Broadway Sandwich: “Hadestown”
Follow Broadway's biggest stars during their breaks between matinee and evening performances. Join in as Ahmad Simmons from “Hadestown” takes us inside his on-the-job training to learn to play the guitar.
♪ Broadway sandwich
♪ I want that sandwich ♪ Hey, hey
-[ Chuckles ] -What?
We nailed that, and that's a song
that we can put on TV because we wrote it.
It's an original. Exactly.
Scribner: The lives of Broadway performers are busy.
They only have a few short hours
between their matinee and evening performances,
and they're giving us an inside look,
from grabbing a bite,
plus a backstage tour.
Have you ever wanted to see what we do in the time
sandwiched between performances?
Follow along and find out.
This is "Broadway Sandwich."
[ Horn honks ]
Today, we're in a show that examines themes
of fate versus doubt
and fear versus love.
We're going way down...
♪ All aboard!
♪ Way down, Hadestown, way down under the ground ♪
Scribner: "Hadestown" brilliantly intertwines
two mythic love stories --
young lovers Orpheus and Eurydice
and King Hades and his wife, Persephone.
It won the 2017 Tony Award for best musical.
Today, we're at the Walter Kerr Theatre,
one of the smallest theaters on Broadway.
It's a little cutie --
only 975 seats.
Today, we're meeting up with Ahmad Simmons.
Ahmad is in the ensemble.
In this show, they're called workers.
He also understudies two of the leading roles.
he was in "Cats" and "Carousel" on Broadway.
There you are! Ahmad Simmons!
Hi, how are you?
How was your matinee?
It was great. Nailed it?
Yeah. I've got to tell you.
I love the show so much. Thank you.
The music is so beautiful. Thank you.
And you are so wonderful in it.
Thanks, I appreciate it.
Thanks for spending time with me between shows.
I'm so excited! So what's on the list for today?
Okay. Can we eat first?
I really have to eat. Yes, what's after that?
Um, I actually have a guitar lesson today.
Yeah, because you have to play guitar in the show.
For Orpheus, yeah. So I have a lesson.
Okay. But we'll do it together?
That's a lot to fit in before getting you right back here
for your second show. I know, yeah, yeah.
So we got to get out of here. Let's do it.
Let's go. Let's boogie.
Most people have a kind of more linear path.
Like, I know I want to be in musical theater. Oh, yeah.
I'm going to do this thing, go to school for that,
but you didn't have quite that story.
I was raised initially by my great aunt,
and she was the one who introduced me to everything.
She directed all the choirs at church,
and so I was that kid, you know, singing in the choir
since I was like 5 years old.
And so high school is where you started doing music,
like, reading music and dancing
and doing everything like that. Yeah, yeah.
My first show was, like, "How to Succeed."
"How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,"
which is the best way to go into business.
And I was Bud Frump, and that was like the first time
I ever got to be on a stage and say lines and all that.
In college, I got a dance degree. Right.
You know, and they sort of send you out in the world
to, like, be in a concert dance company.
So because you didn't go to a conservatory for acting...
Yeah. ...or for musical theater,
do you feel like you're learning on the job?
And now you're doing "Fosse/Verdon."
You're on TV. Yeah.
So, there's a learning curve
on all of these different things.
Do you feel like you have to kind of
reinvent yourself every time, or...? Yes.
Yeah. I mean, this is my education.
Like, I feel like this is my, like, master's in acting and...
Because I didn't get to learn it in school
because I was concentrating on something else,
but I'm learning by watching them
and reading and studying now,
which, you know, can sort of feel like,
why am I -- like, what am I doing here?
Are you sure it's supposed to be me?
Oh, it's definitely supposed to be you.
You know what I mean? For sure.
You get a little bit of that, though,
that sort of, like, impostor syndrome.
Right. Now in "Hadestown"...
Yeah. ...the incredible Andre De Shields.
What is that like, to learn from him on stage every night?
He is pure class and grace. Yeah, yeah.
Every day, I thank my stars
that I get to be on stage with him and learn from him.
Now you understudy that role. Yeah.
And you understudy the... Orpheus.
