GYPSY OF THE MONTH: Ashley Amber of 'Promises, Promises'
Hey, Ramin Setoodeh, you think actors can't play characters whose personal lives differ from their own? Look at Promises, Promises (oh, yeah, you did). Ashley Amber is playing the disgruntled wife of an unfaithful husband and the mistress of a philandering businessman, but off stage she's happily married and a beaming, proud new mother. "I do feel like I have it all, as far as everything I ever wanted," says Amber, who has an 11-month-old son. "I've always wanted to be a mom, my dream was to be on Broadway, and I have a beautiful husband and a gorgeous house. It's all I could ask for."
She feels blessed in her onstage roles as well. "How lucky am I?" Amber asks about getting to play Tony Goldwyn's wife, albeit in a scene where his character, J.D. Sheldrake, is called at home on Christmas Day about his despondent girlfriend Fran (Kristin Chenoweth). Amber also portrays a Consolidated Life employee and Miss Kreplinski, the dental hygienist brought to Chuck Baxter's apartment by a Consolidated exec for an extramarital tryst, in Promises, Promises. The revival of the 1960s Burt Bacharach musical marks Amber's return to the stage following the birth of her first child, Mason, who turns 1 later this month.
Her last show, Cry-Baby, shuttered after just two months, and little Mason turned out to be the silver lining to that cloud. Amber had decided to take the summer off following Cry-Baby's closing in June 2008, but her break was extended when she got pregnant that September. She returned to work this February when Promises, Promises rehearsals commenced. "It worked out wonderfully timing-wise," she explains. "I think you reach a point when you're like, Oh, I'm a mom; this is who I am now. And you lose yourself. I've always identified myself as a dancer—that was who I was. So having that balance of being creative and also being a caregiver is the best of both worlds."
Amber resumed classes at Broadway Dance Center when Mason was four months old, though she didn't have to exert a lot of effort losing her pregnancy weight. "I lived in a three-floor walkup for the first six months of his life, and I have a 20-pound child," she says. "Carrying that baby up and down the three flights of stairs with the stroller and the car seat, I don't know how anybody could not get right back into shape."
Billed as Ashley Amber Haase earlier in her career, Amber dropped her surname professionally after she married in 2006 rather than change it or append her husband's last name, D'Ambrosio ("I didn't want to mislead anyone that I was Italian"). Her seven previous Broadway shows range from Tony winners (Curtains) to notorious flops (Dance of the Vampires). She was a replacement swing in Aida and All Shook Up and a member of the original cast of The Wedding Singer, playing the bride in its opening number, which was performed on the 2006 Tonys. She was also in The Boy From Oz during the last few months of its run. "I got to take Hugh Jackman's shirt off eight times a week," she boasts (it was part of the choreography).
Amber's last four shows were all choreographed by Rob Ashford, who also directed Promises. "He's the best storyteller that I have worked with," says Amber. "Because each show has a different story, he likes to play the truth of it, and I appreciate that so much, and understand where he's going with it. I'm so happy to be in his directorial debut." To that latter comment, Amber adds, "finally"—a reference to a planned revival of Brigadoon that Ashford was to have directed but that was canceled in mid '08 before its out-of-town tryout. Amber was in the Brigadoon cast. "Maybe some day that [production will] happen," she says, "because everyone should see his interpretation of that show. It's so beautiful."
Promises, Promises also reunites Amber with another Ashford regular, fellow ensemble member Mayumi Miguel, who's a new mom too. "We have a special mommy bond," Amber says of Miguel (the June 2008 Gypsy of the Month), mother of 1-year-old Zoe. "We share stories, though she's not much help because her daughter slept through the night the first day she came home from the hospital, and my son still hasn't slept through the night! So, she wins that one."