A ‘Resilient’ Salisha Thomas, proud Bullard grad, helps Broadway record a message of hope
Salisha Thomas — or “Salish,” as she signs her emails — has had a beautiful career these past few years. The Bullard High School graduate and Good Company Players alum got a big break in 2016 when she nabbed a plum ensemble role in the national tour of “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.” She later joined the Broadway cast of the show, which played through 2019.
Then came another great gig.
“When the pandemic hit,” Salisha says, “I was in rehearsals for the Britney Spears musical, which was scheduled to do an out-of-town run in Chicago and then transfer to Broadway in the fall.”
Alas, the Chicago run of “Once Upon a One More Time” was canceled. Like all other productions, no one knows exactly what’s ahead.
But Salisha — like Broadway itself — is resilient.
She joined more than 60 Broadway theater artists and emergency healthcare professionals across the country in a video called the “Resilient Project.” The song they virtually perform, titled “Resilient,” was created by Dave Ogrin and Jay Berkow for their new musical “Mata Hari.” (Forced to postpone its New York workshop, the aspiring show is another example of one impacted by the coronavirus.)
The video debuted Tuesday in honor of Florence Nightingale’s birthday. It benefits The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS’ Covid-19 Emergency Assistance Fund, and The Emergency Nurses Association (ENA). You can donate here.
The list of Broadway stars includes such names as Charl Brown, Cady Huffman, Gregory Jbara, Chad Kimball, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Lauren Ward and Karen Ziemba. The singers have 15 Tony Award nominations between them.
Not bad company, Salish.
“Resilient” is an inspiring, sweet song. And it’s fun to see it all come together in a virtual forum. A year or two ago, I would have been gobsmacked by the technology involved in bringing together these singers from disparate locations. Now, it seems, musical Zoom ensembles are flooding through our Facebook feeds. Still, it’s impressive.
Even with all that Broadway star wattage, I really do think Salisha stands out in terms of her buoyant screen presence and enthusiasm. (I know, I have that Fresno-bias-thing going on.) At one point she is featured in a nice vocal solo and several-second-long, full-screen shot. The video hits its stride when singing healthcare workers are integrated into the ensemble; it’s touching when the Broadway actors and doctors/nurses start sharing the screen together. My favorite singer (besides Thomas, obviously) is a medical worker wearing a black top and piercing red stethoscope, whose energetic performance makes you want to dance along:
Here’s a rundown with Salisha on the project and an update on how she is coping these days in New York:
This song was recorded virtually, right? Did you sing your part individually without hearing the other singers, or did everyone sing together?
Yes, we all recorded our ‘Resilient’ vocal melodies separately in our own homes with earbuds in our ears. If you were to see the individual tapes, it would look like we were singing a capella. The sound engineer is able to separate the audio from the video and professionally mix it and blend it with the other voices and put it over a professional karaoke-type track. The finished product sounds like we all were in the same room!
Set the scene for us: Where did you do your recording? (Apartment in New York, beach house in the Bahamas, garret in Paris, etc.)
I’m quarantining by myself in my pink apartment in Manhattan. So I found a corner where the natural light from the windows shines through and set up my tripod and just went for it!
What have these past months been like for you in terms of the quarantine?
It’s been a huge lesson in resilience (no pun intended). I’m learning that life is one big mental game. I’m so grateful that I’m healthy and that all my needs are being met while I quarantine alone. Somedays, when I’m in the right state of mind, it feels like a retreat…like I have a whole day to write or read through a novel, take a walk, bake something, run a hot bath. And other days can be difficult … missing my mom and dad in Fresno and my friends near and far. Wanting to interact with other people (in person) but it still not being safe. Missing Broadway … but I still have hope. My favorite part of the day is at 7 p.m. when everyone runs to their windows and claps and cheers for our essential workers. The City lights up and is SO loud! It’s exciting!
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Broadway isn’t going to reopen until after Labor Day, at the earliest. Your thoughts about theater in this new, weird age of ours?
Donald, it’s heartbreaking. I moved to New York because the theater kid in me loves Broadway. It’s my favorite thing in the whole world. There’s an obvious added layer to that knowing that it’s my livelihood. I truly believe that everything will work out and one day things will be back running. But I just miss the performance energy that runs through the veins of New York. It’s weird. And I’m trying to approach it like a marathon. Since Labor Day is around the start of the next flu season, it would be a miracle if we went back that soon.
Anything you’d like to say to Fresno?
My sweet home of Fresno, I miss you so much. When things calm down here in NYC, I can’t wait to come (and quarantine for 2 weeks) and see everyone.
Don’t miss her blog
One cool thing about “The Resilient Project” is that I found out about Salisha’s blog because of it.
“I started a lifestyle blog last year and I write about relationships, things happening in the Broadway community, and life in New York. It’s been fun to write and chronicle my thoughts about the things I’m interested in,” she says.
One of those things, of course, is her current project, the Britney Spears musical.
Here’s how Entertainment Weekly describes it:
“Once Upon a One More Time” follows the story of Cinderella, Snow White, and the other fairytale princesses as they gather for their book club (natch) and are interrupted by a rogue fairy godmother, who drops The Feminine Mystique into their corseted laps. Cue the royal revelation! The regal gals start to question if there could be more to life than bird-made dresses and true love’s kiss?
Salisha writes that in the middle of a rehearsal in New York, the cast had an unusually long break:
*sigh* I should have guessed what was coming.
We came back in the studio and we ran the opening number. I jumped in for one of the characters I understudy since she wasn’t there. It was exhilarating!! And then… Our producer updated us saying something similar to what I’m assuming my sister Broadway shows had also heard …. And of course it’s necessary and safety is especially important right now for the community at large. Yet still — a devastating blow. Hearts were broken. The air was immediately sucked out of the room and you could hear only sniffles. That sort of thing is never easy. I felt my own head drop as a tear hit the floor. My cast sang one last song together. And then we were excused for an early lunch with no idea if or when we will ever return.
Here’s a photo of the “One More Time” cast. Salisha, of course, has the biggest smile:
Be sure to check out the rest of Salisha’s blog. My favorite post is “How to Flirt During COVID-19.” If that headline doesn’t generate any clicks for her site, I don’t know what will.