Ashford at PaleyFest 2014 for Masters of Sex
Annaleigh Amanda Swanson
June 25, 1985
Denver, Colorado, U.S.
|Alma mater||Marymount Manhattan College|
|Occupation||Actress, singer, dancer|
|Associated acts||Will Van Dyke|
Annaleigh Amanda Ashford (née Swanson, born June 25, 1985) is an American actress, singer, and dancer.
She is known for her work on Broadway as Glinda in Wicked, and Margot in Legally Blonde, as well as for originating the role of Lauren in Kinky Boots, a performance for which she received a 2013 Tony nomination. Ashford won the 2015 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her performance as Essie Carmichael in the revival of You Can't Take It with You. In 2017, Ashford starred as Dot/Marie in the critically acclaimed, limited run revival of Sunday in the Park with George opposite Jake Gyllenhaal.
Life and career
1985–2004: early life
Ashford was born in Denver, Colorado, the daughter of Holli Swanson, an elementary school gym teacher, and Chris Swanson, a small business owner. Ashford 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 uniforms for the races rather than the actual races themselves. The last race she ever ran was the 400 metre dash. 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 Kit Andrée's Dance and Performing Arts Center the same day she started the second grade. She acted and sang in numerous performances and competitions in her hometown. Ashford's professional career began at age nine in Denver, when she was cast as Tina Denmark, the lead, in Ruthless!. At fourteen, she was profiled as "The Teen to Watch" by the Rocky Mountain News. Other Denver credits include appearing in the ensemble of The Sound of Music, West Side Story, and Paint Your Wagon, as well as in Little Women as Amy March, Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella as Ella, Grease as Sandy Dumbrowski, and Reno Sweeney in 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 theatre in another three years at the age of 19. While attending Marymount Manhattan College, Ashford played both Rosa Bud in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and Emma in Tell Me on a Sunday.
2004–09: Hollywood Starr, Feeling Electric, and Wicked
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 Ashford to dance at her 1970s glitter rock party "Lady Starlight's English Disco", and christened her Hollywood Starr. She performed in Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey's Feeling Electric as Natalie at the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2005.
Soon after graduating from college, Ashford got her big break performing as one of Glinda's friends, Pfanne, 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, but only went on once. She was featured on the original cast recording and appeared in the MTV televised airing. She left the show in September 2007.
In July 2007, 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.
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.
In August 2008, Ashford played Wednesday Addams in the staged reading for musical adaptation to The Addams Family with Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth, but she was later replaced by Krysta Rodriguez. Other readings include Bring It On: The Musical as Campbell, The Black Suits, C'mon Get Happy, Pal Joey, and a gender bent version of Stephen Sondheim's Company.
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, it was announced that Ashford and her colleague, Michael Longoria, were no longer in the cast of the show. Publicists announced that it was 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 premiere in Chicago until sometime in 2010.
2010–13: Kinky Boots, Masters of Sex, and Frozen
In September 2010, Ashford made her directorial debut at Birdland Jazz Club, directing fellow Hair alum Jay Armstrong Johnson in his solo concert debut. The concert was met with rave reviews, including a notice for Ashford's "thoughtfully put together" directorial style.
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 as Lisa McMann, and returned for another short appearance in 2013 before its cancellation.
From June 27 to August 19, 2012, she appeared in the Off-Broadway musical Dogfight, based on the 1991 film of the same name, playing a toothless hooker named Marcy. The role in the film was originally played by Elizabeth Daily.
In 2013, Ashford provided the voice of a troll in the highest grossing animated film of all time, Frozen. She has a short line greeting Kristoff, and sings the second female solo after Maia Wilson in the song 'Fixer Upper' for the soundtrack.
In 2013, after first appearing in the Chicago try-outs, she reprised her role as Lauren in the Broadway production 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 sex worker Betty DiMello in season one of the Showtime series Masters of Sex. Her part was upgraded from a recurring to regular for season two.
2014–15: Debut album, You Can't Take It With You, and Sylvia
On January 14, Ashford released her first single, "Another Time (Andrew's Song)", with musical director Will Van Dyke on iTunes. In addition to writing music and lyrics, Van Dyke is the featured pianist on the single. The track also features Michael Aarons on guitar, Steve Gilewski on bass, Sammy Merendino on drums, Philip Payton on violin/viola, and Allison Seidner on cello. It was recorded at Harlem Parlour Recording, NYC by Derik Lee, who also mixed and mastered the recording.
