Meet Elsa! Ayla Schwartz from Disney’s FROZEN

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PART I

Ayla Schwartz is an 11-year-old theatrical phenom currently starring as Elsa in Disney’s FROZEN the Musical. Born and raised in New Jersey, she has been studying performance arts since the tender age of 4. KidGooRoo was thrilled to catch up with Ayla and trace her journey to stardom.

Connect with Ayla:

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I understand that you started studying singing at the age of 4. How old were you when you first started taking dance classes?

I took my first tap class when I was 4 years old at my local YMCA. I also had a hip-hop birthday party there when I was 5 years old, but I cried the entire time because I was overwhelmed. I missed most of the party, but I made it in time for cake! I took some local dance classes when I was 7, but I started to get more serious about dance when I was 8 turning 9 and started taking weekly Saturday classes at Dance Molinari in NYC.

And what about formal acting lessons?

I did most of my musical theatre training at Performers Theatre Workshop in Maplewood, NJ. I started with their summer camp at 5 years old, and then weekly classes. Most of the time, I was on a “track” (e.g., Broadway Bound, Triple Threat, Professional Track) and each track offered different levels of acting, voice, and dance classes.

 

You credit Performers Theatre Workshop with much of your formal training. Who were your most influential instructors there?

Yes, I spent a number of years training at PTW. I love all the teachers there! When I started there weekly, I was matched with Danny Greenberg as my voice teacher, who was just out of college. I was his first client. He and I worked together for many years to get me to where I am right now. Danny is the best and he taught me so much about my voice, about how to connect with my song, and about how to put myself out there and take risks during auditions. Over the years we did voice, acting, tap and audition preparation together. I also worked with many other PTW teachers either in weekly lessons or when I needed help for auditions. Brian Loeffler was amazing at helping me with my song interpretation for showcases at Don’t Tell Mama, a cabaret venue in New York City. Julie Barnes helped me so much with learning a British accent when I needed to perfect my accent before a Mary Poppins audition. Tia Hodge-Jones trained me for my Miracle Worker audition. She taught me how to be fearless as Helen Keller and that was the first professional role I ever booked. Dean Kravitz runs PTW and has always encouraged me to keep working and keep learning. I love them all. They are like family.

Have you studied anywhere else?

I took my first voice lesson when I was 4 years old at the Modern Music Academy (now in Caldwell, NJ) and I continued to work with them until I was 7. I have not found another place like PTW where I could get everything in one place, but I have taken lots of classes and workshops in NYC at A Class Act NY and at Broadway Kids Auditions. I have also worked privately with some cast members, including tap lessons with Robert Creighton, FROZEN’s Duke of Weselton.

 

How were you “discovered”?

I’m not really sure. It was a process. I struggled at first to sign with a manager, and then an agent. I’d  got lots of callbacks for Broadway shows, but kept making it down to the final two or three girls for one or two roles. Then, I made it to the finals of Papermill Playhouse’s production of Mary Poppins, which was being cast by Telsey and Company. I was devastated when they didn’t choose me. Three days later, Telsey called my manager to see if I would come in to read for the role of Young Elsa for FROZEN the Musical. Then, I had about four more callbacks until I finally booked the role.

When did you first realize you were talented enough to make it onto Broadway?

It’s been a dream of mine since I was 5. I would always ask my parents, “When will I be on Broadway?” I think I started realizing I was getting close when I was in finals for School of Rock, Fun Home and Mary Poppins.

How do you handle the disappointment of not getting roles?

That was very hard. I got so close a number of times – for National Tours, Broadway, and regional shows. I cried a lot but I kept saying, “I will get the next one!” When auditions for FROZEN came around I decided to channel all my disappointments and put everything I had into the audition and callbacks. I didn’t hold back and I took a lot of risks! I was so close and told my mom, “I will not let this one slip away!”

Do you remember seeing your first live production and if so what was it?

I barely remember it, but I know it was Mary Poppins on Broadway! I was 4!

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