physically and mentally. I have also found a love for taking power yoga classes (vinyasa), throughout my week as well. Those classes mentally keep me focused and connected to my breath while physically helping me elongate my muscles and keep me toned. With constantly being on the go, all of the above helps keep me grounded and focused on my goals.
Q: Much of your career so far has been on tour. How to stay healthy on tour is a question that always comes up! Any pro secrets you can share with our lovely FFB tribe who are currently touring?
A: Try to keep focused on what you eat and not fall into the trap of always eating out at chain restaurants. I found that was really hard to do when on the road, because you don’t always have a kitchen to make your own food, and a convenient thing is just to eat out. I would always ask for a refrigerator in my room so that I could keep some healthy options around my room such as fruit, or yogurt, and I would try and travel healthy snacks such as trail mix or protein bars.
On my first tour, I was an avid “Insanity” workout girl and sometimes girls on the tour would put together Zumba classes to do between shows to keep working out fun. While I was working on the ship, we had full access to the gym and whatever classes they had on the schedule each day. One of our officers even would hold crew only classes where we did various classes like FlyWheel and yoga. On my second tour, I downloaded an app called “Yoga Glo,” thanks to one of the woman on tour who told me about it, that helped me immensely on the road to keep up with yoga. The app has unlimited yoga and meditation classes geared toward however you are feeling or however you would like to feel for that day. The practices vary in time and difficulty, so there was never an excuse not to do one practice a day. I also would try and find different fitness studios in different cities. It was a fun way to explore and dive into a city, while still keeping up with your workout and health. It was helpful that a lot of my castmates on the road also had the same goal so I always had someone to go and take class with or to explore the different healthy food options in a city. I never stopped myself from enjoying a meal, even if it wasn’t the healthiest, because on the road you are also trying to explore each city and what it has to offer. Trying different foods was a huge part of that actually and it was so interesting to experience.
I loved going on adventures in the different cities we visited and was always the one to plan an excursion, but I also found it important to have alone time. That is normally when I would do a yoga practice or read. I typically Iike to start my day off that way- so I would wake up, most of the time do a practice in my pjs, shower, and then start my day. I also walked a ton! I felt walking in a city was one of the best ways to explore it, so basically you kill two birds with one stone, you get to experience the city, and get a workout in! I rented bikes a lot as well. It again was a great way to explore a city and still be active!
Q: Top 3 tips for being Fit for Bronx Tale?
- Core exercises! 1. Because I am in a crop top (haha) and 2. Because with my track in the show I am constantly being lifted and caught that it is important for me to know where my center is and how to feel connected to it.
- Roll out! Our bodies are the most important thing in this industry and they need to be taken care of. Because of the way our theatre is designed, I climb a lot of stairs throughout the show. Our theatre doesn’t have a cross over, we have a cross under. So at any point to get to the other side of the stage or upstairs to the dressing rooms or wig room, you have to take the stairs. Due to that, my legs are solid as a rock! Rolling out throughout the week helps to flush out lactic acid build up that causes us to get sore and also acts as a massage for our muscles. I love using a lacrosse ball, therabands, and a foam roller that has trigger point therapy built in.
- Warming up before the show! I find it is one of the most important things to do. I also think it is important for the kids in our show to understand what to do before a show to keep them healthy so as Dance Captain, I warm our Young Calogero’s up before every show. In the warm-up we tackle some cardio, abs, stretching and strengthening. I find it important to get focused in on the show we are about to do because for the next 2 hours, that is all that matters. I use that time to mentally get prepared while physically preparing myself for what is to come in the show. Also because a lot of my costume changes happen up in my dressing room which is on the 4th floor, I have to make sure I am warm for not only the choreography I get to perform every night, but also for the constant trek up and down the stairs! I also find a moment to connect with my dance partner before every show. We do some warm up lifts and then run the lifts we do in the show. Sometimes he’ll come in with an idea for a lift and try it out with me to keep our bodies guessing and not feeling stuck in the same routine.
Q: You’re yogi obsessed like me. Why is it the most effective workout for your 8 show week?
A: I feel it is the most effective workout for my 8 show week because I find it being the best balance for me to get a physical and mental workout without making me feel fatigued. A yoga class gets my sweat on, my heart rate up, mentally keeps me focused, and makes me feel like Wonder Woman when I accomplish a class. I feel energized after a class and ready to tackle my day. Being the Dance Captain, I feel I am always on! At any point I am running a rehearsal, answering questions, making sure the cast feels comfortable before a show, getting our swings and understudies ready for whenever they get thrown on, so being present, energized, and focused is always my goal and using yoga as my workout during the week helps me with all of those!
