Black Excellence on Broadway: Jenny Laroche

In celebration of Black History Month, LaDuca is honored to spotlight eight inspiring performers who not only exude Black Excellence on Broadway, but who are also an integral part of modern Black History themselves. 

I thrive on playing challenging, unconventional roles. Making casting, directors, and audiences everywhere think inclusively through truly colorblind vision. It’s time for real change to happen in the entertainment industry when it comes to the hiring of black women. Not just the idea of a black woman, or the mainstream preference of a black woman, but a woman who happens to be powerful and vividly black.”

~ Jenny Laroche 

Jenny Laroche, originally from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is a graduate of SUNY Buffalo, where she earned her B.F.A, Cum Laude, and was awarded the program’s Distinguished Alumni Award. Jenny began her career as a Radio City Rockette, and as a Rockette she made her big screen debut in the movie New Years Eve. Her feature film credits also include Annie 2014, The Merry Widow HD Live, and the Netflix special by Bill Murray, A Very Murray Christmas.

Jenny debuted the role of Norman Brokaw in the Broadway musical Summer: The Donna Summer Musical. Her theatre credits also include Pal Joey directed by Tony Goldwyn, Clo-Clo in The Merry Widow MetOpera, directed by Tony winner Susan Stroman; Annette in Can-Can at Paper Mill Playhouse, Suzanne Duval in Paint Your WagonFly at Dallas Theatre Center, and Guys and Dolls at Carnegie Hall.

Jenny is well known for her recurring role of Sue in the drama series SMASH on NBC produced by Steven Spielberg.  She has worked with recording artists such as Beyonce, Mariah Carey, and Liza Minnelli. She has also worked under the direction of Baz Luhrmann in The Great Gatsby Premiere event.

Additional television credits include The Tony Awards 70th Anniversary, Jimmy Fallon, SNL40, America’s Got Talent, Best Time Ever, The Wendy Williams Show, The Today Show, TVLAND Awards, and the Billboard Awards.

Jenny continues to work in TV, Film, and Theatre, as a performer and choreographer. She owns and runs the professional training program, The Laroche Approach.

Jenny on the Casting Process: 

Because of tokenism, “so many of us Black women walk into an audition and think, ‘well, at least one of us will get it… and no Caucasian counterpart knows what that feels like. I hate that it still exists today… In order for that to change it needs to be acknowledged that [tokenism] happens and there has to be a cultural understanding of where thats coming from.” 

Jenny believes that a lot of white casting directors should look at the way that they’re casting their shows. “Think unconventionally. Think equitably.”

Jenny on being the Associate Choreographer for Summer

Sergio Trujilo brought Jenny onboard to be Associate Choreographer for Summer. She was the only Black woman behind the table. “Individually it changes the whole atmosphere of the room when you see someone who looks like you behind the table. You’re very vulnerable and you feel judged; in order to do your thing you want to be as comfortable as possible. But when you have someone that is your culture behind the table, it makes a difference, it shifts the energy. I was able to relay some things in a new way. More of this needs to happen.”

Jenny on LaDuca’s shade expansion: 

“I was really excited that [the Light Brown (formerly Cinnamon) Launch Party] was happening… All of my brown sisters were going to be in attendance at LaDuca celebrating us and celebrating something for us from our artistic community. The beautiful thing about LaDuca heels is they are a work of art. All of our custom made heels for Broadway shows, SMASH, and Radio City were LaDuca.” 

Jenny was a Radio City Rockette for four years, and every new season they would dye her heels for her. Because of the dye, her shoes would chip. She’s so happy to finally have a good quality piece of leather that is our nude. “It just gives us a sense of dignity and respect.”

What Jenny is watching:

Sylvie’s Love on Amazon Prime. Jenny’s favorite thing about the movie is it’s a Black cast and their race has nothing to do with the plot. She watched the virtual screening (Jenny loves going to movie screenings and listening to Q&As, especially for documentaries). The cast of Sylvie’s Love was interviewed and they spoke about the process and how they also produced and paid for the film because larger producers didn’t think people would want a movie about Black lovers unless there was turmoil about being Black. 

“We need more diversity behind the tables. A real space of equity needs it to be balanced on both sides.” How many other beautiful stories are there that aren’t being told because we don’t have enough Black people as producers, as writers, as directors, as casting directors, that are willing to say, ‘a lot of people want to see a Black love story?’

The Laroche Approach: 

“Mentoring has been really cool to do during the pandemic.” Jenny has spoken at a number of Universities. “A lot of the undergrads are really concerned about what our industry is going to look like.”  Jenny’s virtual seminars provide more than just dance, vocal, and acting technique. She creates an environment where conversations like these can take center stage. “Learning the craft is one thing. Moving to the big city and not knowing how to navigate contractual language, rehearsal etiquette, and lifestyle budgeting is entirely another. Financial literacy and audition preparation/decorum are crucial to maintaining a livelihood in this industry.”

You can follow Jenny at @jennylaroche and @thelarocheapproach.

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