Fourteen-year-old Hayley Feinstein is making her Broadway debut as youngest daughter Bielke in the current revival of Fiddler on the Roof. Starring Tony nominees Danny Burstein and Jessica Hecht with stunning movement and dance from acclaimed Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shechter, the show tells the heartwarming story of fathers and daughters, husbands and wives, and the timeless traditions that define faith and family.
Today, the talented young actress speaks exclusively to BWW about making her Broadway debut in this iconic musical.
[NOTE: BroadwayWorld’s fabulous photographer Jessica Fallon Gordon captures images of the Broadway stars profiled in our monthly column in a special photo shoot. Check out the pics of Hayley Feinsteinthroughout the feature!] FIDDLER takes place in a small Russian village in the early 1900’s. Were you familiar with this period of history, or did you have to do some research to understand the story’s historical context?
Well from school we had studied it a little in Social Studies so I knew some of it, like everything that happened to them, how they came to America, and I also have ancestors who came from Russia and Poland and other places before they came to America. So I had knowledge of that, but I didn’t have much knowledge about how they lived in Europe and things like that, so I had to research it. But it was cool.
How interesting that you mentioned it is in some ways, the story of your own ancestors. Did you use that to help develop your character?
Yes, sometimes I think about, ‘what if I was one of them?’ I put myself into the perspective of, I could have been in that situation, in fact I would have been in that situation if I had lived at that time in Europe. Being of Jewish ancestry, all my ancestors are from where they were from, so they were in very similar situations. So I think that my life is so different because of the time period I was born in. And in the same way, if they were born in this time period, they might be very similar to me, living a similar life as me. It’s kind of crazy.
Yes, definitely something to think about! So let’s go back in time a bit. When did you first realize that youwanted to be an actress?
Well when I was like three, I used to enjoy singing in the stroller. I would sing songs from “Annie”. And I would be in a supermarket for example, and people would be like, “Oh she should get an agent!” or “She should take classes” So then I started taking classes and really enjoyed it. And then I was able to meet with an agent so it was all kind of unexpected. It wasn’t like I was thrown into the world of theater, it was more like something I saw in myself.
How did you find out the exciting news that you were cast in FIDDLER?
It was over the summer. My parents made me believe that they wanted me to try a new ice cream place in Times Square. So we drove to the Times Square area and when we got to the FIDDLER theater they stopped the car and they said, “look out the window” and I said “what? did I get Fiddler on the Roof?” and they said “Yes!” So that’s how my parents told me and I was so happy. I was jumping and hugging my sister, it was such an exciting moment. Especially since I had been very close so many times to getting things. Like in MATILDA I was down to the final seven twice, and A CHRISTMAS STORY and other shows, so it was not just the idea of getting the role, it was more about the hard work it took to be at this place in life, it was just really exciting.
And at first it just seemed kind of unreal, but then over the next few days I started to really understand what it was and it really became real. It’s funny because sometimes you get things at unexpected moments. There were times when I was younger when I worked really hard and was expecting to be cast in a show but wasn’t. But now, I’m a teenager, at a different point in my life and I wasn’t expecting it, so it’s interesting how sometimes things are unexpected and things will happen when you never expect them to.
Absolutely, that’s pretty much the story of life.
It is! But it’s also the fun part of life, otherwise life would be boring if everything happened the way you expected it to.
I agree! You’re very wise for your age.
Can you take me through a typical day, how you fit in school work and everything else along with the doing the show?
Sure, so basically what happens is I wake up at 6:45 am, and I’ll go to school until 2:40 pm. And then I do homework for the next two or three hours, depending on what time the show is. And then I perform in the show and the same thing every day. It’s a busy schedule but it’s a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of hard work because I go to a very academic school. I’m in 9th grade.
Do you have a favorite song or favorite scene from the show?
I like ‘Matchmaker’, it’s so pretty. And I also like the dream scene, it’s super fun, and I like “Far From the Home I Love” which Hodel sings. It’s really pretty and it’s sad, but it’s also so hopeful.
And scene-wise, I like the wedding scene a lot because it starts out super happy and upbeat and then it gets more serious and finally it gets really sad. I love how your emotions keep changing and the vibe of the scene keeps changing. And I also like ‘Anatevka’ , because they’re all reflecting on everything that’s happened. They’re actually all great scenes, but those are my favorites.
The cast of FIDDLER features some true Broadway veterans. What have you learned from them?
