Brittain Ashford

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Brittain Ashford
Brittain and Grace.jpg
OccupationActor, singer, songwriter, performer
Years active2008–present
Known forNatasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet of 1812

Brittain Ashford is an American actress and musician best known for portraying Sonya Rostova in the 2016 Broadway musical Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812,[1] as well as fronting the band Prairie Empire.[2]

Background[edit]

Born in Seattle, Washington,[3] Ashford attended Roosevelt High School. She attended college at the University of Washington, Seattle.[4][5][6]

Career[edit]

Theatre[edit]

Ashford's first theatrical performance was as Sonya Rostova in the 2012 Ars Nova production of Dave Malloy's Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. Ashford continued to perform with the show in all future incarnations of it, including productions at Kazino, the American Repertory Theater, and at the Imperial Theatre, the latter of which marked her Broadway debut in 2016.[7] Of her role, Ashford says, "I sympathize with Sonya, and I really love that she’s there as this best friend presence that could be nothing, but she also gets this really tender, intimate, important moment in the show to talk about that friendship, which I think is just so nice and kind of refreshing."[8] Ashford received praise for her performance as Sonya, and was nominated for multiple awards over the course of the shows multiple runs.[1] Ashford was temporarily replaced as Sonya by singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson, but she returned as Sonya on August 15, 2017.[9]

Ben Brantley of the New York Times stated in his article "The Tonys 2017: Who Will Win (and Who Should)"[10] that Ashford "should have been nominated" for the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.

Ashford also performed in Dave Malloy's song-cycle Ghost Quartet.[11] Ashford provided vocals for the show, as well as autoharp, keyboard, and percussion. She was praised for her performance as part of the quartet, with the Litro saying she "sounds like she’s singing from the bottom of a sea of honey; her voice is at once lovely and perfectly eerie."[12] Ashford stayed with the show while it performed at various venues across the US, including the American Repertory Theatre[13] in Boston. The song-cycle re-opened at Next Door at NYTW, a black box theatre component of New York Theatre Workshop, in October 2017.[14]

Music[edit]

In 2008, Ashford released her first solo album entitled, There, But For You, Go I via the Parisian label Waterhouse Records.[15] In June 2012, she released her first record with her band, Prairie Empire. Ashford recorded Prairie Empire (Trailer Fire Records) in Portland, Oregon with support from members of the band Harlowe.[16] Leslie Ventura of Las Vegas Weekly notes the "sheer emotive power of her voice,"[17] while Daytrotter praised the transportive capacity of the album's lyrics.[18] Ashford has been praised for the unique and distinctive qualities of her voice, with one critic saying, "Her voice is tender, but also strong and determined…the threatened vulnerability was serenely vanquished."[19]

In July 2016, Ashford released The Salt, her sophomore album with Prairie Empire, via Commodore Trotter Records. Ashford, who provided vocals, guitar and arrangements for the album was joined on drums by bandmate Nim Ben-Reuven, as well as Brent Arnold (cello), Jeff Hudgins (clarinet, sax, baritone sax), Danah Olivetree (cello), Alec Spiegelman (pump organ), Scott Colberg (guitar) and Matt Bauer (vocals).[20] Additionally, the band was joined on tour by Jacki Paolella, who helped to produced The Salt at TAPTAP Records in Norfolk, Virginia. In a review for Veer Magazine, Shannon Jay said The Salt "embodies a delicate toughness," calling attention to Ashford's vocals, the "ambient complexity" of the arrangements and the album's powerful storytelling.[21]

Ashford has also released five non-album singles under her own name: "Good for Goodness," "Time Takes Time," "Please Leave a Light on When You Go" (featuring Great Comet writer Dave Malloy, "Bells, Boxes," and "For the First Time."[22] In December 2018, she released a three-song EP with songwriting collaborator Matt Bauer.

On February 18, 2019, Ashford announced an Indiegogo campaign to fund her second solo studio album, entitled Drama Club. The album was released on September 24, 2019. The album features covers of musical theatre songs "run through a David Lynch filter," including a new version of "Sonya Alone" from Great Comet. The first single from the album, a cover of "You're the One That I Want" from Grease, was released on March 15, 2019.[23] A second single, a re-recorded cover of her aria from Great Comet, "Sonya Alone," was released on July 16, 2019.