Beginning on August 26, 2014, Ashford played the role of Essie Carmichael in the Broadway revival of You Can't Take It with You, directed by Scott Ellis. She appeared alongside Rose Byrne, James Earl Jones, and Elizabeth Ashley. The show closed on February 2, 2015. For this role, she won the 2015 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play.
In a limited run from October 2, 2015 to January 3, 2016, Ashford starred as the titular canine in the first Broadway production of Sylvia by A.R. Gurney. The show opened at the Cort Theatre on October 27, 2015. Directed by Daniel J. Sullivan, the show also starred Julie White, Matthew Broderick and Robert Sella.
On November 20, 2015, BroadwayWorld.com announced that Ashford would be the involved in a filmed career retrospective Q&A with SAG-AFTRA, taking place on December 3, 2015 at The New School. The Q&A was released via YouTube on December 14, 2015.
On November 20, 2015, Ashford was selected to present the sixth annual Clive Barnes Theatre Award, taking place on January 11, 2016.
On November 30, 2015, Ashford played eight various roles in a reading of Paul Rudnick's critically acclaimed play Jeffrey, directed by Christopher Ashley. Other cast included Michael Urie, Robin de Jesus, James Monroe Iglehart, Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Russell Tovey.
2016–present: Sunday in the Park with George, American Crime Story, and B Positive
On July 14, 2016, it was announced that Ashford would be starring opposite Jake Gyllenhaal in New York City Center's Sunday in the Park with George as Dot/Marie, a role originated by Bernadette Peters on Broadway.
On December 13, 2016, it was announced that Ashford would reprise her role as Dot/Marie opposite Gyllenhaal in Sunday in the Park with George in the show's Broadway revival at the Hudson Theater. Ashford was not eligible for a Tony Award for this performance, as the production withdrew itself from any award competition, including the Tony Awards. A statement was released on February 3, 2016 saying: “The producers of Sunday in the Park with George will not be submitting Hudson Theatre’s engagement of this New York City Center production for awards eligibility. With a season so full of tremendous, soon-to-be long-running new musicals and revivals, the producers feel this extremely limited, special run stands most appropriately outside of any awards competition. The production is nevertheless proud to be part of such a landmark Broadway season.”
On April 20, 2017, it was announced that the revival of Sunday in the Park with George would be preserved on an album to be released by Warner Music Group. The cast recording was released on September 21, 2017. It was produced and mixed by Bart Migal, and features the full Broadway company, including Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Sean Leonard, Erin Davie, and Penny Fuller.
On September 12, 2017, it was announced that Ashford would join the cast of Woody Allen's drama film A Rainy Day in New York, owned by Amazon Studios; the film was completed, and has no release date set. On November 3, 2017, it was announced that Ashford would make her New York Philharmonic debut in a televised New Year’s Eve concert celebrating the music of Leonard Bernstein. Joined by Laura Osnes, Aaron Tveit, and Christopher Jackson, New Year’s Eve: Bernstein on Broadway featured songs from Bernstein's scores for On the Town, West Side Story, Candide, and Wonderful Town. It was accompanied by Bramwell Tovey, and aired on PBS on December 31, 2017, at 9:00pm.
Ashford appeared as Elizabeth Cote in four episodes of the mini-series The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, which premiered on January 17, 2018. On February 15, 2018, it was announced that Ashford would lead a single-camera comedy pilot for ABC entitled Southern Hospitality. Tristram Shapeero was set to direct. The pilot was not picked up.
Ashford co-starred in the Jennifer Lopez-led comedy film Second Act as Hildy, opposite Vanessa Hudgens. The film was released in 2018. On July 23, 2018, it was announced that Ashford would be starring in a new musical film entitled American Reject.
Ashford was set to reprise her role as Dot/Marie in Sunday In The Park With George at the Savoy Theatre in London in 2020. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the run was postponed to 2021.
