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Ashley McManus: A DC Native Delivers A Bronx Tale

7 min read

On today’s edition of THE INTERVUE, A Bronx Tale the musical is making its round to the National Theatre for a one-week engagement starting Today through the 31st! My guest today is a DC Native and a graduate of AMDA. You may have seen her in the touring productions of “Dreamgirls” and “Rock of Ages” and now we have her back in the DMV! Let’s give a warm homecoming welcome to Ashley McManus!

First of all, I want to ask you a question. Tell us about your DC roots. Where are you from originally, where did you grow up, where did you go to high school? That sort of thing.

Ok, well, I’m originally from Tennessee Avenue over by Maury Elementary, actually.

Nice!

Then I moved to an area by Catholic University and I went to Duke Ellington School of the Arts for high school. I was a dance major there, and I would like to give a lot of credit to that high school for honing my skills and just putting a little extra fire in me that maybe I would not have had if I went to a regular high school.

Absolutely, we definitely gotta give shout to Duke Ellington School of the Arts, one of the best art schools in the country, if not the region, so we definitely gotta give a shout out to them.

Absolutely. Shout out to all my dance teachers; Charles Augins, Sandra Fortune, Nikki, Ms. Alexander, Katherine Smith, I love you all.

Aww, I’m sure they’re definitely going to enjoy that. So, tell us about your role in “A Bronx Tale” and how long have you been in the current production?

Ok, so I think I got cast in the first National Broadway Tour. So, I’ve been apart of this production since October of last year. My role in the production is, I am like the best friend or the sidekick, if you will, of the leading lady, who is the love interest of the main character. So my character, she’s a little fiery. She’s always telling her best friend, “no, Jane  this isn’t right. Black people don’t date white people; white people don’t black people, that’s just crazy. You need to get your stuff together or you’re going to get in trouble.” So…(giggles) that’s pretty much what I do in the show.

Well, you definitely have the fiery spirit. I can tell by your voice and by your mannerisms.

Oh, great! Thank you!

You’re welcome. Did you see the film or the one-man play by Chazz Palminteri before taking on the role?

Well, I saw the show well before taking on the part, yes. I saw the film while auditioning for the show, you know. But, I did not get to see the one man show by Chazz, but I hear it’s phenomenal (giggles).

I have to agree, because I actually saw the one-man production when he performed it at the Warner Theater over eleven years ago. He was dynamic!

Wow! Lucky you!

(laughs) So when was the moment you realized that you wanted to pursue a career in the performing arts? Was it during the time you were at Duke Ellington or was it before?

It was always before. I always different from my peers. From a very young age, I just knew that having a 9-5 sitting at a desk just was not for me. I knew that I was a star from as long as I can remember. Honestly, I always knew there was something different about me, and that other people couldn’t really relate to my ambition and my dreams and my passion. Not a lot of people are lucky enough to know that they have a passion and to pursue it and, you know, so, I just knew from a very young age, long before Duke Ellington. Even before elementary, I just said, “you know, I just need to be on the stage, auditioning.” I need to be giving myself to others as a performer, because…I don’t know, I just had that fire for it.

Excellent. So, you’ve been all over the country for the past eight months. What is your favorite part of touring across the country doing exactly what you love to do?

That’s a tough question! I guess my favorite part would be meeting new people and connecting with people all over the country through art, you know? Meeting people at the stage door and, you know, just having that experience just inspiring someone, you know? That definitely is probably my favorite part.

 Well, now that you’re back home in the DMV, do you have a list of things to do while you’re back here?

Absolutely. Well, I want to connect with some photographers that I worked with previously and do photos, because that’ a thing I love to do as well. I also want to connect with some of my old band members because I’m not sure if you know, but I used to sing in a go-go band.

Get out of here! A go-go band. That’s amazing!

AM: Oh yes, absolutely! I started off singing with Bad Intentions Band, and then I went on to do some work with CCDI. I performed at a convention center with them one time when their girl was out. But, I was the first female singer for GLB, so I’m definitely looking forward to getting back in. Call up my brothers (?) and see what’s going on. I’d love to get back on the mic. You know, that scene and I love it. It’s always been such a huge part of my life, so I definitely want to do that. And I want to go to Ben’s Chili Bowl too, if it’s still there.

Excellent. If you ever get into the go-go band again, please let us know. We would like to see you perform some go-go.

Oh, wow! Ok!

Yeah, because go-go’s where it’s at when it comes to D.C., you know?

Oh, I know. Absolutely.

For people who have never seen “A Bronx Tale,” either the one-man play or the film, what can they expect from the musical?

Hmm. I think that they can expect a pleasant surprise. I think the show is easy on the brain and easy on the heart. So, it’ll take you by surprise. I think they’ll enjoy it a lot more than they have thought. I think the show is a little underestimated, but it gives you the perfect amount of everything. The perfect amount of singing; the perfect amount of love; the perfect amount of dancing. Just the perfect amount of excitement. Everything is very well-balanced, so, I think they’ll be drawn in and attached by the ending.

I’m looking forward to seeing it, especially since I’ve seen the film, I’ve seen Chazz perform it and now I get to see the musical. It’s like the trifecta of “A Bronx Tale” right there.

(giggles) It really, really is. It is. It’s great that you’ve seen all the other versions, so now you need to see pretty much this one.

Exactly. So, you have done extraordinarily well with “Dreamgirls,” with “A Bronx Tale,” with “Rock of Ages.” What is a piece of advice you would give to anyone who wants to follow their dream but needs that extra push to say, “don’t give up, follow your dream”? What advice would you give them?

You know what? This is going to sound so corny, but I say it all the time to anyone that will listen.  You can do it. Just do it. Just follow your dreams. I mean, if it works out how it’s supposed to, just don’t give up, you know? That’s my strongest advice. Just don’t give up. Even to this day, I still tell myself “don’t give up.” I have thing that I want to do beyond this as well, you know. But if there’s any advice I can give, it’d be just do it. Don’t give up, you know? You’re your own toughest critic. You get in your own way. If you just keep going and just keep pursuing it, it will happen. I promise.

 I definitely agree with you. Now, where can people find you on social media if they want to follow you?

(giggles) Ok, so my Facebook is my first and last name. Ashley McManus, and my Instagram handle—you may laugh, but I kept it this way. I had to stay true to myself.

Since Instagram came out, I’ve had the same name, so it’s a little funny. It’s called SmellLikeCash, I’ll spell it out for you. It’s s-m-e-l-l-l-I-k-e-c-a-s-h. SmellLikeCash because I’ve always been about my money. We’re young out here, trying to get money and live our dreams, so…(laughs)…there you go.

Ashley, you’re one of the best interviews I’ve had this year. You’re fun, you’re jovial, and your definitely fiery and I’m looking forward to seeing you.

Oh, great. Well, thank you, thank you so much for having me and you’re fantastic as well, and I can’t wait to see you.

DR: I can’t wait to see you as well. You take care of yourself. I’ll see you in two weeks.

Don’t miss Ashley and the rest of the cast in A Bronx Tale at National Theater, playing March 26 – 31st. Tickets may be purchased at TheNationalDC.com, in person at the National Theatre Box Office (weekdays from noon to 6:00 PM), or by calling 1-800-514-384