Rising Broadway Star :: Rodney Ingram

rodney-ingram

settle in friends. this is a long one…

do you remember when Disney’s Aladdin hit theaters? i do. i was 12 and it was my junior year at Penn…yes, i was a prodigy… ūüôā (j/k)

my Dad had a recording studio in the house. so i waited in earnest to buy the CD when it came out bc i was actively interviewing with¬†Disney to be an assistant manager at the Disney Stores…you know, cuz wearing a polyester gray skirt and pink shirt was¬†so hip in the early 90s.

everyone needs a dream, people.

needless to say,¬†i listened to the CD¬†on repeat and learned every lyric. i mean, what half-Chinese girl¬†didn’t want to be the dark and mysterious Jasmine? this was pre-Mulan, folks. Jasmine is all we had to fulfill our dreams of being¬†a non-blonde princess!

then I recorded myself singing. oh, the hours in front of the microphone.

thankfully those tapes have been burned.

the good news is, you don’t need to be a great singer to work at the Disney Stores! the sad news is that when the ’94 Northridge earthquake hit in early January before my late January start date , Disney rescinded my job offer b/c they lost 5 stores.

but i got a gig working in the corporate offices instead.  it all worked out for the best, and i have very fond memories of Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, and the Lion King.

formative years people. formative years.

so when i took the boys to NYC a few weeks ago to see their first Broadway show, it had to be Aladdin. and yes, i had  butterflies. like the kind i get when i pull into the Disneyland parking lot.

aladdin-broadway-marquee

yup.

issues.

kids-at-aladdin-broadway

anyway, imagine my delight when i saw that the understudy, Rodney Ingram, was playing lead that night. naturally, i flipped to his bio in the Showbill and noticed that he looked very young.

rodney-ingram-actor-broadway

and he also listed Prov 19:21.

prov1921

i love that verse. interest piqued.

he’s incredibly talented and in his debut as Aladdin, he mesmerized the audience of 2000 people at the New Amsterdam Theater.

new-amsterdam-theater-aladdin

his voice, his dancing, his chemistry with Jasmine.

and that magic carpet ride. i may have shed a tear or two. it. was. incredible.

as a mom of two young boys, i’m feverishly pouring over books on grit, resilience,¬†and how to build character. i don’t just want them to be awesome 18 year olds…i pray for them to be happy, balanced,¬†hard-working 35+ year olds with integrity. not too much to hope for, right?

so with great interest, i observe a lot of young people and very specifically, try to discern what drives them.

Rodney is driven, kind, intelligent, gracious, and appears to me to have learned what it takes to¬†succeed. His upbringing closely matches¬†the writings of Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden¬†Power of Character.

Rodney grew up in an idyllic surf and fishing village in Sayulita Mexico. A self-proclaimed ham, he often found himself in the town square singing with the mariachis and putting on shows that he created with buddies.

rodney-ingram-baby-mariachi

In between surfing and fishing, he relished playing the few theatrical roles that arose in his small town; Danny Zuko in Grease, Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof.

rodney-ingram-tevye-fiddler-on-the-roof

Imagine me as a chubby Danny. And one of the most interesting Mexican interpretations of pre-revolutionary Russia, where I played Tevye! Good times.

After his sophomore year in high school, he yearned to see what was past the Pacific horizon.

He set his eyes on a semester abroad in Paris, France. That semester turned into 2 years, where he honed his acting and theatre arts skills and graduated with an International Baccalaureate in Theatre. He lived with a French woman who also hosted another exchange student. It was during this time that this only child learned time management and became responsible for himself.

Lesson #1, let your kids go. Give them opportunities to soar and fail. Be ready to catch them, but only if they really need to be caught.

From Paris, Rodney decided to move to New York to continue his education in theatre arts. He applied to all of the major NY schools: Fordham, NYU, Juilliard.

I naively showed up to the dance auditions in jeans and sneakers. Everyone around me had tights and dance shoes. I was way out of my league and was truly humbled when I was¬†rejected from every single school. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.

Lesson #2, teach your kids how to persevere.

The next year was an introspective one. He studied¬†comparative religions full time at PACE University and simultaneously enrolled in a full time program at the Broadway Dance Center. His incredibly busy schedule didn’t deter him. He trekked across town between classes at both schools.

He dug deep. He realized that he couldn’t give up on his dreams of being on Broadway.

But first, I needed to learn what a pirouette was! So I trained. And I bought tights. And a ballet belt. Yeah. I was terrified.

But, dance can be learned. I had a musical background, so I started with tap. I could tap to the music. Then I learned rhythm, theatre dance, ballet and technique.

After his training at BDC, Rodney applied to CAP21, from which the likes of Anne Hathaway and Lady Gaga graduated. And he got in!

rodney-ingram-dance-saut-de-chat

Lesson #3, teach your kids that hard work pays off. Anything can be learned.

He intensely trained for the next 2 years. He impressed talent agent Dulcina Eisen during a showcase. She signed him immediately thereafter.

I could just tell that she truly cares about her talent. I’m very lucky to have found her. She’s worked very hard for me.

Did she ever. Upon graduation, Rodney was cast in a variety of regional performances in NY and Aspen Colorado. During tech rehearsals as Prince Eric in a regional run of The Little Mermaid in White Plains, NY, Dulcina called with news that he got called back from his open casting audition for Aladdin.

Rodney’s natural ease with people allowed him to build good rapport¬†with The Little Mermaid director Jeremy Quinn. They made the schedule work, and Rodney returned to several call backs until he was one of the last 3 actors to take on the Aladdin understudy role and play in the ensemble.

Dulcina called and said I was the youngest of the 3 remaining guys. I figured I’d been blessed to have even gotten this far and I was so glad to have had the opportunity. I’d learned so much through the process.

Then the call came. And I got it. My dream came true. I was going to be on Broadway!

rodney-ingram-aladdin-broadway

Right. So at 22, just a year after graduating from CAP21, Rodney’s wish¬†of acting on Broadway, came true.

So what is an understudy, really? It’s an interesting gig. Rodney is part of the ensemble and needs to know his “track,” which include his dance routines¬†and singing parts. In addition, he’s continually studying the main¬†Aladdin track for the off chance lead Adam Jacobs goes on vacation, falls ill, or is traveling for other official Disney Aladdin business.

At any moment’s notice, Rodney could be called to go on as Aladdin, including in the middle of the show. Talk about multi-tasking and stress!

And to¬†all of his friends’ and family’s delight, since joining the Aladdin cast in March, Rodney has had the opportunity to play Aladdin 7 times. My boys and I were lucky enough to catch his debut show.

playbill-rodney-ingram-aladdin

And his parents have been there for every single show, flying in from Mexico in full support of their Prince.

Lesson #4, support your kids’ passions, even if they’re¬†different than what you had wished¬†for them.

HUGE thanks to Rodney for giving me this opportunity to get to know him. What a blessing this has been!

About meesh

Meesh has a passion for people, creative projects, and technology. She enjoys painting furniture back to life, gardening, playing with her kids, and connecting people.

Comments

  1. I am very happy to read about Rodney’s success, but not surprised at all. After seeing him as Tevye, it was clear that he had unusual talent. And knowing his parents, they would do anything to be supportive. It is all coming together in a winderful way. Good luck on your way, Rodney!

    • meesh says

      Isn’t so wonderful to see such talent and drive in young people?

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