Well Danny [Burstein] has done sixteen Broadway shows and Jessica [Hecht] has been on TV and many shows, but it’s interesting because they are so humble about it, you would never know. They’re so confident but they’re not talky, they’re kind and genuine and that’s something to really look up to. Even though they’ve gained success, they understand they have, but they still treat everyone respectfully and kindly and I think that’s something that I want to be in my life, no matter what I may achieve. I want to be like they are.
Also, my sisters in the show are all really great role models, they’re all really sweet and we have a great bond and we all laugh a lot. It’s kind of like a real sister relationship, it’s like having a second family. And it’s cool to be the baby of that family. Even though I’m at a time in my real life where I’m gaining independence as I get older, it’s nice to still be the young one.
What was it like to make your Broadway debut in FIDDLER?
Well I remember when I was about to go on and I could feel my heart racing and I was like, “Oh my God, I’m making my Broadway debut!” And I was so excited and so nervous and I felt so amazing when I was walking up the stairs to make my entrance, because that’s such a great way to debut, it’s such a grand entrance. And that whole “Tradition” sequence, there was just so much excitement. And I really still feel excited like that in all the shows. It’s funny, I feel that way no matter what has happened in my day, I always feel that energy and excitement when I walk on the stage when the show starts.
Also on opening night, I remember thinking about my past. Like when I did the tour of SHREK, I remembered the first night of that show, my heart was pumping out of my chest and I felt similar butterflies as I did this time. So it really brought back a memory of what happened five years ago.
It was also cool because all the people who were making their debuts got to experience it together, so I wasn’t alone. It was so nice because there were fifteen of us who were all together debuting and even though we were all different ages and at all different points in our life, we got to go through that same experience together. So that made it really special!
Congratulations to Hayley Feinstein on making her first appearance on Broadway. The American Musical Theatre Academy is also making its debut in New York! Our school has been grooming young performers in London for five years and we are proud and excited to be opening a school in Manhattan. We’re happy to support BroadwayWorld’s Debut of the Month, since bringing fresh new talent to the stage is what we’re all about. Check out our website www.tamta.com – training takes place in New York AND at our school in London for part of the winter term. All our tutors are working professionals.”
About Hayley Feinstein: Hayley made her professional theater debut in the First Broadway National Tour of SHREK THE MUSICAL, where she played the roles of Young Fiona, Young Shrek, and Grumpy The Dwarf. Her other professional theater credits include staged readings of The Nine Fathers of Ariel (Ariel) and By Wheel and By Wing(Clara), readings of Table (Kate) and Tough Mother(Andrea), and productions of Rumpelstiltskin (Dragon, Gwendolyn) and A Little Princess (Becky).
Her film and TV credits include Stephen Spielberg‘s Bridge of Spies, Nickelodeon’s animated series “3rd & Bird,” “Louie,” “Sesame Street,” “Team Umizoomi,” and NBC’s “New Year’s Eve with Carson Daly.” Hayley has performed at Madison Square Garden (New York Knicks halftime soloist) and Carnegie Hall, and at various benefits to raise funds for charities, including UNICEF, Newtown, Kids In Distressed Situations, Mayor Bloomberg‘s Education Nation, and The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. She can also be heard as part of the children’s chorus in The Polar Express Album and in numerous voiceovers.
MEET HAYLEY AND TORI FEINSTEIN: SISTERS AND BROADWAY STARS
Hayley and Tori Feinstein are sisters who have something in common that most siblings do not. They have both starred in Broadway musicals before they’ve even graduated high school. Hayley is fourteen and playing Bielke in the current production
of Fiddler on the Roof in New York City after previously doing the touring production of Shrek the Musical. Tori is eleven and just finished performing the title role in Matilda both on tour and on Broadway. They’ve each done commercials, television shows and films. They have a strong bond of sisterly support, even after both auditioning for Matilda and Tori landing the role. Hayley rooted for Tori then the same way Tori roots for Hayley now for her performances in Fiddler. These two precocious talented Smart Girls sat down this week with us to chat about what it’s like to work in entertainment — but most importantly about how acting doesn’t define them, it’s just one thing they do without losing sight of the enjoyment of being a kid.
Smart Girls: When did you know that you wanted to be an actress?
Hayley: When I was three, I used to sing, but I probably really knew when I started taking musical theater classes at age five and six. I actually used to sing in my stroller.
Tori: I knew when I started watching Hayley acting — it looked really cool and fun. I think I was about five.
Who is your favorite singer?
T: Sara Bareilles, everything she does but I especially love Chasing the Sun, Eden, Little Black Dressand Hercules. I met Sara Bareilles’ best friend once and Sara is the only person I’ve ever written a fan letter to.
H: Meghan Trainor and Adele. And also Sara Bareilles.
What actresses do you admire and look up to?
