Annaleigh Ashford
Ashford at the 74th Tony Awards (2021)
Annaleigh Amanda Swanson

(1985-06-25) June 25, 1985 (age 38)
EducationMarymount Manhattan College (BFA)
Occupation(s)Actress, singer, dancer
Years active2005–present
Joe Tapper
(m. 2013)
Musical career

Annaleigh Amanda Ashford (née Swanson; born June 25, 1985) is an American actress, singer, and dancer. Her early roles on Broadway include in the musicals Wicked (2007), Legally Blonde (2007), and Hair (2010). She received the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for playing Essie Carmichael in You Can't Take It With You (2014–2015). Her other Tony-nominated roles include Lauren in Kinky Boots (2013) and Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2023). She also starred in the Broadway revival of Sunday in the Park with George (2017).

She released her debut album Lost in the Stars: Live at 54 Below in 2015. Ashford's notable film and television credits include Showtime period drama Masters of Sex (2013-2016), the Netflix miniseries Unbelievable (2019), the HBO film Bad Education (2019), the FX drama Impeachment: American Crime Story (2021) and the CBS sitcom B Positive (2020–2022). She earned a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for her performance as Irene in the Hulu limited series Welcome to Chippendales (2022). She received her first Grammy nomination in the category Best Musical Theater Album for the 2023 Broadway revival cast recording of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Early life

Ashford was born in Denver on June 25, 1985,[1] the daughter of Holli Swanson, an elementary school gym teacher, and Chris Swanson, a small-business owner. She began practicing dance at Kit Andrée's Dance and Performing Arts Center in the second grade. She acted and sang in numerous performances and competitions in her hometown. Ashford's professional career began at age nine in Denver, when she was cast as Tina Denmark, the lead in the musical Ruthless!. At fourteen, she was profiled as "The Teen to Watch" by the Rocky Mountain News. Other Denver credits include appearing in the ensemble of The Sound of Music, West Side Story, and Paint Your Wagon, as well as in Little Women as Amy March, Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella as Ella, Grease as Sandy Dumbrowski, and Anything Goes as Reno Sweeney. She graduated from Wheat Ridge High School in three years, at the age of 16, and then attended Marymount Manhattan College, where she earned a degree in theatre in another three years, at the age of 19.[2][3] While attending Marymount Manhattan College, Ashford played Rosa Bud in The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Emma in Tell Me on a Sunday.[4][5]


2004–2009: Early roles and Broadway debut

In 2004, while hanging around in New York City's Lower East Side club scene, Ashford met nightlife personality Lady Starlight, a local rock DJ and performance artist. Lady Starlight invited Ashford to dance at her 1970s glitter rock party "Lady Starlight's English Disco" and christened her Hollywood Starr.[6] Ashford performed in Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey's Feeling Electric as Natalie at the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2005.[7]

Soon after graduating from college, Ashford got her big break performing as one of Glinda's friends, Pfanne, and understudying the role of Glinda on the First National Tour of Wicked. She joined the cast in December 2005 and left in September 2006. She then originated the role of Margot in Legally Blonde: The Musical, her Broadway debut. She understudied the lead role of Elle Woods, but only played it once. She was featured on the original cast recording and appeared in the MTV televised airing. Ashford left the show in September 2007.[3] In July 2007, she worked on a musical adaptation of Catch Me If You Can as Brenda Strong. She previously did a staged reading for the project under the Tony Award-winning director of Hairspray, Jack O'Brien.[4]

Ashford then returned to Wicked, this time playing the lead role of Glinda in the Broadway production. She replaced Kendra Kassebaum on October 9, 2007.[8] She departed the company on May 11, 2008, when Kassebaum returned to the role, and transferred to the Chicago production, replacing Kate Fahrner as Glinda on June 3, 2008.[9] She played her final performance as Glinda on January 25, 2009, when the Chicago production closed.[10] In 2008, she made her film debut with a small part in Sex and the City: The Movie playing a "spoiled label queen". That same year she also appeared in the Jonathan Demme film Rachel Getting Married starring Anne Hathaway. Ashford played a counter girl.

