Brittain Ashford

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Brittain Ashford
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 close friend 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]

In April 2017, Ashford released five non-album singles: 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]

On February 18, 2019, Ashford announced an Indiegogo campaign to fund her second solo studio album, entitled Drama Club, with pre-orders open until March 20, 2019. The album's release date is still unanounced, however the Indiegogo claims that CD and LP copies will be shipped in July 2019.[23]. 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.[24]

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]

Studio albums[edit]

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

Extended plays[edit]

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

Singles[edit]

  • "Good for Goodness" (2017)
  • "Time Takes Time" (2017)
  • "Please Leave a Light on When You Go" (feat. Dave Malloy) (2017)
  • "Bells, Boxes" (2017)
  • "For the First Time" (2019)
  • "You're the One That I Want" (2019)

Soundtrack albums[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)

with Prairie Empire[edit]

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

Awards and nominations[edit]

Sources: TheaterMania,[25] Lortel Archives[26]

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

External links[edit]

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.
  3. ^ "Austin Shows Brittain Ashford". Do512.
  4. ^ Vinh, Tim. "Roosevelt's popular principal to step down". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2016-12-21.
  5. ^ Arnegger, Sarah Jane. "Schools of the Stars: Where The Great Comet Cast and Creators Went to College". Playbill. Retrieved 2016-12-21.
  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.
  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.
  8. ^ Myers, Victoria (23 March 2017). "Women of "The Great Comet of 1812"". THE INTERVAL. The Interval. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  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.
  10. ^ Brantley, Ben. "The Tonys 2017: Who Will Win (and Who Should)". New York Times. Retrieved 2017-06-17.
  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.
  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.
  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.
  16. ^ "Prairie Empire". Trailer Fire Records. Retrieved 2016-12-29.
  17. ^ Ventura, Leslie (2011-09-09). "Neon Reverb: Leslie's Thursday Journal". Las Vegas Weekly. Retrieved 2016-12-29.
  18. ^ Moeller, Sean. "Prairie Empire". Daytrotter. Retrieved 2016-12-29.
  19. ^ Mann, Zaph. "Review: The Woods - Sellwood's classy new venue". www.opb.org. Oregon Public Broadcasting. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  20. ^ "Prairie Empire: The Salt". Midheaven Mailorder. Missing or empty |url= (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  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.
  23. ^ https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/pre-order-brittain-ashford-s-drama-club#/
  24. ^ https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/youre-the-one-that-i-want-single/1454141658
  25. ^ "Broadway-Bound Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 Leads IRNE Award Nominees". TheaterMania. Retrieved 2016-12-21.
  26. ^ "Brittain Ashford". Lortel Archives.