Ashford at PaleyFest 2014 for Masters of Sex
|Born||Annaleigh Amanda Swanson
(1985-06-25) June 25, 1985
Denver, Colorado, U.S.
|Alma mater||Marymount Manhattan College|
|Spouse(s)||Joe Tapper (m. 2013)|
Annaleigh Ashford (born Annaleigh Amanda Swanson; June 25, 1985) is an American actress and singer.
She is known for her work on Broadway as Glinda in Wicked, Margot in Legally Blonde, as well as for originating the role of Lauren in Kinky Boots, a performance for which she received a 2013 Tony nomination. Ashford won the 2015 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her performance as Essie Carmichael in the revival of You Can’t Take It with You.
Ashford was born in Denver, Colorado and raised in a single parent household by her mother, Holli Swanson, an elementary school gym teacher. Ashford participated in Kids Cross Country and Track at the age of six, coached by her mother. It was discovered there that she hated running, and it was very clear that she was more interested in the costume for the races rather than the actual races themselves. The last race she ever ran was the 400 m. After that race, her mother decided it was time to enroll her in the nearest dance studio. She was first enrolled and started studying at Kit Andrée’s Dance and Performing Arts Center the same day she started the second grade. She acted and sang in numerous performances in her hometown, including the leads in the musicals Ruthless!, and Anything Goes. She graduated from Wheat Ridge High School in three years at the age of 16, and then attended Marymount Manhattan College, where she earned a degree in theatre in another three years at the age of 19. 
Ashford’s professional career began at age nine, when she was cast as the lead in Ruthless! at “Theatre on Broadway”. At fourteen, she was profiled as “The Teen to Watch” by the Rocky Mountain News.
In 2004, while hanging around in New York City’s Lower East Side club scene, Ashford met nightlife personality Lady Starlight, a local rock DJ and performance artist. Lady Starlight invited the budding starlet to dance at her 1970s glitter rock party “Lady Starlight’s English Disco”, and christened her Hollywood Starr. She performed in Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey’s Feeling Electric as Natalie at the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2005. Soon after graduating from college, Ashford got her big break performing as one of Glinda’s friends, Pfanne, and understudying the role of Glinda on the First National Tour of Wicked. She joined the cast in December 2005 and left in September 2006. She then originated the role of Margot in Legally Blonde: The Musical, her Broadway debut. She also understudied the lead role of Elle Woods, but only went on once. She was featured on the original cast recording and appeared in the MTV televised airing. She left the show in September 2007.
She then returned to Wicked, this time playing the lead role of Glinda in the Broadway production. She replaced Kendra Kassebaum on October 9, 2007. She departed the company on May 11, 2008 when Kassebaum returned to the role, and transferred to the Chicago production, replacing Kate Fahrner as Glinda on June 3, 2008. She played her final performance as Glinda on January 25, 2009, when the Chicago production closed.
In 2009 it was announced that Ashford would take place as one of the principal characters and singers in the new vaudeville styled Cirque du Soleil show, Banana Shpeel. However, even following a national television broadcast on America’s Got Talent, it was announced that Ashford and her colleague, Michael Longoria, were no longer in the cast of the show. Publicists announced that the two leading vocalists had fallen victims of a creative decision to remove large portions of dialogue from the show, therefore making their characters non-existent. Ashford was originally slated to stay in the production from its premier in Chicago until sometime in 2010.
In September 2010, Ashford made her directorial debut at Birdland Jazz Club, directing fellow Hair alum Jay Armstrong Johnson in his solo concert debut. The concert was met with rave reviews, including a notice for Ashford’s “thoughtfully put together” directorial style.
In January 2012, Ashford ended her run playing Maureen Johnson in the Off-Broadway revival of Rent, which began July 14, 2011 and closed on September 9, 2012. Emma Hunton took over the role of Maureen from her on January 13, 2012. In February 2012, Ashford made a cameo on Smash as Lisa McMann, and returned for another short appearance in 2013 before cancellation.
From June 27 to August 19, 2012, she appeared in the Off-Broadway musical Dogfight, based on the 1991 film of the same name, playing a toothless hooker named Marcy. The role in the film was originally played by Elizabeth Daily.
In 2013, Ashford provided the voice of a troll in the highest grossing animated film of all time, Frozen. She has a short line greeting Kristoff, and sings the second female solo after Maia Wilson in the song ‘Fixer Upper’ for the soundtrack.
In 2013, after first appearing in the Chicago try-outs, she reprised her role as Lauren in the Broadway production of Kinky Boots, a musical with a book by Harvey Fierstein and music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper. For this role, Ashford received nominations for the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical. Ashford left her role in Kinky Boots on March 2, 2014.
In 2013, Ashford appeared in the recurring role of young prostitute Betty Dimello in season one of the Showtime series Masters of Sex. Her part was upgraded from a recurring to regular for season two.