In August 2008, Ashford played Wednesday Addams in the staged reading for musical adaptation of The Addams Family with Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth, but she was later replaced by Krysta Rodriguez.[11] Other readings include Bring It On: The Musical as Campbell, The Black Suits, C'mon Get Happy, Pal Joey, and a gender-bent version of Stephen Sondheim's Company.[12][13] In 2009, it was announced that Ashford would be one of the principal characters and singers in the new vaudeville styled Cirque du Soleil show, Banana Shpeel. However, it was later announced that Ashford and her colleague Michael Longoria were no longer in the cast of the show.[14] Publicists announced that it was a creative decision to remove large portions of dialogue from the show, therefore making their characters non-existent. Ashford was originally slated to stay in the production from its premiere in Chicago until sometime in 2010.

2010–2013: Established career

Ashford starred as Jeanie in the Broadway revival of Hair. She succeeded Kacie Sheik in the role from March 9, 2010, through June 27, 2010, when the production closed.[15] In September 2010, Ashford made her directorial debut at Birdland Jazz Club, directing fellow Hair alum Jay Armstrong Johnson in his solo concert debut. The concert was met with rave reviews, including a notice for Ashford's "thoughtfully put together" directorial style.[12] In September 2010, Ashford played Veronica Sawyer in a concert version of the new musical New York City. [16] The role was later played by Barrett Wilbert Weed in the 2014 off-Broadway premiere. In November 2010, Ashford was part of a reading of the musical Carrie.[17]

Kinky Boots at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre (2013)

In January 2012, Ashford ended her run playing Maureen Johnson in the Off-Broadway revival of Rent, which began July 14, 2011 and closed on September 9, 2012.[18] Emma Hunton replaced Ashford as Maureen on January 13, 2012. In February 2012, Ashford made a cameo on Smash as Lisa McMann and returned for another short appearance in 2013 before the show's cancellation. From June 27 to August 19, 2012, she appeared in the Off-Broadway musical Dogfight, based on the 1991 film of the same name, playing a toothless hooker named Marcy.[19] The role was played in the film by Elizabeth Daily. Ashford also performed on the original cast recording of the musical.[20] In 2013, Ashford provided the voice of a troll in Frozen. She has a short line greeting Kristoff and sings the second female solo after Maia Wilson in the song "Fixer Upper" for the soundtrack.[21]

In 2013, after appearing in the Chicago try-outs, Ashford reprised her role as Lauren in the Broadway production of Kinky Boots, a musical with a book by Harvey Fierstein and music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper.[22][23] Variety described Ashford's performance as "sensational", and noted that she was "the only one in the entire cast, by the way, to manage a convincingly impenetrable working-class English accent."[24] For this role, Ashford received nominations for the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical.[25][26] Ashford left her role in Kinky Boots on March 2, 2014.[27] That same year, Ashford appeared in the recurring role of young sex worker Betty DiMello in season one of the Showtime series Masters of Sex. Her part was upgraded from a recurring to regular for Season 2.[27]

2014–2015: Debut album

On January 14, 2014, Ashford released her first single, "Another Time (Andrew's Song)", with musical director Will Van Dyke on iTunes. In addition to writing music and lyrics, Van Dyke is the featured pianist on the single. The track also features Michael Aarons on guitar, Steve Gilewski on bass, Sammy Merendino on drums, Philip Payton on violin/viola, and Allison Seidner on cello. It was recorded at Harlem Parlour Recording in New York City by Derik Lee, who also mixed and mastered the recording.[28]

Beginning on August 26, 2014, Ashford played the role of Essie Carmichael in the Broadway revival of You Can't Take It with You, directed by Scott Ellis. She appeared alongside Rose Byrne, James Earl Jones, and Elizabeth Ashley. The show closed on February 2, 2015. For this role, Ashford won the 2015 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play.[29]

