by Rob Taylor Jr., Courier Staff Writer
It’s one thing to visit New York City, and enjoy a Broadway show.
It’s another thing to actually perform in a Broadway show.
For Amanda Felicia Foote, a 2009 North Catholic High School graduate, her dream recently came true.
On Feb. 4, “The Book of Mormon” began another run on Broadway at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, and Foote was part of the cast as part of the Ugandan ensemble. “The Book of Mormon,” a nine-time Tony Award winner, is a musical comedy in which two young missionaries are sent to Uganda to try to convert citizens to the Mormon religion. However, the two missionaries encounter a society that is mostly poverty- and violence-stricken.
Foote is part of each of the eight shows per week.
Foote, the singer, actor and performing artist, is no stranger to “The Book of Mormon.” She was part of the cast that toured in Sydney, Australia, and across the U.S, including last year in Pittsburgh at Heinz Hall. Other credits for Foote include Disney’s “The Lion King’s” U.S. tour as the Shenzi understudy, and Pittsburgh Musical Theater’s productions of “Sister Act,” “Saturday Night Fever,” “Grease” and “Hairspray.”
But to make it to Broadway, Foote said, is a crowning accomplishment.
“In high school and college, several teachers told me I wouldn’t get to Broadway,” Foote, 28, told the New Pittsburgh Courier on Feb. 2. “They discouraged my dreams, wouldn’t give me the same opportunities as my peers, and tried to break my spirit. But I had a great support system at home, family who believed in me and my gifts.”
Foote’s mother, Kimberly Davis Foote, told the Courier her daughter was once told that not only would she never appear on Broadway, but in general, “she would never, ever be cast in any roles except for a maid or a prostitute.” Kimberly Davis Foote also said Amanda was told by a musical theater instructor that she’d never make it to Broadway.
Amanda’s response to the instructor? “I will be on Broadway and I’ll make sure to leave a ticket at the box office for you on my opening night.”
Amanda Felicia Foote always had an interest in the arts. In her early days, she took dance and art classes at the Carnegie Museum, and community theater classes at the local Jewish Community Center. She knew she wanted to pursue a career in performing arts when she attended the School of Cinema and Performing Arts in New York City at age 14. While there, she was enrolled in the dance program.
“Not only did I have the opportunity to work with some of New York City’s professionally trained dancers and performers,” Foote said, “but we had the opportunity to explore our other talents. This is where I discovered that I had a voice. Me and my friends would hang out in the hallways…pretending we were Destiny’s Child’s backup dancers at a concert, but this time, I wasn’t pretending to be a backup dancer. I was determined to be front-and-center as the singer.”
She returned from The Big Apple and got serious about making musical theater and performing arts a career. She performed in North Catholic’s musicals, then received a scholarship to the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera Academy, and also enrolled at Point Park University.
While at Point Park, Foote auditioned for the American Musical and Dramatic Academy’s College and Conservatory of the Performing Arts, again in New York City.
She was accepted into the Academy, “packed my things, got on the Megabus to NYC with $32 to my name and never looked back.”
Foote graduated from the AMDA campus in Los Angeles in 2014 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theater. Graduating from the AMDA is no easy task. The entity is institutionally and programmatically accredited by the National Association of Schools of Theater, and is known for its rigorous, performance-based training, one that prepares artists with an appreciation for the “universal power of transformation through art,” according to the Academy’s website.
The Broadway Theater District is made up of 41 theaters, of which roughly 13 million people attend Broadway plays and musicals annually. In addition to “The Book of Mormon,” you’ll find the decades-running “Phantom of the Opera,” “Ain’t Too Proud—The Life and Times of the Temptations,” “Hamilton,” “The Lion King,” and “Tina—The Tina Turner Musical” among the current Broadway shows.
But for Foote, she had her eyes set on making it to Broadway on “The Book of Mormon.”
She said after graduating from AMDA, she began her audition journey with “The Book of Mormon” Broadway, and she received a callback. She didn’t get the position at that time, but she knew she was in the ring. She just had to continue fighting.
“Ever since that audition day, I made it my ultimate goal to book Broadway, but not just any show,” Foote told the Courier. “I was determined to make my Broadway debut in ‘The Book of Mormon’ and nothing was going to stop me.”
(ABOUT THE TOP PHOTO: AMANDA FELICIA FOOTE, 28, a Pittsburgh-area native, proved some doubters wrong and made her Broadway debut in “The Book of Mormon,” Feb. 4.)