On January 14, Ashford released her first single, Another Time (Andrew’s Song), with musical director Will Van Dyke on iTunes. In addition to writing music and lyrics, Van Dyke is the featured pianist on the single. The track also features Michael Aarons on guitar, Steve Gilewski on bass, Sammy Merendino on drums, Philip Payton on violin/viola, and Allison Seidner on cello. It was recorded at Harlem Parlour Recording, NYC by Derik Lee, who also mixed and mastered the recording.
Beginning on August 26, 2014, Ashford played the role of Essie Carmichael in the Broadway revival of You Can’t Take It with You, directed by Scott Ellis. She appeared alongside Rose Byrne, James Earl Jones, and Elizabeth Ashley. The show closed on February 2, 2015. For this role, she won the 2015 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play.
In a limited run from October 2, 2015 to January 3, 2016, Ashford starred as the titular canine in the first Broadway production of Sylvia by A.R. Gurney. The show opened at the Cort Theatre on October 27, 2015. Directed by Daniel J. Sullivan, the show also starred Julie White, Matthew Broderick and Robert Sella.
On November 20, 2015, BroadwayWorld.com announced that Ashford would be the involved in a filmed career retrospective Q&A with SAG-AFTRA, taking place on December 3, 2015 at The New School. The Q&A was released via YouTube on December 14, 2015.
On November 20, 2015, Ashford was selected to present the sixth annual Clive Barnes Theatre Award, taking place on January 11, 2016.
Lost in the Stars
On April 7, 2008, Ashford made her professional cabaret debut as apart of the Broadway at Birdland series at Birdland Jazz Club. She performed an early version of what has now become her critically acclaimed Lost in the Stars show. Many songs from her debut, including Love Hurts, Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters, and the titular song, Lost in the Stars, stayed with the show and are now featured on her live album. Alex Lacamoire served as her musical director.
In February 2014, Ashford made her 54 Below concert debut with her now acclaimed cabaret show, Lost in the Stars. After two sold-out shows on the 3rd of the month, Ashford added an encore performance due to popular demand. She returned to 54 Below for a special Christmas themed reincarnation of her cabaret act for the first two Mondays of December with ” a little more holiday cheer involved”. Highly impressed, she was reviewed by Stephen Holden of The New York Times for her show on December 1. On February 11, 2015, it was announced that Ashford will be joined by Van Dyke and The Whiskey Five band to hit the road with a tour of her acclaimed cabaret show in five cities. In addition to her February 11 return to 54 Below, also played in Chicago, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and two special shows in her hometown of Denver, Colorado.
On August 30, 2015, Ashford had a secret popup concert at 54 Below entitled Brunch With Annaleigh: The Concert, which was an extension of the Lost in the Stars show. This concert was recorded to serve as part of Ashford’s debut album, which is a compilation of multiple New York dates at 54 Below in 2014 and 2015.
On September 29, 2015, it was announced that Ashford’s debut album, Lost in the Stars: Live at 54 Below, a live recording of her Lost in the Stars show, would be released on November 13.
Ashford returned to 54 Below for a New Year’s Eve edition of her Lost in the Stars show entitled Lost in the Stars: New Year’s Magic. The concert also served as an album release party. On November 26, 2015, Lost in the Stars was nominated for a 2015 BroadwayWorld Cabaret Award in the category “Best Show, Celebrity Female”.
|February 3, 2014||New York, New York||United States||54 Below|
|February 15, 2014|
|December 1, 2014|
|December 8, 2014|
|February 11, 2015|
|March 21, 2015||Chicago, Illinois||The Broadway Playhouse|
|April 11, 2015||Denver, Colorado||The Denver Center|
|April 12, 2015|
|April 19, 2015||San Francisco, California||The Venetian Room|
|June 27, 2015||Las Vegas, Nevada||The Smith Center|
|June 28, 2015|
|August 30, 2015||New York, New York||54 Below|
|January 31, 2015|
|April 17, 2016||Overland Park, Kansas||Yardley Hall|
Readings and workshops
In September 2005, Ashford appeared in an early incarnation of Next to Normal (then called Feeling Electric) at the New York Musical Theatre Festival, playing the role of Natalie. The role was later played on Broadway by Jennifer Damiano.
In August 2008, Ashford played Wednesday Addams in the staged reading for musical adaptation to The Addams Family with Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth, but she was later replaced by Krysta Rodriguez.