In February 2020, Ashford was cast as one of the two main lead roles for the situation comedy B Positive, in which she’ll play a woman who is the perfect match for a kidney donor, who happens to be a divorced father who she knows from the past. The series was green lighted by CBS on May 8, 2020 as a entry in the 2020-2021 television season.
|2008||Sex and the City||Spoiled Label Queen|
|Rachel Getting Married||Quick Stop Cashier|
|2016||Better Off Single||Anne|
|Love on the Run||Liza|
|2018||Second Act||Hildy Ostrander|
|2019||Late Night||Mimi Mismatch|
|A Rainy Day in New York||Lily|
|Bad Education||Jenny Aquila|
|2007||Legally Blonde: The Musical||Margot||MTV Telecast|
|2009||Haute & Bothered||Mckenzie||Web series, lead role|
|2010||Law & Order||Mia||Episode: "Immortal"|
|2010, 2012||Submissions Only||Adorable Girl||Web series, recurring role|
|2011||The Big C||Chloe||Episode: "Cats and Dogs"|
|2012||Nurse Jackie||Cori||Episode: "Kettle-Kettle-Black-Black"|
|A Gifted Man||Shauna||Episode: "In Case of Complications"|
|Made in Jersey||Jackie||Episode: "Pilot"|
|2012, 2013||Smash||Lisa McMann||Recurring role, 2 episodes|
|2013||Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Lindsay Anderson||Episode: "October Surprise"|
|Watch What Happens: Live||Herself / Bartender||Episode: "Harvey Fierstein & Kim Zolciak"|
|87th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade||Herself / Lauren||Performed with the cast of Kinky Boots|
|2013–2016||Masters of Sex||Betty DiMello||Lead role|
|2015||Super Clyde||Britney||Lead role, pilot (not picked up for series)|
|Celebrity Name Game||Herself||4 episodes|
|2016||Pleasant Events||Maddie||Episode: "Who Let the Groom Out?"|
|The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp Again||Columbia||Television film|
|2017||New Year’s Eve: Bernstein on Broadway||Herself||New Year's Eve concert special|
|2018||The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story||Elizabeth Cote||Recurring role, 3 episodes|
|Southern Hospitality||Rebecca Watts||Lead role, pilot (not picked up for series)|
|God Friended Me||Fliss||Recurring role, 2 episodes|
|2019||Younger||Shelly Rozansky||Recurring role, 4 episodes|
|Unbelievable||Lily||Recurring role, 3 episodes|
|Evil||Bridget Farrell||Episode: "Vatican III"|
|John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch||Crying Lady||Television special|
|2020||Impeachment: American Crime Story||Paula Jones||Lead role|
|B Positive||Gina||Lead role|
- 2007: Legally Blonde (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
- 2013: Dogfight (Original Cast Recording)
- 2013: "Love Me Back" – single (with Richard Hall)
- 2013: "Stand Beside Me" – single (with Richard Hall)
- 2013: Kinky Boots (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
- 2013: Frozen (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
- 2014: "Another Time (Andrew's Song)" – single (with Will Van Dyke)
- 2014: Ahrens & Flaherty: Nice Fighting You (A 30th Anniversary Celebration Live at 54 Below)
- 2015: Lost in the Stars: Live at 54 Below
- 2016: The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp Again
- 2016: "A New Year" – single (with Will Van Dyke & Jeff Talbott)
- 2017: Sunday in the Park with George (2017 New Broadway Cast Recording)
On April 7, 2008, Ashford made her professional cabaret debut as a part of the Broadway at Birdland series at Birdland Jazz Club. She performed an early version of what has now become her critically acclaimed Lost in the Stars show. Many songs from her debut, including "Love Hurts", "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters", and the titular song, "Lost in the Stars", stayed with the show and are now featured on her live album. Alex Lacamoire served as her musical director.
In February 2014, Ashford made her 54 Below concert debut with her now acclaimed cabaret show, Lost in the Stars. After two sold-out shows on the 3rd of the month, Ashford added an encore performance due to popular demand. She returned to 54 Below for a special Christmas themed reincarnation of her cabaret act for the first two Mondays of December with "a little more holiday cheer involved". She was reviewed by Stephen Holden of The New York Times for her show on December 1. On February 11, 2015, it was announced that Ashford will be joined by Van Dyke and The Whiskey Five band in a tour of her acclaimed cabaret show in five cities. In addition to her February 11 return to 54 Below, she also played in Chicago, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and two special shows in her hometown of Denver, Colorado.
