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Waitsfield Native Shaina Taub Fulfills Her Theater Dreams
Taub’s Broadway Musical ‘Suffs’ Receives Six Tony Nominations

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A tense moment between Alice Paul (played by Shaina Taub) and Carrie Chapman Catt (played by Jenn Colella). Photo by Joan Marcus.
If you had popped into Montpelier’s Contemporary Dance and Fitness Studio (CD&FS) during the 2004–05 school year, you would have encountered a number of talented students, among them Shaina Taub of Waitsfield.

She had spent years studying all forms of dance, including three as a member of the studio’s prestigious Teen Jazz repertory company. But by 2005, Taub was itching to move on, so she opted to leave Harwood Union high school a year early and head to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

In the nearly two decades since, Taub has become a rising star in the New York City theater world. “Suffs,” her original musical about the women’s suffrage movement, had an extended run at The Public Theater in 2022 and moved to Broadway in March. 

Taub wrote the book, music, and lyrics, and also stars, becoming only the second woman in history (behind Micki Grant) to wear all of those Broadway hats. To give the show some heft, she enlisted Hillary Clinton and Malala Yousafzai to join the producing team.

“Suffs” is in rare company, with an impressive six Tony nominations in its genre: best new musical; best book, and best original score (Taub); best direction (Leigh Silverman); best costume design (Paul Tazewell); and best featured actress (Nikki M. James). The show garnered another 17 nominations from three other theater awards.

In online magazine interviews after the Tony nominations were announced on April 30, Taub reported spilling a glass of water all over her couch and crying when her show received nods, and said she was “grateful beyond belief.”

She added: “I grew up … watching the Tonys every year with my mom, so this has been a childhood dream of mine. … The show was a longtime labor of love and I’m so proud of our team and cast and everyone for working so hard for so many years to get here.”

It’s likely that few outside Taub’s school and theater communities knew just how multi-talented she was. That was true for CD&FS founder Lorraine Neal — that is, until she saw Taub perform in a production at Harwood.

“I saw only a fraction of her talent at the studio, but the first time I heard her sing I thought ‘holy cow,’” said Neal. Referring to a person who can sing, dance, and act, Neal added: “I had no idea she was a triple threat.”

Neal recalled Taub’s final studio performance in 2005, when an injury prevented her from dancing. Instead, she sang the John Lennon song “Imagine,” accompanied on piano by her father. “It brought people to tears,” said Neal. “She had a ‘show must go on’ attitude. … She was someone with a lot of heart, guts, and determination.”

Those very qualities are what have propelled Taub’s rise.

In her first decade after college, Taub won three awards in memory of major theater figures: “Rent” creator Jonathan Larson; Fred Ebb (Kander and Ebb songwriting team); and Edward Kleban (“A Chorus Line”).

Meanwhile, she received accolades for composing and starring in three adaptations for Shakespeare in the Park, a free program of The Public Theater. She appeared in three Off-Broadway productions, including “Hadestown,” written by fellow Vermonter Anais Mitchell. She also performed monthly at Joe’s Pub, another program of The Public Theater.

“Suffs” highlights some of the lesser-known (or at least lesser-taught) figures in the suffrage movement, including Alice Paul, the woman Taub portrays. The feisty Paul and the more polite Carrie Chapman Catt were of different generations and clashed over the right tactics to employ. Paul was less patient and more confrontational than Catt.

The show has been praised for bringing that history to life, as well as illuminating the movement’s warts, in particular the treatment of minority suffragists. James gives a forceful performance as Black journalist and anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells, who refused to march separately or in the rear of demonstrations. Having won previously for “Book of Mormon,” James would pick up her second Tony if she wins for “Suffs.”

“Obviously, I have to single out Shaina Taub,” James told People magazine. “I cannot say enough things about how much I love and respect Shaina. And how grateful I am to her and Leigh for trusting me with Ida. Playing [her] is a humbling experience and an honor.” 

In interviews, Taub has said the takeaway is that human rights struggles are never-ending, and that people need to stay vigilant and active. Hence the show’s final song, “Keep Marching.”

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