In a limited run from October 2, 2015, to January 3, 2016, Ashford starred as the titular canine in the first Broadway production of A. R. Gurney's comedy Sylvia.[30] The show opened at the Cort Theatre on October 27, 2015. Directed by Daniel J. Sullivan, the show also starred Julie White, Matthew Broderick, and Robert Sella.[31] Tony Award-winning director Daniel Sullivan compared Ashford to Bill Irwin, writing, "she is a great clown, aside from being a wonderful actor...she has that same kind of, just throw it up there, keep trying, finding it, and refining it."[32]

Ashford's debut album Lost in the Stars: Live at 54 Below was released November 13, 2015.[33] On November 17, 2015, it was announced that Ashford had signed with talent agency ICM Partners.[34] On November 20, 2015, BroadwayWorld announced that Ashford would be the involved in a filmed career retrospective Q&A with SAG-AFTRA, taking place on December 3, 2015, at The New School.[35] The Q&A was released via YouTube on December 14, 2015.[36] On November 20, 2015, Ashford was selected to present the sixth annual Clive Barnes Theatre Award, taking place on January 11, 2016.[37] On November 30, 2015, Ashford played eight roles in a reading of Paul Rudnick's critically acclaimed play Jeffrey, directed by Christopher Ashley. Other cast included Michael Urie, Robin de Jesus, James Monroe Iglehart, Andrew Keenan-Bolger, and Russell Tovey.[38]

2016–present: Career expansion

On February 1, 2016, it was announced that Ashford would play the role of Columbia in the FOX television remake The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp Again.[39][40] Ashford starred alongside Laverne Cox, Victoria Justice, and Ryan McCartan.

Ashford at PaleyFest (2014)

On July 14, 2016, it was announced that Ashford would be starring opposite Jake Gyllenhaal in New York City Center's three October concert performances of Sunday in the Park with George as Dot/Marie, a role originated by Bernadette Peters on Broadway.[41][42] On December 13, 2016, it was announced that Ashford would reprise her role as Dot/Marie opposite Gyllenhaal in Sunday in the Park with George in the show's Broadway 10-week revival at the Hudson Theater.[43] Ashford was not eligible for a Tony Award for this performance, as the production withdrew itself from any award competition, including the Tony Awards. A statement was released on February 3, 2017, saying: "The producers of Sunday in the Park with George will not be submitting Hudson Theatre’s engagement of this New York City Center production for awards eligibility. With a season so full of tremendous, soon-to-be long-running new musicals and revivals, the producers feel this extremely limited, special run stands most appropriately outside of any awards competition. The production is nevertheless proud to be part of such a landmark Broadway season."[44]

David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter praised her work writing, "Ashford is the funniest Dot in memory", noting "her mischievous humor and openness [plays] a delicate counterpoint to Gyllenhaal’s Seurat...But there are tremendously moving layers to her characterization too, revealing the searing wound beneath the pride"[45] Marilyn Stasio of Variety also praised Ashford writing that she has a "stunning voice and [was] quite enchanting".[46] In 2017 the cast album to be released by Warner Music Group. It was produced and mixed by Bart Migal and features the full Broadway company, including Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Sean Leonard, Erin Davie, and Penny Fuller.[47]

On April 4, 2017, it was announced that Ashford would be joining The Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park production of A Midsummer Night's Dream as Helena.[48] The production also co-starred Phylicia Rashad as Titania, Kristine Nielsen as Puck and Danny Burstein as Nick Bottom. The production received mixed responses but Ashford was praised. Elizabeth Vincentelli of Newsday wrote, "[Ashford] has emerged as a sublimely gifted comedienne. She [has] impeccable timing with delightfully unexpected line readings."[49]

