Alex Newell wows as Mother of the Earth in Once On This Island, a fairytale about the strength and healing power of love. For several years, Newell stared as Unique Adams on Glee, making history playing the first transgender teen character on a hit TV show. Directed by Tony-nominated Michael Arden (Deaf West’s Spring Awakening) and with music and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, the Tony Award-winning writers of Anastasia and Ragtime, the joyous show explodes with soul-nourishing Caribbean dance and rhythms.
How did you first discover Once On This Island?
Alex Newell: I was on YouTube when YouTube was starting to just be a thing. And the 1991 performance of the show came across my YouTube queue with LaChanze and Lillias White. I was 10 or 11. I thought, what is this show!? People who look and sound like me are on stage. I need to see it! I didn’t get to see shows like that because I grew up in Massachusetts where they did classics like Carousel and My Fair Lady. Once On This Island is one of my favorite shows and I’m making my Broadway debut. Coming from Glee, and getting to do assortments of things and really dig into something that you love, is joy.
When did you know you had to be a performer?
Alex Newell: When I was two, I was on stage at our state fair singing while my mom was frantically looking for me. I reached for the microphone at two because I was walking at one. I sang some random church song that was the first thing in my head. But being on stage really registered when I was nine and won my school’s talent show. I don’t remember what I sang but I knew that I had to be on stage for the rest of my life.
When you’re not working what do you love to do?