On February 21, it was announced that Shoshana Bean would be taking over the lead role of Jenna in Waitress on Broadway. The Tony-nominated musical, with music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles, has seen quite a few different Jenna’s throughout its run, like Sara Bareilles herself and Jessie Mueller to name a few, but I’m especially excited to welcome a Jewish lady with chutzpah into the role. As a die-hard musical theater fan, and as a young Jewish woman currently studying theater, I’ve admired Shoshana Bean’s work (and vocal riffs) for a long time. It’s not every day a Jewish woman who isn’t Barbra Streisand gets to be a leading lady, so it’s high time to get to know a little bit more about Shoshana.
1. She’s a west coast girl.
Shoshana Bean was born to a Jewish family in Olympia, Washington and raised in the Portland, Oregon area. She first found her love for performing at a summer camp in Olympia called Capital Kids.
2. She knows how to hustle.
Barely out of college, Shoshana Bean was pounding the pavement, booking roles in regional productions like Annie to earn her Equity Card. Pretty much immediately after that, Bean stayed on her post-grad energy wave and found herself in New York City. The excitement of her new surroundings kept Bean’s theater buzz going and she quickly began finding work as a New York actor.
3. Her Broadway debut was as Shelley in Hairspray.
Shoshana Bean was one of the original cast members of the 2003 Tony Award winning production of Hairspray. In addition to understudying the roles of Tracy Turnblad (who was originally played by fellow Jewess Marissa Jaret Winokur), Velma Von Tussle, and Prudy Pingleton, Bean starred as Shelley (one of the Corny Collins dancers).
4. She was the first Elphaba replacement.
Following her success in Hairspray, Shoshana took over for Idina Menzel (why yes, another Jew!) as Elphaba in Wicked, arguably still one of the most highly coveted roles on Broadway. As the first predecessor of the role, Bean had some big shoes to fill and she did not disappoint. Her vocal riffs and rock star mezzo-belt left audiences speechless and on their feet after every performance.
5. She’s followed in the footsteps of Babs and Bette.
In 2015, Shoshana Bean starred as Fanny Brice (role originated on Broadway by Barbra Streisand) in a revival of Funny Girl at North Shore Theater near Boston and received an IRNE award for her portrayal. Bean also originated the role of CeeCee Bloom in the pre-Broadway run of the musical production of Beaches (role originated in the film by Bette Midler). Her part in Beaches earned Bean a Jeff Award nomination.
6. She writes her own music.
Show tunes, pop, jazz— Shoshana Bean does it all. In addition to her long reigning Broadway career, Bean writes and records original songs and popular covers of songs, like her latest release covering Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” Bean has three original albums in addition to dozens of EPs, single covers, and guest recording tracks. Spectrum, her latest album, reached number one on the Billboard Jazz Charts in 2018. Her musical style is heavily influenced by R&B artists like Mariah Carey (you can tell by her to-die-for whistle tones). Her voice is truly an American treasure and we are not worthy.
7. She’s been in movies and TV, too.
Beginning in 2008 with The Battery’s Down, Bean has also been seen in the movie Dance Flick and in episodes of the award-winning television show Bloodline.
8. She’s passionate about education.
On her website, Bean has curated masterclass videos targeted towards aspiring performers and industry professionals. Her Lecture Series can be purchased as a bundle, with some videos available to watch on her Instagram. She also travels globally to teach masterclasses in person. From giving audition tips to teaching about vocal health 101, Bean is enthusiastic about sharing her knowledge and advice with other performers.
9. She is the second Jewish woman to take over the role of Jenna in Waitress on Broadway!
Jessie Mueller, who originated the role of Jenna in the initial Boston production and Broadway debut of Waitress, was the first Jewish performer and is now closely followed by Shoshana Bean. Bean’s run in the role begins March 18, 2019 and goes until May 12, 2019. You don’t want to miss her!