On September 12, 2017, it was announced that Ashford would join the cast of Woody Allen's drama film A Rainy Day in New York, which was completed on October 23, 2017. The film was released in Europe, Asia, Central America, and South America in 2019 and in the UK and US in 2020. On November 3, 2017, it was announced that Ashford would make her New York Philharmonic debut in a televised New Year's Eve concert celebrating the music of Leonard Bernstein. Also featuring Laura Osnes, Aaron Tveit, and Christopher Jackson, New Year’s Eve: Bernstein on Broadway featured songs from Bernstein's scores for On the Town, West Side Story, Candide, and Wonderful Town. It was accompanied by Bramwell Tovey and aired on PBS on December 31, 2017.[50]

Ashford starred in two major revivals of Stephen Sondheim musicals

Ashford appeared as Elizabeth Cote in four episodes of the mini-series The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, which premiered on January 17, 2018.[51][52][53] On February 15, 2018, it was announced that Ashford would lead a single-camera comedy pilot Southern Hospitality for ABC. Tristram Shapeero was set to direct.[54] The pilot was not picked up.[55] Ashford co-starred in the Jennifer Lopez-led comedy film Second Act as Hildy, opposite Vanessa Hudgens.[56] The film was released in 2018. On July 23, 2018, it was announced that Ashford would be starring in American Reject, a new musical film.[57] Ashford was set to reprise her role as Dot/Marie in Sunday in the Park with George at the Savoy Theatre in London in 2020.[58] However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the run was postponed to 2021.[59] In February 2020, Ashford was cast as one of the two main lead roles for the CBS situation comedy B Positive, in which she plays Gina, an unstable woman who is the perfect match for a person in need of a kidney, who happens to be a divorced father who she knows from the past. For its second season, the series was revamped and centered on Ashford's character. Ashford also performed the series' lengthy opening theme in a musical-theater style. The final episode aired March 10, 2022.[60] The series was greenlit by CBS on May 8, 2020, as an entry in the 2020–21 television season.[61]

In 2021 she played Paula Jones in the Ryan Murphy limited drama series American Crime Story: Impeachment on FX. The role, a departure from her comedic roles, was a serious one that demanded a physical transformation. Ashford did not meet with the real-life figure but heavily relied on the wealth of material available. She said "I can have empathy for the fact that she came from a very conservative family...I also have a great deal of empathy for the way the media treated her and the way she was seduced by right-wing operatives to make certain choices at the same time."[62] The following year she played Irene in the Hulu limited series Welcome to Chippendales. She starred alongside Kumail Nanjiani, Murray Bartlett, and Juliette Lewis.

In 2023, she returned to Broadway in the revival of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street taking on the role of Mrs. Lovett opposite Josh Groban as the titular character. She earned rave reviews for her performance, including praise of her vocal abilities and her comedic timing, with many stating she made the role her own and distinguished herself from Angela Lansbury who originated the role. She received her third Tony Award nomination, this time for Best Actress in a Musical. She also earned her first Grammy Award nomination for Best Musical Theater Album for her performance on the cast album. It was announced on October 14, 2023, that Ashford's final performance as Mrs. Lovett would be on January 14, 2024.[63] Later that month, it was announced that Sutton Foster would succeed Ashford as Mrs. Lovett starting on February 9, 2024.[64]

Personal life

Ashford has celiac disease, and therefore maintains a strict gluten-free diet.[65] Ashford and fellow actor Joe Tapper were married at the Devil's Thumb Ranch in Tabernash, Colorado, on July 29, 2013.[66] On May 11, 2016, People announced that Ashford was pregnant with their first child, a boy.[67] Ashford and Tapper's son was born in 2016.[68][69]