On November 30, 2015, Ashford played eight various roles in a reading of Paul Rudnick‘s critically acclaimed play Jeffrey, directed by Christopher Ashley. Other cast included Michael Urie, Robin de Jesus, James Monroe Iglehart, Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Russell Tovey.
|Start year||Production title||Role||Notes|
|2005||Wicked||Pfanee (u/s Galinda Upland)||Replacement
Emerald City Tour, First National Tour (December 6, 2005 – September 3, 2006)
|2007||Legally Blonde||Margot (u/s Elle Woods)||Original Broadway Cast
Broadway, Palace Theatre (April 3 – October 1)
Broadway, George Gershwin Theatre (October 9, 2007 – May 11, 2008)
Chicago, Oriental Theatre (June 3, 2008 – January 25, 2009)
|2010||Hair||Jeanie||Revival Replacement Cast
Broadway, Al Hirschfeld Theatre (March 9 – June 27)
|Cirque du Soleil: Banana Shpeel||Katie||Original Cast
Off-Broadway, never opened
|2011||Rent||Maureen Johnson||Original Revival Cast
Off-Broadway, New World Stages (July 14, 2011 – January 13, 2012)
Off-Broadway, Second Stage Theatre (June 27 – August 19)
|2013||Kinky Boots||Lauren||Original Broadway Cast
Broadway, Al Hirschfeld Theatre (March 3, 2013 – March 2, 2014)
|2014||You Can’t Take It with You||Essie Carmichael||Original Revival Cast
Broadway, Longacre Theatre (September 28, 2014 – February 22, 2015)
|2015||Sylvia||Sylvia||Original Broadway Cast
Broadway, Cort Theatre (October 2, 2015 – January 3, 2016)
|2008||Sex and the City||Spoiled Label Queen|
|2008||Rachel Getting Married||Quick Stop Cashier|
|2015||Love on the Run||Liza||In post-production|
|2007||Legally Blonde: The Musical||Margot||MTV telecast|
|2009||Haute & Bothered||Mckenzie||Web series, lead role|
|2010||Law & Order||Mia||Episode: “Immortal”|
|2010, 2012||Submissions Only||Adorable Girl||Web series, recurring role|
|2011||The Big C||Chloe||Episode: “Cats and Dogs”|
|2012||Nurse Jackie||Cori||Episode: “Kettle-Kettle-Black-Black”|
|A Gifted Man||Shauna||Episode: “In Case of Complications”|
|Made in Jersey||Jackie||Episode: “Pilot”|
|2012, 2013||Smash||Lisa McMann||Episodes: “Pilot”, “The Fallout”|
|2013||Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Lindsay Anderson||Episode: “October Surprise”|
|Watch What Happens: Live||Herself / Bartender||Episode: “Harvey Fierstein & Kim Zolciak”|
|87th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade||Herself / Lauren||Performed with cast of Kinky Boots|
|2013–present||Masters of Sex||Betty Dimello||Lead role|
|2015||Super Clyde||Britney||Pilot (not picked up for series)|
|Celebrity Name Game||Herself||4 episodes|
|2016||The Rocky Horror Picture Show Event||Columbia||Television film|
- 2007: Legally Blonde (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
- 2013: Dogfight (Original Cast Recording)
- 2013: “Love Me Back” – single (with Richard Hall)
- 2013: “Stand Beside Me” – single (with Richard Hall)
- 2013: Kinky Boots (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
- 2013: Frozen (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
- 2014: “Another Time (Andrew’s Song)” – single (with Will Van Dyke)
- 2014: Ahrens & Flaherty: Nice Fighting You (A 30th Anniversary Celebration Live at 54 Below)
- 2015: Lost in the Stars: Live at 54 Below
Awards and nominations
|Year||Association||Category||Title of work||Result||Ref.|
|2008||Broadway.com Audience Choice Awards||Favorite Replacement (Female)||Wicked||Nominated|||
|2010||Favorite Replacement (Female)||Hair||Nominated|||
|2011||Drama League Awards||Distinguished Performance Award||Rent||Nominated|||
|2013||Audience Choice Awards||Favorite Actress in a Musical||Kinky Boots||Nominated|||
|Favorite Funny Performance||Won|||
|Clarence Derwent Awards||Clarence Derwent Award for Most Promising Female Performer||Won|
|Drama Desk Awards||Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical||Nominated|
|Outer Critics Circle||Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical||Nominated|||
|Tony Awards||Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical||Nominated|
|2015||Broadway.com Audience Choice Awards||Favorite Featured Actress in a Play||You Can’t Take It With You||Won|||
|Favorite Funny Performance||Nominated|||
|Drama Desk Awards||Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play||Won|
|Fred and Adele Astaire Awards||Fred and Adele Astaire Award for Best Female Dancer||Nominated|
|Outer Critics Circle||Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play||Won|||
|Tony Awards||Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play||Won|
|BroadwayWorld Cabaret Awards||Best Show, Celebrity Female||Lost in the Stars||Nominated|||
|Broadway.com Star of the Year Award||Star of the Year||N/A||Nominated|||
|2016||30th Annual MAC Awards||Best Song||Another Time (Andrew’s Song)||Nominated|||
|Best Major Recording||Lost in the Stars: Live at 54 Below||Nominated|
|Drama League Awards||Distinguished Performance Award||Sylvia||Pending|||