...the romantic lead, Orpheus, played by Reeve Carney.
Yeah. Yeah, yes, totally different.
When people come in the theater,
they get an insert in their program.
They see that slip.
If you're on, and we know that they go, "Aw,"
because they've read reviews about a certain actor,
and they have an expectation. A lot of the times, they come to see them.
Of course. So how do you deal with that feeling?
It's more like, this is me.
This is what I have to offer,
and it's gonna be a totally different thing.
That's a great way to look at it.
And to play Orpheus,
that character has to play the guitar.
Yeah. Did you know guitar before?
Not one lick.
So, that's why we're going to a guitar lesson.
Yes. So you do this every week?
Well, let's get out of here, so we can go play guitar.
So, you were in "Cats." Classic, not my favorite.
I love it, and I hate it at the same time.
You and everybody else, right? Uh-huh.
"Carousel," another classic.
Yeah. And now you're in "Hadestown,"
which is new, super-cool, and very contemporary.
So, how do you feel about, like,
having classic shows, contemporary shows?
What is your favorite? What do you like?
You know, I think there's room for both, for sure.
Yeah. My taste --
I love creating new work, you know?
Like, I love to be in the start of a process... Right.
...and something that stretches me a little bit more,
like having to be a musician first
rather than a dancer first.
"Hadestown" offers a completely new look
at how people make theater.
It's sort of genre-bending, too... Yeah.
...which I think is great. And it's super music-first.
Alright. So, what are we doing?
Well, let's do some basic chords.
Okay. You start.
You said you knew a C chord? I know a C.
It's very hard to stretch my fingers that way,
but is that right? That's exactly right.
[ Discordant chord plays ]
That did not sound so wonderful.
So now try that exact same chord,
but don't play all the strings.
Start from right here, your fifth string,
and only play those strings going forward.
This one? Yep.
[ C-major chord plays ]
That sounds better. That sounds pretty nice, right?
Hey! Why don't you give that a try, Ahmad?
[ C-major chord plays ]
That's pretty nice, right?
[ C-variant chord plays ]
It has a more soulful sound.
[ Both vocalizing ]
♪ Broadway sandwich
I mean, you could play
a lot of songs with just those two chords.
Try putting them together. Sign a song, Ahmad.
♪ La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la ♪
Scribner: And one, two,
one, two, three, four.
♪ I love sandwiches
♪ I do
♪ I love sandwich, don't you? ♪
♪ I love, I love sandwiches ♪
♪ I do
♪ "Broadway Sandwiches" with you ♪
♪ "Broadway Sandwich" is a show ♪
♪ About all the places we go ♪
♪ After a matinee on a sunny two-show day ♪
♪ It's a sandwich ♪ Sandwich
♪ Hey, hey, hey
♪ A "Broadway Sandwich"
♪ Hey, hey, hey
♪ Broadway sandwich
[ Cheers and applause ]
What should we call ourselves?
Obviously. Don't you think?
Yeah, just have to be The Sandwiches.
Alright, Ahmad. This is our "60-Second Sandwich."
Are you ready? I'm ready.
60 seconds on the clock.
Answer as many questions as you can in the time given.
Okay. Clock starting now.
From my mom. Hi, Mom!
"How is 'Hadestown' touching people?"
Beautiful music and a great story.
Love it. Facebook user Brian Lee.
Hey, Obi. "What's your fitness routine?"
Three times a week, full-body workout.
Three, YouTuber Stephanie Krause,
"Funniest mess-up on stage?"
Oh, face-plant for sure. Oh, no. You okay?
Instagrammer Allie Eds wants to know,
"What job would you want if you weren't an actor?"
Okay, five. Instagram's Britt Ville.
"What do you consider your big break,
and how did you get it?"
Ooh, "Fosse/Verdon," yeah. Okay. Hey.
Six, best thing about being on Broadway?
Sharing the art in the community.
Anything you'd change in your career?
Eight, have you ever kept a prop from a show,
and is there something you'll want to keep from "Hadestown"?
Well, I want one of the mugs...
Mug! ...that we use, yeah.
17 seconds. Do you have a hidden talent?
10, what do you geek out about?