Year Production Role Venue Notes
2005 Feeling Electric Natalie Brown New York Musical Theatre Festival
2005–2006 Wicked Pfannee (replacement) First National Tour Understudy for Glinda
2007 Legally Blonde Margot Golden Gate Theatre / Palace Theatre Understudy for Elle Woods
2007–2009 Wicked Glinda (replacement) George Gershwin Theatre / Oriental Theatre
2010 Hair Jeanie (replacement) Al Hirschfeld Theatre
Heathers Veronica Sawyer Joe's Pub
2011–2012 Rent Maureen Johnson New World Stages
2012 Dogfight Marcy Second Stage Theatre
Kinky Boots Lauren Bank of America Theatre
Assassins Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme Studio 54
2013–2014 Kinky Boots Lauren Al Hirschfeld Theatre
2014–2015 You Can't Take It with You Essie Carmichael Longacre Theatre
2015–2016 Sylvia Sylvia Cort Theatre
2016–2017 Sunday in the Park with George Dot/Marie New York City Center / Hudson Theatre
2017 A Midsummer Night's Dream Helena Delacorte Theater
2023–2024 Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street Mrs. Lovett Lunt-Fontanne Theatre



Year Title Role Notes
2008 Sex and the City Spoiled Label Queen
Rachel Getting Married Quick Stop Cashier
2013 Frozen Troll Voice role
2014 Top Five Michele
2016 Better Off Single Anne
Love on the Run Liza
2017 Unicorn Store Crystal
2018 Second Act Hildy Ostrander
2019 Late Night Mimi Mismatch
A Rainy Day in New York Lily
Bad Education Jenny Aquila
2022 American Reject Nano
TBA Dust Filming


Year Title Role Notes
2007 Legally Blonde: The Musical Margot MTV telecast
2009 Haute & Bothered Mckenzie Web series, lead role
2010 Law & Order Mia Episode: "Immortal"
2010, 2012 Submissions Only Adorable Girl Recurring role
2011 The Big C Chloe Episode: "Cats and Dogs"
2012 Nurse Jackie Cori Episode: "Kettle-Kettle-Black-Black"
A Gifted Man Shauna Episode: "In Case of Complications"
Made in Jersey Jackie Episode: "Pilot"
2012, 2013 Smash Lisa McMann 2 episodes
2013 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Lindsay Anderson Episode: "October Surprise"
Watch What Happens Live Herself / Bartender Episode: "Harvey Fierstein & Kim Zolciak"
87th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Herself / Lauren Performed with the cast of Kinky Boots
2013–2016 Masters of Sex Betty DiMello Lead role
2015 Celebrity Name Game Herself 4 episodes
2016 Pleasant Events Maddie Episode: "Who Let the Groom Out?"
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp Again Columbia Television film
2017 New Year’s Eve: Bernstein on Broadway Herself New Year's Eve concert special
2018 The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story Elizabeth Cote Recurring role
2018, 2019 God Friended Me Fliss 2 episodes
2019 Younger Shelly Rozansky Recurring role
Unbelievable Lily Recurring role
Evil Bridget Farrell Episode: "Vatican III"
John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch Crying Lady Television special
2020 The Good Fight Roisin Orbinson 2 episodes
The Undoing Alexis Young Episode: "The Missing"
2020–2022 B Positive Gina Dabrowski Lead role
2021 Q-Force Vox Tux (voice) Episode: "EuropeVision"
Impeachment: American Crime Story Paula Jones Lead role
2022 Big Mouth The Rice Purity Test (voice) Episode: "Rice Purity Test"
Welcome to Chippendales Irene Banerjee Main cast

Sources:[citation needed]




On April 7, 2008, Ashford made her professional cabaret debut as a part of the Broadway at Birdland series at Birdland Jazz Club. She performed an early version of what has now become her critically acclaimed Lost in the Stars show. Many songs from her debut, including "Love Hurts", "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters", and the titular song, "Lost in the Stars", stayed with the show and are now featured on her live album. Alex Lacamoire served as her musical director.[78]

In February 2014, Ashford made her 54 Below concert debut with her now acclaimed cabaret show, Lost in the Stars. After two sold-out shows on the 3rd of the month, Ashford added an encore performance due to popular demand.[79] She returned to 54 Below for a special Christmas-themed reincarnation of her cabaret act for the first two Mondays of December with "a little more holiday cheer involved".[21] She was reviewed by Stephen Holden of The New York Times for her show on December 1.[80] On February 11, 2015, it was announced that Ashford would be joined by Van Dyke and The Whiskey Five band in a tour of her acclaimed cabaret show in five cities. In addition to her February 11 return to 54 Below, she also played in Chicago, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and two special shows in her hometown of Denver, Colorado.[81]