H: Audrey Hepburn, Jennifer Lawrence, Julia Roberts and Natalie Portman. To me, they are all so graceful and elegant, I want to be a similar kind of actress. I love that they are all emotionally versatile actors.
T: Shailene Woodley and Jennifer Lawrence. They’re from some of my favorite movies, Divergentand Hunger Games.
H: And, they’re all great role models!
T: Yes, that too!
What is the scariest part of being on Broadway?
H: It’s live and there’s always a chance it won’t be perfect but you still have to make the best of it and keep going.
T: Being on Broadway doesn’t really scare me, but there are so many people watching you, if you make a mistake you feel like everyone will see it.
What about the most fun part of being on Broadway?
H: Being part of a family, getting to know so many people with similar interests and striving to do well at live performances. Seeing different audience reactions every night is exciting.
T: Everyone is really really nice, and everyone does feel like family, like Hayley said. It’s awesome to get to know so many people and get to become a family.
What do you like to do on your days off?
H: Hang out with friends and family, watch Netflix, go shopping, go to amusement parks. My favorite shows are Pretty Little Liars, 90210 and The Bachelor.
T: Be a couch potato and hang out with friends. My favorite shows are Disney ones.
Do you think about college and where you might like to go?
H: I’d like to go to Yale because both of our parents went to an Ivy League. I’d be happy to go to a really strong academic school but where I’m able to do lots of other things creatively.
T: I also want to go to Yale, it has a really good drama program.
What’s something you’d like to learn how to do outside of acting and dancing?
T: To be a fashion designer. I want to have my own clothing line and call it T-Bird or Cou-Tori.
H: I’d like to learn how to write screenplays. I’m also interested in track and running. Oh, and interior design. I’d also want to learn to play guitar and piano.
Do you have a favorite book?
T: The Giver, I love it.
H: I like the Divergent series and the Selection series.
Favorite subject in school?
T: Writing! Well, technically lunch.
H: English and Social Studies.
T: Okay, actually my answer is English at this very moment because we’re making posters for ad campaigns for important causes we believe in.
Do you ever get nervous before you go onstage or on camera? What do you do?
H: Sometimes. Depends on the role I have. I tell myself that I have to calm down, don’t be nervous; you were chosen to be onstage for a reason.
Tori: I don’t get nervous!
How do you stay positive if you don’t book a job from an audition?
T: If it’s a huge audition where I made it past several rounds or a show I really want to be in, sometimes I get a little upset when I don’t get it but try not to get too upset.
H: Same. when it’s something I really want to be in, I wonder what I did wrong. We just hope we’ll get the next one.
Any advice for other young girls who want to pursue acting?
H: Be confident, look at your strengths and weaknesses, use other people as role models. Be open to learning and criticism as well as how to make changes to your performance. Being an actor means you have to be flexible.
T: Anyone who wants to pursue acting should always know that they should keep trying even if they hear, “You may not be right for this,” after an audition. Don’t be discouraged.
Anyone you’d be super excited to work with?
T: SARA BAREILLES!!!
H: Audrey Hepburn.
T: Hayley she’s not alive.
H: I know Tori! Um okay, then Celine Dion because of how she sings and also Lea Michele.
Do you think about what dream roles you’d want on Broadway?
H: Elphaba from Wicked, Eponine from Les Miserables, Wendla in Spring Awakening, Elsa or any Disney princess, Miss Honey from Matilda, Elle Woods from Legally Blonde.
Ti: Elphaba, Elsa and Miss Honey. The little girl in Waitress just to meet Sara Bareilles.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where and why?
H: France, because it looks pretty, I like the clothes, it’s a city of romance and I’m learning French. I also like the food and the pastries.
T: Los Angeles because I wanna be where the entertainment business and where Disneyland is. I’d like to go to Vegas, it seems like a really cool city, one that never sleeps, even less than New York. I’d go to France and Italy because of the food.
Who’s your favorite Disney princess and why?
H: Belle because she’s intelligent and doesn’t need to be the center of attention and I like that she doesn’t go for the best looking guy, she goes for the nicest guy.
T: Elsa because she has to learn to become loving and in the end that’s why she is the hero.
If you could have a magic wish, what would it be?
H: That I could always understand things and know why they happen. I would wish to know why certain things happen and how knowing that I can always make the best possible decisions to fulfill my life.
T: I would wish I could time travel so I could see what I am gonna do wrong in the future and not do it. Oh, and how I can win the lottery.
Tell me three words that describe your sister.
H: Bubbly, talented and wonderful.
T: You forgot to mention awesome! Hayley is beautiful, gifted and sweet.