'Mean Girls' star Krystina Alabado talks Broadway closure, how she’s made a not-so-fetch year bright
Arizona native performer set for on-stage live virtual concert Dec. 19 at ASU Gammage
Broadway star and Arizona native Krystina Alabado prides herself on keeping busy. As an actress, she is hard-wired to deal with time off in between shows, utilizing her talents in other creative fields until the next opportunity arises. Even so, she did not realize she’d be getting that time off so early into the year, and that that time would stretch into the current nine-month standstill as Broadway’s doors remain closed.
“The idea of having a couple shows off wasn’t bad because your body is destroyed and your voice is tired,” Alabado said in regard to when first given the news of a temporary two-week shutdown in March. “But the more I thought about it, the more insane it felt. It’s Broadway, we don’t shut down for anything. When there’s a blizzard we still come in and do the show for a handful of people — we always find a way.”
Alabado is set to perform a holiday cabaret on Saturday, Dec. 19 at ASU Gammage. The online virtual event is free and one of few on-stage events showcased at the historic auditorium since March.
During her last week starring as Gretchen Weiners in "Mean Girls," Alabado had undergone grueling rehearsals to accommodate a big casting change and incorporate content from the national tour. Just like the rest of the world, Alabado did not realize that March 11 would be her last "Mean Girls" performance for the entirety of 2020.
“I think people forget how many people are impacted by Broadway being shut down,” she said. “It's not just the actors who are out of work — we're the people you know because you see us on posters — but the dresser and the carpenter, and the marketing people, and the ushers at the theater. There are thousands and thousands of people who are out of work.”
Alabado has been on quite a journey since the pandemic began. After spending the first two months quarantined in her New York City apartment with husband and fellow Broadway actor Bob Lenzi, the duo took a cross-country road trip that landed them in Los Angeles in search of new creative projects. While it was astounding to see the whole country from the comfort of their vehicle, Alabado said her favorite part of the trip was returning to Arizona to spend quality time with her father and two younger siblings.
“Being able to be with my family at a time where we really needed to be with each other — and in normal time, we don't have the ability to do that — was an amazing gift,” she said.
Reflecting on the last nine months and what it’s been like as an actress at this time, Alabado said she’s busier than she initially thought she would be.
“If I were to spread my hand out, and each finger represents a segment of my career as an actor, my theater section is dimmed because there is no theater,” she said. “But there’s all this other stuff that has always been there that I can now pursue.”
During this period, Alabado booked a recurring role on a new AMC animated drama, along with doing commercial voiceovers, demo work for a new musical, recording a cast album, starting a YouTube channel and teaching. As creativity and innovation have been the main drive of continuing theater in a safe way, the Broadway actress also had the opportunity to star in a 10-person, nine-episode original called "A Killer Party: A Murder Mystery Musical." The virtual musical was shot independently out of each actor’s home, using their own equipment.
“I'm just doing everything I can to feel fulfilled, make some money, and not lose my trajectory,” Alabado said.
Standing at 6,000 subscribers, Alabado’s YouTube channel shares a peek into all the ins-and-outs of her life — from backstage "Mean Girls" moments, to beauty care regimens and Q&A sessions. Having a new platform to engage with her fans and fellow Broadway enthusiasts has been nothing short of spectacular.
“We all want the same thing, which is for theater to come back,” she said. “To bring them a tiny bit of theater or theatrical thing into their homes on YouTube makes me really happy I can do that.”
With her career coaching, Alabado instructs students over Zoom for ways to prepare for musical theater programs, professional development, and set about a game plan during this time. The biggest thing she tells young people is that the world isn’t at a standstill, but rather a pause — a blip.
“This is a complicated business to break into anytime, so try a pandemic,” Alabado said. “What I keep telling artists and actors is to take this time to hone your skills. I don't want to wait for this to be over — maybe my path moved a little bit, but I'm not going to stop.”
Alabado recounts a moment earlier in the year when listening to a Jack Kornfield podcast, and the pandemic was put as such: “This is not happening to us, it is happening for us.” When changing one’s mindset to consider the grand scheme of things, Alabado said she is ready to take on any challenge.
“Let's believe that everything is going to be OK because it will be. It doesn't mean it's going to be the same, but it's going to work itself out,” she said.
For now, Alabado said it is crucial to support the arts in any way one can; it doesn’t have to be a grandiose gesture in order to make an impact. Investing in a subscription or sharing a post on social media are just some of the ways one can spread awareness on the importance of the arts, especially at a local level.
“Right now, we’re kind of ebbing and flowing through grieving the process of the theatrical world as we knew it, but as we move into the next phase of it, we have to be patient. It’s gonna come back, but it’s gonna take time.”
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