Q: How do you overcome moments when you are doubting yourself?
A: I have learned to trust in my worth, my talent, and myself. It was one of the hardest, but has been one of the most rewarding feelings. I have always been extremely honest with myself. I know what I am capable of and know when I am not pushing myself to my fullest potential. I am my hardest critic. I strive to be a perfectionist in my profession and like anything else in life, the road to that is not always easy. Getting to Broadway was no small feat. I worked extremely hard and put the time in to make it to this point. Doubt is extremely common, especially in performers, because we are constantly being judged in some capacity and that is taxing on anyone. I did Iike everyone does and questioned myself a lot on why I wouldn’t make a show or why I didn’t get a callback. I had to build my confidence up to know that I am capable of achieving my dream and just trusting and believing in myself and the work that I put in most of my life will be rewarded. This is an industry of many ups and downs, many “no’s” and some “yes’s!” Trusting in myself has allowed me to brush off the “No’s” and move forward and onto the next because most of the time you never get an answer as to “Why?” I know that I am talented and have a lot to offer, because I have worked extremely hard to get myself to this place. I trust the hard work I have put in will propel me into the future I see, and at this moment with the trust and belief in myself that I could make it to Broadway, look- my hard work paid off and here I am! Keep loving yourself, trusting that you know yourself best, and working hard for your dreams to become reality.
Q: Do you have any daily practices that keep you grounded and centered?
A: Besides physically trying to do a yoga practice everyday, I have made it a point that each and every time I walk into the stage door of our theatre I take a moment to recognize where I am. I also do this every time I step onstage before the show and during bows. Before the show I stand for a moment and take in the empty theatre before all of the patrons come in and fill the seats. At the end of the show, I make it a point to try and look at every audience member from the orchestra to the balcony and remember myself sitting in those seats watching those onstage. I take it all in and truly try and remain humble, thankful, and proud that I made my dream a reality. At the end of the night, when it is time to leave, I will stay the extra 10 minutes and sign autographs to take pictures with anyone who wants. I truly try to give back any way I can, because I know what it is like to admire those who have made their dreams a reality.
Q: Who or what inspires you?
A: This is a tough one because so many people along the way have been huge inspirations to me. Growing up, I looked to my various dance teachers and mentors for inspiration. When working on different shows throughout my career, certain performers and choreographers would inspire me. They all have the same thing in common: the desire to reach for their dream and not stop until they reached it. Seeing close friends especially make their dreams come true has helped me to keep striving for mine. I have watched them work hard and put in the time to get to where they are, and it showed me that it is 100% possible!
The older I get the more I look to what’s in front of me. Two family members actually come to mind as inspiring me as well: my sister, Courtney, and my Uncle Johnny. My sister has proven so many people wrong, and paved her own way for her future as a dancer. She is one of the strongest women I know, and has a heart of gold. She has grown into this incredible, confident, and inspiring dancer, after many have torn her down. She has the heart and passion that inspires me to try and embody every day, and has pushed herself beyond limits to go after her dream. My Uncle Johnny on the other hand, actually was a Doo-wop singer. He is best known for breaking barriers and being in the first interracial group called ‘The Crests’ and later formed his own band, ‘Johnny Maestro and the Brooklyn Bridge.’ My Uncle was an average boy growing up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, aspiring to be a singer, and working his way from singing under street lamps, to singing on stage. I often re-watch his last concert before he passed away. I watched him onstage, battling aggressive cancer and knowing it would be the last time on stage, no one else knowing, and him putting his entire heart and body into each and every song. He always left the audience wanting more because the passion and love he put into his concerts was infectious. You could tell this man lived and breathed his art, which is how I strive to be every day. I attended his concerts from the time I could walk. He was the most humble family man, and truly one of the most inspiring artists I have ever watched. My show has a lot to do with that time period of Doo-wop and so I take it as a huge sign that A Bronx Tale was meant to be my debut.
Q: What’s your advice for aspiring performers who have their sights set on Broadway?
A: Remain true to yourself and never stop working and growing. I believe with work comes reward. I know for myself I put in tons of hard work to get to the point I am at. I believed in myself and trusted that in the end I will make my dream come true. My advice is to be confident in the person you are and above all be nice to everyone you meet. This industry is extremely small and having a good reputation takes you far. Be prepared, engaged, and willing to be present for the duration of the audition or rehearsal or show. Work ethic is key and your energy surrounding you is too. Smile and remember why you are doing this in the first place- because you have a love and passion for it.
Twitter: @brittconigatti | Instagram: @brittconigatti | Agency Page: nyc.blocagency.com/talent/legit/brittany-conigatti