The hit musical Hamilton returns to Denver in February as part of a North American tour. The landmark show by Lin-Manuel Miranda is the rare winner of both the Pulitzer Prize for drama and the Tony Award for best musical — in 2016 Hamilton became the first show since Jonathan Larson’s Rent in 1996 to win both top honors.
If the pandemic has shown us anything, it is the need for appreciation and grace in the face of uncertainty. In theatre we are incredibly grateful for everyone in the company who help us all get back to the things we love, the best we can. Most recently the deserving spotlight has been on the swings, understudies and covers that allow shows to pick back up after temporary pauses.
We talked to swing and co-dance captain Jordana Grolnick, an actress/dancer/singer who is returning to her native Colorado with the tour. She is one of a remarkable number of locals to make it to Broadway. (Denver’s East High School alone counts Antoinette Perry, Don Cheadle, Mary Bacon and Gareth Saxe among its alumni.)
DCPA: Why do so many Coloradans make it to Broadway as actors/dancers? Is it the altitude?
Grolnick: Oh, for sure! There’s a reason Olympians move to Colorado for training. I also think the landscape is so inspiring — people live here because they love it here, and that passion and conviction definitely translates into following one’s dreams.
DCPA: A photo on your website shows you as a young child in a tutu. Growing up in Boulder, did you dance from a young age?
Grolnick: My mom put me in dance class at age three (thank you, Mom!!). I was obsessed with it and never stopped.
DCPA: Where did you train? Any particular teachers your credit for boosting your career?
Grolnick: I started dancing at a very crunchy studio in Boulder (the former Express Your Self, which turned into Mosaic Movement Arts), where it was all about freedom of expression.
I’m so grateful for that start, which really locked me in to why we make art. In middle school, I started attending Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts Camp in Steamboat Springs during the summers, where I was taught by people who performed and created for a living. Those summers inspired me to start training to do this professionally, and I found my way to Longmont Dance Theatre, run by Kristin Kingsley, who gave me a great foundation of technique.
I had always loved to sing and act, so I started doing some of that more seriously at Perry-Mansfield, and in (Silver Creek) high school stumbled upon a musical theatre school called Broadway in Boulder. It was started by Angela Ayers (formerly Gaylor) and David Ayers, a couple who had both been very successful on Broadway but had moved to Boulder for a change of scenery. They were integral in helping me understand the musical theatre world and training me to be competitive in this field. Those two are absolutely the reason I’m a working professional today.
DCPA: How long was your Corona pandemic “hiatus” with the And Peggy company of Hamilton? How bad was it? Were you able to train through it?
Grolnick: We were shut down for over 15 months and it was…bad, but also wonderful in a lot of ways.
In March of 2020 I was living in San Francisco, where And Peggy had been stationed for over a year. We got shut down for two weeks at first, so I traveled back to Colorado to hang with my parents. Two weeks turned into two months, turned into “until further notice,” so I moved out of my apartment in SF and moved semi-permanently back to Boulder.
It was very hard not to be able to contribute to society in the way that I’ve trained my entire life to contribute.
A lot of the Hamilton community found new meaning in lending our efforts to helping organize for the election, and in fighting for social and racial justice amidst all of the turmoil of the 2020 summer. The pause allowed us to take stock of what we wanted to see shift in our theatre community and in the world at-large.
I was so lucky to be able to be in Colorado with so much safe air right in my backyard, and I got to do a ton of hiking and skiing and things I’d never had the time do while growing up. My pandemic training was a little bit of taking masked dance classes at Block 1750 in Boulder, but it was mostly climbing mountains and singing in my car on the way to climb said mountains. Hard as it was, I wouldn’t trade that time for anything.
DCPA: How many cities will you perform in on this tour?
Grolnick: There are 16 cities on our schedule…so far. Denver is the 10th city that And Peggy has visited, starting with our first stop in San Juan, Puerto Rico in January of 2019.
DCPA: Can you feel a difference in audiences now that theaters are open, now that the longing to be back among other humans emoting in the dark is being satisfied?
Grolnick: I think people have been truly aching for communal experience since the pandemic began. A dark theatre is the opposite of a Zoom call, demanding one’s rapt attention alongside strangers. That really has the power to affect people. You’re able to be anonymous, but you enter the theatre signing a social contract that you will behave in a certain way that demands more participation than a Netflix show.
Hamilton is one of those glorious pieces that changes depending on when you encounter it in your life, and I think people will be surprised with how it might hit differently after the couple of years we’ve all had.
I’ll never forget the first time I sang the ending of “Yorktown” after the pandemic — “The world turned upside down” brought me to tears because I finally knew exactly what it meant. We had lived it and been given the chance to come back and tell the tale.
Feb 16 – Mar 27 • Buell Theatre