Really talented people.
Favorite show on Broadway now besides "Hadestown"?
Salty or sweet? Sweet.
Does "Hadestown" cast have any preshow traditions?
Yeah, yeah, we breathe. Breathe.
14, what's your favorite thing to do on a day off?
Time is up! Nothing, perfect!
Well, speaking of nothing, you're about to do a whole lot
of the opposite of nothing. Something, I know, yeah, yeah.
Let's go get you to to your show.
Okay, let's go. Come on.
So how do you personally relate to the show
or any of these characters in the show?
so I lost a father figure this past year, and...
I'm so sorry. It's okay.
I see him so much in this piece because we deal a lot
with doubt, self-doubt, and courage,
and one of the things he always taught me was,
you know, to fight for what you believe in.
Even though you may not feel like someone is following you,
how can you still take charge, you know,
and affect change when you feel like you're alone?
And so I see him at the end of this piece every show,
and I hear him in my head going,
"See? This is what I mean," you know,
"when you trust your art." Which moment in the show is that you see it?
So, it's when Orpheus is taking us up out of hell
and is told, "You can't look back," you know?
"If you look back, you lose it all," you know?
Can you stay focused and forward?
And look forward, right. You know? It's really beautiful.
What has it felt like being a part of a new show
that's getting critical acclaim, 14 Tony nominations?
Yeah. People are so into it.
You're changing people's lives. It's incredible.
It's happened so quickly but rightfully so.
I love riding the wave of that, that energy,
but it's also like, "This is my day job."
Like, I get to go out there and do what it is I love
and change someone's life with it.
Right. So what happens now?
You just get to get ready for your show?
Well, actually, we have a little bit
of a rehearsal before.
Before every show? Sort of like dance-fight call
because there's a part in the show
where we have to throw Orpheus
around a little bit, so we always...
So it's safety in case somebody else new is in, basically.
Yeah, yeah, exactly.
Here it is. Scribner: This is so cute.
Cute, right? Yeah, I love the wallpaper, too.
Yeah. It's like that distressed feel.
Kind of matches Rachel Hauck's set design.
Yeah, and we got some there.
That's great. We've got a little bar there.
Hi, guys, how's it going? Man: Good.
This is T. and John. You are amazing in the show.
Hey, I'm Garen. Nice to meet you, Garen.
Thank you for having us today. And T.
And I know T. Oliver.
[ Laughter ]
So did you know much about mythology
before you came to...
You know, I knew of Hades and Persephone
and the story of Orpheus and Eurydice,
but I didn't know it this well, you know.
Yeah. At all.
And it's sort of like things that come out of a history book
where you see them on stage, they... Come alive.
They become alive, and they feel like,
oh, that you put yourself in it. Yeah, yeah.
So I'm glad I'm really being introduced to it here, you know?
Right. With art and having to...
Earlier, we talked a little bit
about you feeling like you have impostor syndrome...
Oh, my gosh. It's terrible.
...which everybody successful feels. Yeah.
But, like, you've had to work harder,
and your path has not been so clear
and knowing that you were going to get to musical theater
and not doing TV and film and stuff,
and so what's next?
What's next for you?
I really want to make my own thing, you know?
Yeah. I want to continue to find
my own creative voice within the community here,
but it's funny, though. Right.
Like, even with the success of this and feeling like,
well, people would say, "Well, you're in a Broadway show.
What do you mean? You've made it."
It's like, yeah, I do feel that sense of accomplishment.
Yeah. I enjoy that, but, you know,
you're never satisfied, really, and so you work.
So, you never really make it?
You never really make it, in my mind, you know?
And I could just stay here all night and...
But you can't! I've got to get dressed!
Oh, man, is there an extra costume for me?
Can I just go on tonight? I'd love that.
We can find something. This has been fun, though.
Thank you so much for spending time with me. I'm so glad I got to do.
Bye, Ahmad. Thank you so much.
Take care. Have a good show, everybody!
Thanks for letting me visit.
Bye! Bye, bye, bye, bye! See you!
[ Both chuckle ]
♪ Broadway sandwich
♪ Broadway sandwich
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