This Leading Lady is Reading ‘Between the Lines’

Arielle Jacobs stars in a new musical at the Second Stage Theater

| 08 Aug 2022 | 10:11

Growing up in San Francisco, Arielle Jacobs was so inspired by pop singers like Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston that she asked her mother if she could take voice lessons. What she didn’t know at the time was that that early training would one day lead her to the Broadway stage.

The then-starlet got her start in the industry singing in her church choir and then with a children’s song and dance troupe along with her brother, Adam, who is also a Broadway actor, known for originating the role of Aladdin on Broadway.

Right before she began high school, her parents changed coasts, so Jacobs attended Princeton High School in New Jersey and moved to New York to attend NYU. She made her Broadway debut in “In the Heights” in 2010 and her impressive resume also includes playing Jasmine in “Aladdin” on Broadway from 2018 to 2020.

Now, she is starring as the lead in “Between the Lines,” a musical based on the book by Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer, at the Second Stage Theater. The cast of the show, which opened last month, has become very tight knit backstage off Broadway, where quarters are close and they have to share dressing rooms. In fact, when Jacobs married actor J.J. Caruncho in 2020, a bunch of her castmates attended the nuptials, including Picoult, who served as her unofficial dog sitter. “She was holding my dog on her lap during the reception and the dinner,” Jacobs said.

Your Broadway debut was in “In the Heights.” Was Lin-Manuel Miranda in it at that point?

Yes, I was in the closing cast. I played Nina. It was after I played the role on the original national tour. Yes, I played opposite him on Broadway. I also played opposite him in Los Angeles, because when I did the tour, he came in for the L.A. run. He’s so fun, he’s so present, he’s so playful. He’s really a dream.

When did you move to New York?

I moved here for college and then I moved out to L.A. for several years and then came back here full time about 10 years ago.

How did you get your start in the industry?

My brother and I were both in our church choir growing up and one day I asked my mom if I could take voice lessons because I was like in love with the pop singers of the day like Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. So my mom found me a voice teacher who happened to teach in San Francisco, but also ran this children’s song and dance troupe called the Razzle Dazzle Kids. So she put me in this troupe and we would just do little shows all around the Bay Area.

Is it true “Between the Lines” was delayed twice?

Yeah, well it was delayed the first time because it was 2020 and then the pandemic happened and everything shut down. And then when we were lucky enough to be able to come back in 2022, we were supposed to start previews on June 14. And we did do one preview, but then like half the cast came down with COVID, including me. So we had to shut down the show again because we didn’t have enough coverage. And now we’re back up and running, but it has been definitely a bumpy road.

The musical is based on Jodi Picoult’s novel. How involved is she in the production?

Jodi was with us every single day for the rehearsal process. She and Tim McDonald, who wrote the book for our show, they really just wrote this whole thing together. They both were listening to everything we were saying and constantly making changes depending on how things were going in rehearsals and what was landing or what felt more natural to say versus something else. So they were very hands-on the whole time. Even Samantha van Leer, who’s Jodi’s daughter and co-wrote the book, she came in to rehearsal several times as well to also have her hand in the pot.

What is the atmosphere like backstage? Is the cast close?

We love each other. It’s a big love fest back there. It’s also really tight quarters, because you know, in an off-Broadway theater there’s just not a lot of space. So we’re kind of crammed in like sardines backstage in the wings. But it’s really fun because we find certain moments to play off stage. Like I have a moment with the character who plays Frump and Ryan, his name is Will Burton, he’s an incredible actor. He and I have a fun moment backstage where he hops off for literally 15 seconds and we do three rounds of Rochambeau before he goes back onstage.

And because of this theater, we actually share dressing rooms. Like I don’t have my own dressing room. There’s only one dressing room for the ladies and one for the men. So we get to hang out with each other pretty much every day because we’re getting ready in the same space.

Do you have your favorite hangouts around the theater?

I would say most of the time I’ll run into people on Ninth Avenue, there’s a café on Ninth and 43rd, which is like half a block from our theater. So a lot of times on the break, I’ll go over there ... It really is a fun place to run into people.

Tell us about your solo album. When did you release that and will you put out more records in the future?

My solo album came out in 2018 and it was based on my live, one-woman show at 54 Below I did in 2017. I’m talking to a friend about one day making an album of more original music, but I don’t know when that’s gonna happen. But I do keep putting out covers and singles now and then, like I released a single of the song “Speechless” that was from “Aladdin” and my brother and I recorded a Christmas duet that we released last year in December.

I saw a photo online of a gift you got from a fan when you played Jasmine. What are some memorable ones you’ve received?

So many cool things. Especially when I was playing Jasmine. There are so many Jasmine fans, so I would get the coolest things from fans. They would give me those little Jasmine Pop dolls with the big heads. I got a few of those. This one fan, she painted a picture of me as Jasmine, like a giant 16 by 20 painting. And then for “Between the Lines,” so far, I’ve gotten really cool things. I got this little keychain that somebody made. It’s basically the “Between the Lines” book, but it’s like a charm and it feels like it’s made of paper, like a real book. It’s very cool. And then, of course, I don’t know if you’ve seen any of the fan art that people have been putting up, but oh my gosh. Someone posted this illustration on Instagram of me reading a book and all the characters in the show. Somebody saw our show and basically drew every single person on stage.

So some of your colleagues from “Between the Lines” came to your wedding in Mexico?

Yes, Jeff Calhoun came with his husband and Tim McDonald came with his husband and Jodi came. And it was so amazing to have them there. Jodi actually dog sat for me during the ceremony and the reception.

What is a dream role you’d still like to play on Broadway?

I’m a big Sara Bareilles fan and I never got to be in “Waitress,” and I know it’s not running anymore, but I would love to one day do that. I also love “Into the Woods” and I know that’s running right now. It was one of those cast albums that I just fell in love with as a kid and I just knew every single word. I was lucky enough to play The Baker’s Wife in a regional production of that. My husband played The Baker and Tituss Burgess played The Witch. He was the very first male to ever play The Witch. It was an epic production in Miami at the DreamCatcher Theatre.