Ryann Redmond. Photo credit: Jenny Anderson.
In mid-February, something major happened on Broadway.
Disney’s ‘Frozen’, one of the biggest musicals on The Great White Way, announced a major casting shift — one that not only set forth a sort of tipping point in the strive for diversity casting but also morphed the name ‘Ryann Redmond’ from one most industry pros knew and respected to one more of the household variety.
Ryann Redmond, an actress whose work has been seen on Broadway in musicals like ‘Bring It On: The Musical’, ‘If/Then’, and ‘Escape To Margaritaville’ was officially cast as the first female actress to play the role of Olaf in the hit Disney stage musical.
“When I first got the audition appointment from my agent, I thought he sent me the wrong email,” Redmond told Dance Network. “I was certain that it was a mistake! However, he reassured me that it was indeed intentional on Disney’s part and that they had asked for me.”
“Not quite sure who that 'they' is,” Redmond chuckled, “but whomever it is, I owe ya!”
‘Frozen’, which made its debut on Broadway a year ago last spring, was choreographed for the stage by Rob Ashford. The movie version of the musical, which debuted in theaters in 2013 and served as the source inspiration of the stage adaptation, included big-time theatre star names like Idina Menzel, Santino Fontana, and Jonathan Groff, with ‘Book Of Mormon’ alum, Josh Gad, creating the role of the heartfelt and hilarious snowman, Olaf.
Ryann Redmond as Olaf in Disney’s ‘Frozen’. Photo credit: Jennifer Broski.
Redmond, whose casting added another layer to the overall feminist driven storyline, grew up in Georgia as an athlete before she found her way to the theatre.
“I moved to a new school in the 8th grade and, on a whim, I decided to try out for the school musical,” Redmond said. “I played very competitive softball leading up to that point, so I’m not quite sure what came over me. But my fearless 13-year-old self decided that she wanted to audition. And, I caught the bug from that moment on.”
The casting decision was a remarkable step toward theatrical inclusivity, and for Redmond, even the audition process was joyful and eye-opening.
“My audition process was always super fun,” Redmond explained. “Adrian Sarple, our associate director, guided me through the process with an open heart and an open mind. He allowed me to cultivate my own version of Olaf, something I didn’t quite expect coming into this well-oiled machine. I was able to play and really bring myself into this lovable snowman.”
When Redmond found out she’d actually booked the job, it was a moment she won’t soon forget.
“I was in between shows of an amazing play I was doing at the Roundabout called ‘Usual Girls’ by Ming Peiffer and my agents called me as I was walking up 8th avenue,” Redmond recalled. “I was screaming and crying and people were staring at me probably wondering why I was acting so crazy.”
The Cast of Disney’s ‘Frozen’ on Broadway. Photo credit: Shay Frey.
The move by Disney’s Theatrical division to open up the possibilities on the production’s casting vision is something Redmond says she not only appreciates but views as an opportunity.
“It is truly such an honor to be a part of Disney’s continued goal of diversifying their casts,” Redmond said. “The fact that they took the plunge and allowed me to bring new life to Olaf is something I’ll never take for granted.”
Redmond also understands the honor and responsibility her new job carries and hopes to see more progressive casting moves in the future.
“There is nothing better than going to the stage door and having people of all ages tell me that they are so glad a woman is playing this part.”
“I hope that this is a catalyst for producers across the board to continue the forward momentum of ‘out-of-the-box’ casting,” Redmond continued. “Let’s spice it up, people!”