Jenn Colella (born Jennifer Lin Colella) is an American comedian, actress, and singer. She first began her career in Los Angeles as a comedian and later branched out to musical theater. She had her Broadway debut with a 2003 performance as Sissy in Urban Cowboy, which earned her a 2003 Outer Critic's Circle Award nomination. Colella went on to star in High Fidelity and Chaplin. Her Off-Broadway credits include Closer Than Ever, Slut! the Musical and Side Show.
In 2014, she returned to Broadway in Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey's If/Then directed by Michael Greif. She originated the role of Captain Beverley Bass in Come from Away on Broadway in March 2017 and earned the 2017 Outer Critic's Circle Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical.
Colella was born in Charleston, South Carolina to Lindy Crawford and Mick Colella. She grew up in Summerville, South Carolina and attended Columbia College as an undergraduate, where she graduated with a dual degree in speech and drama. During this time she served as a company member of the Trustus Theater. Colella went on to attend the University of California, Irvine, where she earned a Master of Fine Arts in Acting. After graduate school Colella remained in Los Angeles, during which time she pursued a career in standup comedy and performed at the Laugh Factory and other comedy clubs in the area.
Colella has worked in many original productions, such as Kiki Baby, where she performed in the lead role and for which she won a 2011 NYMF Award for Outstanding Individual Performance. In 2006 she starred in the world premiere of Twyla Tharp's The Times They Are A-Changin' at the Old Globe Theatre.
That same year she also originated the role of Hedda Hopper in Chaplin: The Musical at the La Jolla Playhouse and later performed the role on Broadway. Her Off-Broadway credits include Don't Quit Your Night Job, Slut! the Musical, and The Great American Trailer Park Musical. In 2011 she performed in Lucky Guy at the Little Shubert Theater.
In 2013 Colella performed in the Broadway musical If/Then at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, where she played the supporting role of Anne, a lesbian in a same-sex relationship. Colella commented that she was eager to perform the role, stating:
I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to play a gay character in If/Then, especially someone like Anne. She's a sassy fun-loving girl not unlike myself who's in a relationship with Kate (LaChanze). Anne is madly in love and very sincere about taking it to the next level and actually tying the knot. It's a very real look at a contemporary lesbian relationship. You don't see a lot of that in musical theater.
The role was not Colella's first lesbian role, as in 2008 she had starred as the titular Beebo Brinker in the play The Beebo Brinker Chronicles, based on Ann Bannon's pulp fiction novel about a young lesbian's adventures in 1950s Greenwich Village.
In the summer of 2015 Colella originated the role of Beverley Bass in the La Jolla Playhouse production of Come from Away, which transferred later in the season to the Seattle Repertory Theatre; it then played Toronto in late 2016 and transferred to Broadway in early 2017. The show received positive reviews, with many critics praising Colella's performance. She was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance. Colella and the real-life Beverley Bass also became friends. It was announced on October 17, 2019 that Colella will play her final performance in the Broadway production on November 10 and will be succeeded by Becky Gulsvig.
Comedy, film, and television
Colella started her career as a comedian while pursuing her MFA, during which time she worked the stand-up circuit performing in such places as the Laugh Factory and the Comedy Store in Los Angeles.
She had her television debut in 2008 with the ABC comedy-drama Cashmere Mafia, where she performed as Erika in the season one episode "The Deciders". From there she starred in several other television shows including CBS's The Good Wife and the PBS Tribute to Stephen Sondheim with the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center. Film credits include the film Lay It Down for Good and Uncertainty.
Colella describes herself as "mostly gay." She came out publicly in 2008 when she played a butch lesbian in The Beebo Brinker Chronicles. She also has been married twice (although not legally): in 1995 when she was 21 to a woman ten years older than her, and in 2008. As of 2017, she is in a relationship with actress Chilina Kennedy.
|Start year||Production||Role||Notes and awards|
|2004||The Great American Trailer Park Musical||Pippi||
|2006||The Times They are-A-Changin'||Cleo||
|2008||The Beebo Brinker Chronicles||Beebo Brinker||
|2011||Lucky Guy||Chicky Lay||
|2012||Closer Than Ever||Performer||
|2015||Peter Pan||Peter Pan||Sacramento Music Circus|
|Come from Away||Beverley Bass||
|Dear Evan Hansen||Virtual Community Voice||Recorded voice only|
|2017||Come from Away||Beverley Bass||* Broadway
|2008||Cashmere Mafia||Erika||1 episode|
|2009||Rescue Me||Mickey||1 episode|
|2010||All My Children'||TV Reporter||1 episode|
|2010||The Good Wife||Julie||1 episode|
|2012||Pzazz 101||Jenn||1 episode|
|Hedda's Headlines: Backstage at 'Chaplin' with Jenn Colella||Self||Broadway.com Series|
|2014||Submissions Only||Sarah||2 episodes|
|2015||Elementary||Blonde Group Wife||1 episode|
|2009||Lay It Down For Good||Rebecca||short film|