The Dressing Room Project takes over our monthly feature on Broadway’s unsung insiders, as Michael Kushner peeks behind the scenes with Pretty Woman Samantha Barks

Samantha Banks and Pup Michael Kushner
Samantha Banks and Ivy backstage. Photo: Michael Kushner

Going backstage at any Broadway house is exciting, but especially so at the Nederlander. This is the space where RentHeathen!, and Billy breathed. Right now, it’s home to Pretty Woman, its star Samantha Barks, and a puppy named Ivy. Puppies are always good. 

“Having Ivy here with me is the best thing,” says Samantha, “and I feel so lucky that I get to have her. She makes any nerves you might have go away. She has a very special little soul.”

I ask her, what is biggest difference between working on the West End and Broadway?

“Both have really beautiful communities,” she says, “just different kinds. You guys have a celebration for everything!” And she’s right. The day I’m writing this is National Orange Wine Day. 

Her process is simple but focused. Make-up application, costume, staying as protective of the voice as possible, conversation about making soup (yes, she makes her own soup!), Ivy cuddles, and checking in with cast and crew.
She says: “I feel like you have to listen to your body and that will inform you as to what adjustments you need to make to your life to make eight shows a week happen.

“Every show is different, but for me, with a role this size, it means I’m pretty well-behaved in my day-to-day life. You have to adjust because you can’t necessarily have the same kind of social life you had. You need to rest your voice/body to make sure it is at its peak for those shows.”

As she put on her cap and necklace, the last of her top-of-show look, I snap a few more photos and say my thank yous. Time for curtain. But first, I check in to make sure NYC is treating her well.

Samantha Banks Michael Kushner
Samantha Banks getting ready for the show. Photo: Michael Kushner

“I’ve really settled into New York and I love the buzz the moment you walk out your door. I used to find that a little intimidating, but now I find it thrilling.”

This story originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of W42ST.

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