ilene graff

Q&A: Ilene Graff

Where are you from? Queens, New York

Broadway credits: Promises, Promises, Grease, I Love My Wife

How did you hear you’d booked your first Broadway show? The summer after I graduated from Ithaca College, I was part of the school’s summer stock company on Martha’s Vineyard. My dad, who was a singer, had heard about a job opening at “Promises” from his good friend Arte Azenzer, who was the musical director. They needed an understudy for Jill O'Hara (Fran Kubelik) who could also be a pit singer. Guitar playing would be a plus. So, Dad recommended me. I flew to NY from the Vineyard, auditioned on the stage of the Shubert theater pre-matinee, and flew back to the Vineyard. A couple of days later I was called into the box office for the phone call from Biff Liff’s office that I got the job. Needless to say, everyone was jumping up and down and screaming, including me. I left the Vineyard Players and went to NY, where the Shubert was my home for the next year.

What is your favorite event in the Broadway community? I think Broadway Bares is extraordinary. I have never seen the show, but the sheer size and power of it is unbelievable.

What’s something about Broadway that fascinates you? The draw that Broadway continues to have even after so many warnings of its demise. Being in a Broadway show still the biggest, best, most wonderful job for any actor. It’s the ultimate place to see a show. It’s magic.

What, other than theatre, has inspired you recently? Teaching vocal performance is incredibly inspiring. It’s so satisfying to watch our students grow and not only become better singers and performers, but become better able to handle other areas of their lives more gracefully because of the self-understanding and self-confidence they get through working on their songs.

If I could have coffee with any living person, it would be… How corny would it be to say Nikka Lanzarone? It’s true. Nobody else comes close. Except her dad, Ben.
[ed. note: oh, Mom. i’ll have coffee with you anytime.]

If I could trade places with anybody for a day, I would choose… Whoever is doing a job I wish I’d gotten!

To be successful in this business, it takes… Talent, skill, tenacity, flexibility, personality, and luck.

Tell us a secret. “Cupcake Wars” is one of my favorite tv shows. I’m so shallow.