On August 30, 2015, Ashford had a secret popup concert at 54 Below entitled Brunch With Annaleigh: The Concert, which was an extension of the Lost in the Stars show. This concert was recorded to serve as part of Ashford's debut album, which is a compilation of multiple New York City dates at 54 Below in 2014 and 2015.
On September 29, 2015, it was announced that Ashford's debut album, Lost in the Stars: Live at 54 Below, a live recording of her Lost in the Stars show, would be released on November 13, 2016.
Ashford returned to 54 Below for a New Year's Eve edition of her Lost in the Stars show entitled Lost in the Stars: New Year's Magic. The concert also served as an album release party. On November 26, 2015, Lost in the Stars was nominated for a 2015 BroadwayWorld Cabaret Award in the category "Best Show, Celebrity Female". On September 13, 2016, it was announced that Ashford would once again return to 54 Below for an updated version of the New Year's Eve edition of her Lost in the Stars show, Lost in the Stars: New Year's Magic.
|February 3, 2014||New York, New York||United States||54 Below|
|February 15, 2014|
|December 1, 2014|
|December 8, 2014|
|February 11, 2015|
|March 21, 2015||Chicago, Illinois||The Broadway Playhouse|
|April 11, 2015||Denver, Colorado||The Denver Center|
|April 12, 2015|
|April 19, 2015||San Francisco, California||The Venetian Room|
|June 27, 2015||Las Vegas, Nevada||The Smith Center|
|June 28, 2015|
|August 30, 2015||New York, New York||54 Below|
|January 31, 2015|
|April 17, 2016||Overland Park, Kansas||Yardley Hall|
|January 31, 2016||New York, New York||54 Below|
|April 29, 2018||San Francisco, California||The Venetian Room|
Awards and nominations
|Year||Association||Category||Title of work||Result||Ref.|
|2008||Broadway.com Audience Choice Awards||Favorite Replacement (Female)||Wicked||Nominated|||
|2010||Favorite Replacement (Female)||Hair||Nominated|||
|2011||Drama League Awards||Distinguished Performance Award||Rent||Nominated|||
|2013||Broadway.com Audience Choice Awards||Favorite Actress in a Musical||Kinky Boots||Nominated|||
|Favorite Funny Performance||Won|||
|Clarence Derwent Awards||Clarence Derwent Award for Most Promising Female Performer||Won|||
|Drama Desk Awards||Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical||Nominated|||
|Outer Critics Circle||Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical||Nominated|||
|Tony Awards||Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical||Nominated|||
|2015||Broadway.com Audience Choice Awards||Favorite Featured Actress in a Play||You Can't Take It With You||Won|||
|Favorite Funny Performance||Nominated|
|Drama Desk Awards||Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play||Won|||
|Chita Rivera Award||Best Female Dancer||Nominated|||
|Outer Critics Circle||Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play||Won|||
|Tony Awards||Best Featured Actress in a Play||Won|||
|BroadwayWorld Cabaret Awards||Best Show, Celebrity Female||Lost in the Stars||Nominated|||
|Broadway.com Star of the Year Award||Star of the Year||N/A||Nominated|||
|2016||30th Annual MAC Awards||Best Song||Another Time (Andrew's Song)||Nominated|||
|Best Major Recording||Lost in the Stars: Live at 54 Below||Nominated|
|Drama League Awards||Distinguished Performance Award||Sylvia||Nominated|||
|Broadway.com Audience Choice Awards||Favorite Featured Actress in a Play||Nominated|||
|Favorite Funny Performance||Nominated|
|Brooklyn Web Fest Awards||Best Supporting Actress||Pleasant Events||Nominated|||
|2017||Broadway.com Audience Choice Awards||Favorite Leading Actress in a Musical||Sunday in the Park with George||Nominated|||
|Favorite Onstage Pair (with Jake Gyllenhaal)||Nominated|
|2018||Drama League Award||Distinguished Performance||A Midsummer Night's Dream||Nominated|||
Ashford has celiac disease, and because of this, maintains a strict gluten-free diet. Ashford and fellow actor Joe Tapper were married at the Devil's Thumb Ranch in Tabernash, Colorado on July 29, 2013. On May 11, 2016, People announced that Ashford and Tapper were pregnant with their first child, a boy. Ashford and Tapper's son, Jack Clark Tapper, was born on September 8, 2016.
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