By Hutton Jackson
A&E and Online Editor
This article was originally published in Issue 5, Fiftieth Year of The Minstrel (November 5, 2015). Click here to view the entire issue.
Musical theater is a tough profession to find work in, especially in New York City, yet DeSales University alumni Marguerite “Meg” Halcovage (Class of 2014) and Phoenix Best (Class of 2015) have already achieved performing arts success in the Big Apple not long after graduating.
Halcovage is currently performing as Stephanie Tanner in National Lampoon’s latest musical, “Full House: The Musical Parody!,” which, after premiering in Toronto, is now playing off-Broadway, in the historic Theatre 80 in New York City. The show is an unauthorized parody of the ’90s sitcom “Full House,” and stars Hollywood gossip columnist and television celebrity Perez Hilton as Danny Tanner. Halcovage moved to New York City this past August in preparation for the show to move off-Broadway.
Halcovage attributes her ability to land the role to past comedic roles that she performed in shows at DeSales, such as Act 1’s “A Christmas Story” and “The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge.”
“Comedy is not the easiest of things,” said Halcovage. “Just having the comedic experience while at DeSales was definitely a big help.”
Best was recently cast as a female partial swing and assistant stage manager for the new Broadway musical “The Color Purple,” based on the Academy Award-nominated film and starring Jennifer Hudson, Danielle Brooks and British star Cynthia Erivo. As a swing, Best is an understudy for two roles, and her job is to perform not only when someone else is sick or injured, but also so that the missing performer to a principal role can watch the show and study their roles.
At DeSales, Best was known for her performances in Act 1’s “Chicago” as Velma Kelly and as the understudy to Frosine in Act 1’s “The Miser.”
“‘The Miser’ really helped me to develop my acting, particularly since it wasn’t a musical,” Best says.
Best graduated this past May, and after working as an acting intern at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival (PSF), moved to New York at the end of the summer.
“I knew if I wanted to follow my dreams, I wouldn’t be able to stay at home and had to go to New York.”
After weeks of living on a friend’s couch, working as a hostess and a jeweler and attending several auditions, Best finally received a callback for the lead role of Elphaba in “Wicked.” She was called back four times and made it to the final two, but was ultimately deemed too young. However, the casting agency was so impressed with Best’s abilities that it set her up with an audition for “The Color Purple,” in which she was soon cast.
Halcovage and Best both attest to their experiences at DeSales as having greatly contributed to their careers.
Halcovage, originally from Pottsville, Pa., became interested in DeSales after attending the Theatre Department’s “Theatre Summer Institute” two years in a row.
“After the Summer Institutes, I knew [DeSales] is where I’m going to school; no other option,” says Halcovage.
Best, a native of Philadelphia, adds, “I didn’t feel like a number at DeSales. I loved the feeling of community and really felt that people cared about my potential.”
With success so hard to come by in the world of musical theater, Best and Halcovage are a testament to the esteem with which the DeSales Theatre Department is regarded and the professionalism that every theatre major develops while at DeSales. Both Best and Halcovage mentioned their experiences performing in the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival (PSF) as incredibly beneficial in helping to launch their professional careers.
“I learned a lot about networking through the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival and when I got to the city, I was able to make connections which helped me ultimately get the role in ‘Full House,’” says Halcovage.
In addition, Best noted that one of her mentors was Patrick Molcahy, director of the PSF.
“My time at DeSales and as an intern with PSF helped me develop a work ethic,” Best adds. “It forced me to work really hard and to branch out and seek different opportunities.”
You can see Halcovage in “Full House: The Musical Parody!” which is currently playing at Theatre 80 in New York, and Best in “The Color Purple” on Broadway at Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.