Theater credits[edit]

Year Production Character Category Theatre
2012 Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 Sonya Rostova Off-Off-Broadway Ars Nova
2013 Off-Broadway Kazino
2014–15 Ghost Quartet Performer Bushwick Starr/Curran
2015 Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 Sonya Rostova Regional American Repertory Theater
2016–17 Broadway Imperial Theatre
2017 Ghost Quartet Performer Off-off-Broadway New York Theatre Workshop
2018 Regional Seattle Theatre Group
2018 Blood Wedding Wife Regional The Williams Project
2019 Cowboy Cowboy Off-off-Broadway The Doxsee

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

  • There, But For You, Go I (2008)
  • Drama Club (2019)

with Prairie Empire[edit]

  • Prairie Empire (2012)
  • The Salt (2016)

Extended plays[edit]

  • Auld Lang Syne (2012)
  • Tinsel and Snow & Other Mid-Winter Missives with Matt Bauer (2018)
  • Day Inside a Night with Matt Bauer (2020)

Singles[edit]

  • "Please Leave a Light on When You Go" (feat. Dave Malloy) (2012)
  • "Good for Goodness" (2017)
  • "Time Takes Time" (2017)
  • "Bells, Boxes" (2017)
  • "For the First Time" (2019)
  • "You're the One That I Want" (2019)
  • "Sonya Alone" (2019)
  • "Bitter and the Herb" (2020)
  • "Ugly" with Matt Bauer (2020)
  • "Night in Saguaro" with Matt Bauer (2020)

Cast recordings[edit]

  • Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 (Highlights From the Original Cast Recording) (2013)
  • Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 (Original Cast Recording) (2013)
  • Ghost Quartet (2015)
  • Ghost Quartet: Live at the McKittrick (2016)
  • Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 (Original Broadway Cast Recording) (2017)

Awards and nominations[edit]

Sources: TheaterMania,[24] Lortel Archives[25]

Year Award Category Play Results
2014 Lucille Lortel Award Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Natasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet of 1812 Nominated
2016 IRNE Award Supporting Actress, Musical Nominated

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Isherwood, Charles (2016-11-14). "Review: 'Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812,' on the Heels of 'Hamilton'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-11-15.
  2. ^ Knittel, Fred. "Folkadelphia Session: Prairie Empire". The Key. WXPN. Retrieved 2016-12-12. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ "Austin Shows Brittain Ashford". Do512.
  4. ^ Vinh, Tim. "Roosevelt's popular principal to step down". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2016-12-21. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ Arnegger, Sarah Jane. "Schools of the Stars: Where The Great Comet Cast and Creators Went to College". Playbill. Retrieved 2016-12-21. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ Anderson, Cynthia M. "CHID alum, Brittain Ashford played a lead role in the Musical nominated for a record 12 Tony Awards, Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812. | Comparative History of Ideas | University of Washington". chid.washington.edu. Comparative History of Ideas Program, University of Washington. Retrieved 9 August 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ Gordon, David. "Phillipa Soo and Brittain Ashford on Sharing a Year with Natasha, Sonya & the Great Comet of 1812". TheaterMania. Retrieved 2016-12-20. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ Myers, Victoria (23 March 2017). "Women of "The Great Comet of 1812"". THE INTERVAL. The Interval. Retrieved 9 August 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  9. ^ Lefkowitz, Andy (August 3, 2017). "Original Cast Member Brittain Ashford Will Return to Broadway's Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812". Broadway.com. Broadway.com. Retrieved 9 August 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ Brantley, Ben. "The Tonys 2017: Who Will Win (and Who Should)". New York Times. Retrieved 2017-06-17. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  11. ^ Gioai, Michael. "Dave Malloy's Ghost Quartet". Playbill.
  12. ^ Burton, Tara Isabella (January 19, 2015). "Haunting: The Power of Dave Malloy's Ghost Quartet - LitroUSA". www.litrony.com. Litro Magazine. Retrieved 9 August 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  13. ^ Byrne, Terry (September 10, 2015). "At Oberon, a spirited 'Ghost Quartet' from Malloy and company - The Boston Globe". BostonGlobe.com. Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC. Retrieved 9 August 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  14. ^ "Dave Malloy's Ghost Quartet Will Re-Open New York Theatre Workshop's Black Box Space | Playbill". Playbill. Retrieved 2017-10-23.
  15. ^ "Grace Mclean and Brittain Ashford to Headline Farm-to-Table Dinner with Hayfields". HAMLETHUB. Retrieved 2016-12-29. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  16. ^ "Prairie Empire". Trailer Fire Records. Retrieved 2016-12-29. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  17. ^ Ventura, Leslie (2011-09-09). "Neon Reverb: Leslie's Thursday Journal". Las Vegas Weekly. Retrieved 2016-12-29. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  18. ^ Moeller, Sean. "Prairie Empire". Daytrotter. Retrieved 2016-12-29. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  19. ^ Mann, Zaph. "Review: The Woods - Sellwood's classy new venue". www.opb.org. Oregon Public Broadcasting. Retrieved 9 August 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  20. ^ Prairie Empire: The Salt, Midheaven Mailorder
  21. ^ Jay, Shannon (July 2016). "CD Reviews: Prairie Empire, The Salt". Veer Magazine.
  22. ^ Rearick, Lauren. "mp3: "Time Takes Time" - Brittain Ashford". The Grey Estates. The Grey Estates. Retrieved 9 August 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  23. ^ "You're the One That I Want - Single by Brittain Ashford". Music.apple.com. Retrieved 1 February 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  24. ^ "Broadway-Bound Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 Leads IRNE Award Nominees". TheaterMania. Retrieved 2016-12-21. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  25. ^ "Brittain Ashford". Lortel Archives.

External links[edit]