Earlier this summer, we put the call out for aspiring Broadway stars, and you answered! After working through hundreds of fantastic submissions, our esteemed panel of judges have selected four finalists to be flown to New York City with a guest to perform in Times Square. One lucky winner will earn a $10,000 cash prize.
Runners-up will also receive a cash prize, and all winners will be eligible to receive an initial consultation with one of Prudential's financial advisors to help with their financial decision making. All winners will also enjoy a night out on the town with dinner, a Broadway show, and a meet-and-greet with the cast. Airfare, ground transportation, meals, and hotel accommodations are all included. Before arriving, winners will get a virtual Q&A with Broadway star Brittney Johnson, who will also give one-on-one guidance to the winners in person at a Manhattan rehearsal studio while they're in town.
The selected finalists are Brianna Kaleen, Chris Richie, Zalah Vallien, and Alli Sutton.
Kaleen is a graduate of Oklahoma City University with a Bachelor of Music in Music Theatre Performance, part of the class of 2021. Since graduating, Kaleen has performed as Little Inez in the national tour of Hairspray, Sarah's Friend in Bay Street Theater's Ragtime, and Little Eva in Casa Mañana's Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. She will play a solo show at 54 Below November 7.
Richie, hailing from Mobile, Alabama, comes from a musical family and grew up singing gospel music at church with his mom. He is a classmate of Kaleen's, also earning a Bachelor of Music in Musical Theatre Performance from OCU in 2022. He has since appeared in productions of Titanic, Carousel, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, In the Heights, Closer Than Ever, Master Class, and Kinky Boots.
Vallien is currently a student at Norwalk Conservatory of the Arts in Connecticut, where she is a musical theatre major. She has been doing theatre since she was in 10th grade, and hopes to be on Broadway soon.
Sutton is a recent graduate of Point Park University, with performance credits that include Spring Awakening and Carnegie Hall: PCI's Broadway - Next Generation, along with the films Thanks to Her and A Man Called Otto.
"I was so proud of myself for accomplishing my dream to make it on Broadway, and I wanted to live in the moment, but I also knew it was important to plan for my financial future," says Johnson, who made history as Broadway's first full-time Black actor to play Glinda in Wicked. "And I’m glad I did because it saved me during the COVID pandemic. That’s why I’m excited to team up with Prudential again and give these aspiring artists not only the opportunity to perform on stage in New York but also think about financial planning early in their theatre careers."
Along with Johnson, this year's all-star judges panel included 2023 Tony nominee and Shucked star Kevin Cahoon, Into the Woods star Cole Thompson, Kimberly Akimbo's Alli Mauzey, current Broadway Elphaba Alyssa Fox, Some Like It Hot star Adrianna Hicks, Broadway casting director Tara Rubin, and writer-composer Allen René Louis. Entrants were invited to make a video (three minutes or less) of themselves singing one of five pre-selected hit Broadway show tunes: "Father Time" from Kimberly Akimbo, "Giants in the Sky" from Into the Woods, "Independently Owned" from Shucked, "Darker Shade of Blue" from Some Like It Hot, or "The Wizard and I" from Wicked.
"This was a really difficult decision!" says Rubin, best known for her work on The Producers. "We saw such talented people—all of whom had great stories to tell. I’m excited to work with the finalists when they come to New York.”
"The submissions from around the country were incredibly inspiring—the future of our industry is definitely exciting!" adds Louis, who is known for his work on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Ben Platt Live from Radio City Music Hall. "I’m looking forward to meeting the finalists and experiencing their talent live on stage"
The Prudential Stages on Broadway contest is part of 2023's Curtain Up: A Broadway Festival, set to take over Times Square September 8–10. The annual event, now in its third year, premiered in 2021 to celebrate Broadway's post-pandemic return. Prudential, who has sponsored the event since its inception, has made donations to various programs supporting the arts while also driving equity and inclusion, including The Entertainment Community Fund, Alvin Ailey, Black Theatre Coalition, Black Theatre United, and Theatre Forward.
"When we commit financial support to uplifting economic opportunities for Broadway (and the theatre industry at large), there is a ripple effect for the local and regional economy that drives opportunity for all," says Prudential Chief Brand Officer Richard Parkinson, who will co-host the event. "We’re excited to not only be part of the Curtain Up festival for another year, but also to give four aspiring artists the opportunity to realize their dreams and plan for their financial future."
"Playbill is thrilled to partner with Prudential to present the Stages on Broadway Contest and provide a forum for aspiring artists to live their Broadway dream performing in Times Square at the Curtain Up Festival," adds Playbill Chief Operating Officer and VP Alex Birsh. "We are excited to see the special talent shown in this contest, and I look forward to watching their performances as they bring their unique energy, excitement, and amazing voices to the Curtain Up Festival stage!"
Brittney Johnson is a paid-promoter and client of Prudential. For more information about her partnership with Prudential, go to Prudential.com/NowWhat.