On August 30, 2015, Ashford had a secret popup Brunch With Annaleigh: The Concert at 54 Below, which was an extension of the Lost in the Stars show. This concert was recorded to serve as part of Ashford's debut album, which is a compilation of multiple New York City dates at 54 Below in 2014 and 2015.[82][83]

Ashford's debut album, Lost in the Stars: Live at 54 Below, recorded from her stage show, was released November 13, 2015.[33][84][85]

Ashford returned to 54 Below for a New Year's Eve special, Lost in the Stars: New Year's Magic.[86][87][88] On November 26, 2015, Lost in the Stars was nominated for a BroadwayWorld Cabaret Award in the category "Best Show, Celebrity Female".[89] On September 13, 2016, it was announced that Ashford would once again return to 54 Below for an updated version of Lost in the Stars: New Year's Magic.[90]

Tour dates
Date City Country Venue
February 3, 2014 New York, New York United States 54 Below
February 15, 2014
December 1, 2014
December 8, 2014
February 11, 2015
March 21, 2015 Chicago, Illinois The Broadway Playhouse
April 11, 2015 Denver, Colorado The Denver Center
April 12, 2015
April 19, 2015 San Francisco, California The Venetian Room
June 27, 2015 Las Vegas, Nevada The Smith Center
June 28, 2015
August 30, 2015 New York, New York 54 Below
January 31, 2015
April 17, 2016 Overland Park, Kansas Yardley Hall
January 31, 2016 New York, New York 54 Below
April 29, 2018 San Francisco, California The Venetian Room

Awards and nominations

Year Association Category Work Result Ref.
2008 Audience Choice Awards Favorite Replacement (Female) Wicked Nominated [91]
2010 Favorite Replacement (Female) Hair Nominated [92]
2011 Drama League Awards Distinguished Performance Award Rent Nominated [93]
2013 Audience Choice Awards Favorite Actress in a Musical Kinky Boots Nominated [94]
Favorite Funny Performance Won [94]
Clarence Derwent Awards Most Promising Female Performer Won [95]
Drama Desk Awards Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Nominated [26]
Outer Critics Circle Awards Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Nominated [96]
Tony Awards Best Featured Actress in a Musical Nominated [97]
2015 Audience Choice Awards Favorite Featured Actress in a Play You Can't Take It With You Won [98]
Favorite Funny Performance Nominated
Drama Desk Awards Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play Won [99]
Chita Rivera Award Best Female Dancer Nominated [100]
Outer Critics Circle Awards Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play Won [101]
Tony Awards Best Featured Actress in a Play Won [29]
BroadwayWorld Cabaret Awards Best Show, Celebrity Female Lost in the Stars Nominated [89] Star of the Year Award Star of the Year Nominated [102]
2016 30th Annual MAC Awards Best Song Another Time (Andrew's Song) Nominated [103][104]
Best Major Recording Lost in the Stars: Live at 54 Below Nominated
Drama League Awards Distinguished Performance Award Sylvia Nominated [105] Audience Choice Awards Favorite Featured Actress in a Play Nominated [106]
Favorite Funny Performance Nominated
Brooklyn Web Fest Awards Best Supporting Actress Pleasant Events Nominated [107]
2017 Audience Choice Awards Favorite Leading Actress in a Musical Sunday in the Park with George Nominated [108]
Favorite Onstage Pair (with Jake Gyllenhaal) Nominated
2018 Drama League Awards Distinguished Performance Award A Midsummer Night's Dream Nominated [109]
2023 Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street Won [110]
Drama Desk Awards Outstanding Lead Performance in a Musical Won [111]
Tony Awards Best Leading Actress in a Musical Nominated [112]
Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie Welcome to Chippendales Nominated [113]
Grammy Awards Best Musical Theater Album Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street Pending [114]


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