After a two-year wait, Hollister native Brooke Simpson will soon make her Broadway debut in American Reparatory Theater at Harvard University’s revival of the Broadway musical, “1776.”
Performances at the American Reparatory Theatre in Cambridge, Mass., will continue through July, then it’s on to The Roundabout Theatre in New York in September.
The Tony Award winning musical “1776” presents a look at the Founding Fathers of the United States through events leading up to the Declaration of Independence.
According to its website, A.R.T. was founded in 1980 with a focus on “producing groundbreaking work that is driven by risk-taking, artistic inquiry, and passionate inquiry.” It has received a number of honors, including multiple Tony Awards, a Pulitzer Prize and a Jujamcyn Prize for outstanding contribution to the development of creative talent.
Simpson, the daughter of Mike and Jimille Mills, has already made her mark in the world of entertainment, reaching the finals of both “The Voice” and “America’s Got Talent.” After reaching the finals of “The Voice” in 2017, she launched her singing/songwriting career in Los Angeles, Calif.
Competing on “America’s Got Talent” in 2021 represented the next step for Simpson as she continues to grow as a performing artist and as a person. She has also worked with Miley Cyrus, her coach on “The Voice,” Sia and Taboo of The Black Eyed Peas.
Simpson landed a role in the revival of “1776” in 2020 and was excited to be part of a production that would present the events of the past in a way that would reflect America today.
Then, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the production as directors and members of the cast conducted preparations individually and via Zoom meetings. It would be months before the cast could rehearse in person.
Simpson admits that before rehearsals began , she felt apprehensive about taking this new step in her musical career.
“Before rehearsals even began, I had a lot of anxiety around it just because I was entering a new world of music alongside so many experts and greats,” she said. “But from day one on April 1st, I knew my life had been changed forever. I was welcomed with so much kindness and love. I am obsessed with this entire cast and company. It has been challenging, but I have learned so much as a vocalist, an actor, a dancer, and overall performer.”
Last month, the revival of “1776” finally hit the stage. Directing the production are Diane Paulus, Tony Award-winning director and A.R.T. executive director, and Jeffrey Page, Emmy-nominated choreographer who worked with Beyonce’s creative team for more than 12 years. Simpson previously said that Paulus expressed interest in her talent after her appearance on “The Voice” and wanted her to participate in a reading for “1776.”
“I joined her and the team in 2019 at a workshop for the production and have been along (for) the ride every since,” Simpson said.
Simpson portrays Roger Sherman of Connecticut. According to the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch Law Library Services Sherman is known for his role in developing the Connecticut Compromise, which resolved a stalemate in the writing of the Constitution. He is also recognized as the only person who signed the Continental Association of 1774, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution of the United States.
After 10 previews, Opening Night arrived in late May. Having performances at The American Repertory Theatre at Harvard University has allowed cast members access to scholars on campus in order to more deeply explore the lives of the historical figures whom they portray, Simpson noted. In September, it’s on to Broadway.
For Simpson, there is no question whether the time and hard work involved in bringing “1776” has been worth it.
“It has been one of the greatest experiences of my life, and definitely something I would love to continue pursuing along with my pop music,” she said. “I’m so grateful to Diane Paulus for seeing something in me that I didn’t even know I had in myself.”
Simpson described the production as a work of art, and its team, company and cast as incredible.
“Our directors Diane Paulus and Jeffrey Page have collaborated to make something so beautiful and necessary, and I am beyond honored to be a part of it,” she said.