Interview: After Standing By for the Schuyler Sisters, Jennie Harney-Fleming Gets Her Shot at Angelica
Harney-Fleming now plays the role full time on Broadway at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.
If you've ever found yourself in the audience of Hamilton across the country, you might have seen Jennie Harney-Fleming play Eliza. Or, you may have seen her play Peggy. But it's also possible that you saw her as Angelia. For the last several years (not counting the pandemic break), Harney-Fleming has stood by for all three Schuyler Sisters in the Lin-Manuel Miranda musical's various touring routes.
At the beginning of September, Harney-Fleming, who repeated her standby duties on Broadway since the production reopened, took over the role of Angelica full time. In an email Q&A, she told us about the challenge of going from standby to star, and how rewarding it is.
Over the last half-decade, you've played all three Schuyler Sisters. Do you have a favorite, and why?
Angelica has always been my favorite part to play because she represents the challenges of the modern day woman. She knew she couldn't just be pretty and do what she was told. She had to be book smart and street smart to to navigate the world and fill the shoes of the big sister. Truly a woman ahead of her time.
What is your take on Angelica, and how has it evolved as you've gotten older and time has gone on?
Angelica is constantly burdened by the pressure of societal and familial expectations but still managing to navigate it all with a smile, win or lose. Since joining the company in 2017, I've gotten married and given birth to two beautiful little girls. Those experiences have changed my understanding of sacrifice, strength, and vulnerability. I definitely have a deeper understand of the stakes of every choice Angelica had to make.
What is it like to play this role full time, as opposed to going on as needed as a cover?
The biggest challenge in taking over full-time has been the physical toll it takes on your body and voice to sing and perform for three to six hours a day. Vocal rest and "do not disturb" have quickly become my best friends as my body adjusts. But the great part is that I only have to remember the lyrics, movements, costume changes and traffic for one character. So, I'm a lot more confident, and I feel so much more ownership over the material.
Having done the role in New York and across the country, where have you found the best audience to be? Did it surprise you?
No surprise here! I've got to say, my favorite audience to play to across the country is Broadway! Not just because I'm from New York, so it does hold a special place in my heart, but because we have so many people from so many walks of life fill the Broadway seats. People from all over the world coming to share in the one unifying human experience.
What is the most exciting part for you, as a performer, to get to take this role on now, at this point in your life and career?
The most exciting part about this experience is that I get to fully step out of the wings into the spotlight of this Tony Award winning role. I haven't been an onstage principal since 2016, when I played Nettie in The Color Purple alongside Cynthia Erivo, and as a standby your talent and skill often gets overlooked. But with this role being so iconic, for my career, this is monumental. I'm also thrilled with the timing of it all. The fact that now, as a wife and mother of two, my personal life hasn't been a hindrance to upward movement in my career, is amazing. I hope this will become the new normal in our industry and more women like me will get to have both a career and family. I'm so honored and excited for this moment.