#WhereAreTheyNow – Jackie Burns
November 16th, 2018 by Elizabeth Radabaugh
With determination, you can do anything. That’s especially true for our #WhereAreTheyNow star, Jackie Burns. A competition dancer from Connecticut turned into the longest-running Elphaba on Broadway? Jackie has a career that has truly defied gravity.
Growing up in her Connecticut hometown of Ivorytown, Jackie was first introduced to the world of dance through jazz, tap and lyrical classes. In addition to competing at StarQuest, she graced the stage at a number of other notable competitions. Jackie was passionate about her dance career. She even prioritized dance over her school events, often opting to miss high school social dances in order to attend tap and jazz competitions.
Jackie ultimately chose Uconn in Storrs as her university of choice. She studied under the school’s prestigious theater program, working towards becoming a dramatic actress. She told the Hartford Courant that she wanted to “be the best actress I can be. But I didn’t quite fit in because I liked musical theater.” Her love of musical theater translated to being cast in plenty of them. In her senior year of college, she performed at the Connecticut Repertory Theatre as Joanna in “Sweeney Todd” and an ensemble member in “Smokey Joe’s Cafe.” It was obvious that musical theater was where Jackie belonged.
The Big Apple Calls
After Jackie graduated from UConn in 2002, she moved to New York to pursue her dreams. It didn’t take long for her to find her place in the industry. She was cast in many musicals, including a production of “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey. After eight years of being in New York, Jackie got her big break. Her Broadway Debut was in the 2009 production of the hit musical “Hair.”
She was part of a girl trio that sings “Black Boys.” This show was a great way for Jackie to use all three of her triple-threat talents: singing, dancing, and acting! “Hair represents so much hope and possibility,” she says in an interview with Dance Spirit. “And because there is so much audience interaction, there is no fourth wall. You look into an audience member’s eyes and get to experience actual gratitude. You see people light up when you walk by. That’s what the show is all about: We are all one!”
A Role For A Lifetime
Since her Broadway Debut, Jackie also performed in the original Off-Broadway cast of “Rock of Ages” and the National tour of “Wicked.” Her success on the road pegged Jackie to be the next Elphaba on Broadway. Playing this part was the perfect next step for Jackie. In an interview with the Hartford Courant, she said that while she played the role on the road, she says performing the show in New York is completely different. “There’s a full orchestra, with gorgeous strings, the stage is heavily raked, there are lots of extra characters — and I was never so scared in my life when I first stepped on that stage for that first show.”
Not only is this part a great next step for Jackie in her career, but she also told the Hartford Courant that it’s a great role for her personally. Elphaba is “an amazing woman. I wish I could be more like her. She has such a big heart even though she has really bad luck.”
After Jackie’s first year and a half with “Wicked,” she moved on to another Broadway show. She was the standby for Idina Menzel’s character in the musical “If/Then.” Even though the show closed its Broadway run in March 2015, this was not the last time Jackie would sing its notes. She went on to perform as the lead role in its national tour from January to August of 2016.
A Title For The Ages
After Jackie spent five years working on various other projects, including “If/Then,” the green lady was calling her back. She returned to the role of Elphaba on Broadway in July of 2017. Jackie was made for this role, and the audiences agreed. She performed this character more than 1,300 times over the years. This makes Jackie the longest-running Elphaba on Broadway! You can actually still catch Jackie in the green makeup, belting out “Defying Gravity.” At the moment, Jackie is performing as Elphaba on the “Wicked” tour, which is currently in San Diego until November 25th. She is also slated to return to the role at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre from November 28 – January 27.
Jackie indeed is a triple threat, singing, dancing, and acting her way into the hearts of any musical theater lover. Her dance competition roots taught her to work hard for her goals and never give up. She has genuinely defied gravity, and we love to watch her reach for the stars.
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Elizabeth Radabaugh is the StarQuest Social Media Production Assistant. She loves everything Disney and delicious.