|Born||Annaleigh Amanda Swanson
June 25, 1985
Denver, Colorado, U.S.
|Occupation||Musical theatre, television and film actress|
Annaleigh Ashford was born Annaleigh Amanda Swanson in Denver, Colorado and raised in a single parent household by her mother, Holli Swanson, an elementary school gym teacher. Annaleigh 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 Denver's Kit Andreé 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 theater 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. She performed in Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey's Feeling Electric as Natalie, and joined Rent's Anthony Rapp at the New York Musical Theatre Festival.
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 70's glitter rock party "Lady Starlight's English Disco", and christened her Hollywood Starr. Soon after graduating from college, Ashford got her big break performing in the ensemble 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. 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.
She worked on a musical adaptation of Catch Me if You Can as Brenda Strong. She previously did a staged reading for the project under the Tony Award-winning director of Hairspray, Jack O'Brien. In 2008, she made her film debut with a small part in Sex and the City: The Movie playing a "spoiled label queen." She also appeared in the film, Rachel Getting Married as a counter girl.
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 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. From June 27 to August 19, 2012, she appeared in the Off-Broadway musical Dogfight.
In 2013, after first appearing in the role of Lauren in the Chicago try-outs 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 1 of the Showtime series Masters of Sex. Her part has been upgraded from a recurring role to regular cast for season 2.
- John Moore (2007-08-29). "Ashford 'Wicked's' new Glinda". Denver Post. Archived from the original on October 22, 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-30.
- "Chicago's 'Wicked' snags the Broadway Glinda". Chicago Tribune. 2008-04-15. Archived from the original on April 20, 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-16.
- "Wicked Ends Lengthy Chicago Sit-Down Engagement Jan. 25". Playbill.com. January 25, 2009.
- Annaleigh Ashford IMDb profile
- Kenneth Jones and Andrew Gans (August 4, 2008). "Lane, Neuwirth, Chamberlin, McCarthy and Arden Featured in Addams Family Reading". Playbill News.
- "DeGarmo, Young, Ashford and Riabko Among New Cast of 'Hair' on Broadway" playbill.com
- NYC Return of Rent Will Star Annaleigh Ashford, Adam Chanler-Berat, Arianda Fernandez
- Ferri, Josh. "Cyndi Lauper's Kinky Boots Moves Up Broadway Start Date" Broadway.com (December 13, 2012)
- Nominations Announced for 58th Annual Drama Desk Awards; Giant and Hands on a Hardbody Lead the Pack Retrieved April 29, 2013
- Nominations Announced for 67th Annual Tony Awards; Kinky Boots Earns 13 Nominations Retrieved April 30, 2013
- Hetrick, Adam (September 13, 2010). ""'What Is Your Damage?', Heathers: The Musical Gets Joe's Pub Concerts Sept. 13"". Playbill. Retrieved January 14, 2012.
- Hetrick, Adam (November 9, 2010). "EXCLUSIVE: MCC Tests Carrie, With Marin Mazzie, Aaron Tveit and Molly Ranson, Nov. 9". Playbill. Retrieved January 14, 2012.
- "‘Diner’ closer to stage". New York Post. January 11, 2012. Retrieved January 14, 2012.
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