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Brittain Ashford

Brittain Ashford

The basics
Quick Facts
Occupations Actor Musical theatre actor
Gender female
Education Roosevelt High School, University of Washington
The details
Biography

Brittain Ashford is an American actress and musician best known for portraying Sonya Rostova in the 2016 Broadway musical Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812. As a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, she is best known for fronting the band Prairie Empire.

Background

Originally from Seattle, Washington, Ashford attended Roosevelt High School. She attended college at the University of Washington, Seattle.

Career

Theatre

Ashford's first theatrical performance was as Sonya Rostova in the 2012 Ars Nova production of close friend Dave Malloy's Natasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet of 1812. Ashford continued to perform with the show in all future incarnations of it, including productions at Kazino, the American Repertory Theater, and at the Imperial Theatre, the latter of which marked her Broadway debut in 2016. Of her role, Ashford says, "I sympathize with Sonya, and I really love that she’s there as this best friend presence that could be nothing, but she also gets this really tender, intimate, important moment in the show to talk about that friendship, which I think is just so nice and kind of refreshing." Ashford received praise for her performance as Sonya, and was nominated for multiple awards over the course of the shows multiple runs. Ashford was temporarily replaced as Sonya by singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson, but she returned as Sonya on August 15.

Ben Brantley of the New York Times stated in his article The Tonys 2017: Who Will Win (and Who Should) that Ashford "should have been nominated" for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.

Ashford also performed in another of Malloy's shows, the song-cycle Ghost Quartet. Ashford provided vocals for the show, but additionally played autoharp, keyboard, and percussion. She was praised for her performance as part of the quartet, with the Litro saying she "sounds like she’s singing from the bottom of a sea of honey; her voice is at once lovely and perfectly eerie." Ashford stayed with the show while it performed at various venues across the US, including the regional American Repertory Theatre.

Music

see caption
Cover art for Ashford's single Good for Goodness, released in April 2017.

In 2008, Ashford released her first solo album entitled, "There, But For You, Go I" via the Parisian label Waterhouse Records. In June 2012, she released her first record with her band, Prairie Empire. Ashford recorded Prairie Empire (Trailer Fire Records) in Portland, Oregon with support from members of the band Harlowe. Leslie Ventura of Las Vegas Weekly notes the "sheer emotive power of her voice," while Daytrotter praised the transportive capacity of the album's lyrics. Ashford has been praised for the unique and distinctive qualities of her voice, with one critic saying, "Her voice is tender, but also strong and determined…the threatened vulnerability was serenely vanquished."

In July 2016, Ashford released The Salt, her sophomore album with Prairie Empire, via Commodore Trotter Records. Ashford, who provided vocals, guitar and arrangements for the album was joined on drums by bandmate Nim Ben-Reuven, as well as Brent Arnold (cello), Jeff Hudgins (clarinet, sax, baritone sax), Danah Olivetree (cello), Alec Spiegelman (pump organ), Scott Colberg (guitar) and Matt Bauer (vocals). Additionally, the band was joined on tour by Jacki Paolella, who helped to produced the The Salt at TAPTAP Records in Norfolk, Virginia. In a review for Veer Magazine, Shannon Jay said The Salt "embodies a delicate toughness," calling attention to Ashford's vocals, the "ambient complexity" of the arrangements and the album's powerful storytelling.

In April 2017, Ashford released two singles: Good for Goodness and Time Takes Time.

Theater credits

Year Production Character Category Theatre
2012 Natasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet of 1812 Sonya Rostova Off-Off-Broadway Ars Nova
2013 Off-Broadway Kazino
2014-15 Ghost Quartet Performer Various
2015 Natasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet of 1812 Sonya Rostova Regional American Repertory Theater
2016–2017 Broadway Imperial Theatre

Discography

  • There, But For You, Go I (Brittain Ashford, 2008, Waterhouse Records)
  • A Modest Proposal (Commodore Duchess, 2010)
  • Prairie Empire (Prairie Empire, 2012, Trailer Fire Records)
  • Auld Lang Syne (EP) (Prairie Empire, 2012)
  • The Salt (Prairie Empire, 2016, Commodore Trotter Records)
  • Good for Goodness (single) (Brittain Ashford, 2017, Commodore Trotter Records)
  • Time Takes Time (single) (Brittain Ashford, 2017, Commodore Trotter Records)

Awards and nominations

Sources: TheaterMania, Lortel Archives

Year Award Category Play Results
2016 IRNE Award Supporting Actress, Musical Natasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet of 1812 Nominated
2014 Lucille Lortel Award Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Nominated
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