Curtain Call

In Hell’s Kitchen, Shoshana Bean Takes On A New Type Of Broadway Character

The Tony nominee brings Bustle backstage.

by Eliza Thompson
Curtain Call

Shoshana Bean had never played a mom before Hell’s Kitchen, but she took to the role of Jersey right away — even if she couldn’t believe she’d aged into the “someone’s mother” bracket.

“It wasn’t hard, just because I feel like I know this woman,” Bean, 46, says of the character, who’s loosely based on Alicia Keys’ mother, Teresa Augello. “Alicia’s mother [and I], we’re just very similar people, and I feel like I’m channeling my own mother, too. A lot of the ways that I parent inside of this show is how I was parented by a single mother, so it came very naturally. The biggest challenge was offstage, navigating my own feelings about aging in the business.”

But as Bean’s friend Billy Porter told her, “This is not the white mama we’ve seen on stage before, you know? You are rewriting a paradigm.”

In Hell’s Kitchen — a semi-autobiographical musical based on Keys’ early life in New York City — Jersey serves as both the anchor and antagonist for her daughter, 17-year-old Ali (Maleah Joi Moon), who struggles to realize her mom’s boundaries are born of love. A lesser show might have tried to get away with making Jersey a shrewish, one-note character, but instead she undergoes just as much growth as Ali.

At one point, Jersey calls the cops on Ali’s boyfriend, Knuck, a young Black man whom she worries is a bad influence. Knuck escapes the ordeal physically unharmed but emotionally scarred, while Jersey comes to understand she has to think differently about parenting a Black daughter.

The Hell’s Kitchen cast with Alicia Keys.Jason Mendez/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Following the show’s transfer from the Public Theater to Broadway earlier this year, Bean earned a Tony Award nomination for her performance — as did Moon and their castmates Brandon Victor Dixon and Kecia Lewis. The show earned 13 nods in total, tying with Stereophonic for the most nominations this year.

“I don’t think I'll ever get used to it,” says Bean, who was previously nominated for Mr. Saturday Night in 2022. “There were many celebrations [at Hell’s Kitchen]. We got champagne, we got balloons, but my favorite celebration was after the ‘meet the nominees’ press junket day. That night after the show, Alicia and her chief of staff and her assistant came to my dressing room with Maleah and Jade [Milan], one of the Ali understudies, and our associate director. We had some whiskey, toasted it, and just sort of reveled in it.”

“A couple of weeks ago, I did some riff [in one of my songs] — it’s a cappella — and someone in the audience said, ‘Sing it again.’ And so I sang it again because I could. I love that stuff.”

She and Keys also celebrated the show’s number of nominations — because it was so high, yes, but also because 13 has had a special meaning for Hell’s Kitchen. “It took 13 years for them to get this show mounted, and we got 13 nominations,” Bean explains. “And the album came out on 6/7, which is 13. And the Tony Awards are 6/16, which adds up to 13. So we keep looking for our lucky number 13, which keeps showing up everywhere.”

Below, Bean shares her backstage routine, dressing room must-haves, and methods for handling rowdy audiences.

With fellow Tony nominees Lindsay Mendez (left) and Eden Espinosa (center).Bruce Glikas/WireImage/Getty Images
With Maleah Joi Moon.Jenny Anderson/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
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On her dressing room staples:

In my fridge is ketchup and Tabasco, because those are my two favorite condiments. I’ve also got apple cider vinegar and honey and cayenne pepper and lemon, in case I need it for my voice. I keep some baby food pouches for whenever I'm starving, because it takes the edge off but doesn’t make you go on stage with a full belly.

The most important things in my dressing room are my tea, my electrolyte packets, and my coffee pods. Those are the main things that I ingest. And I’ve got some whiskey here because, you know — eight shows a week, OK?

On her tried-and-true throat remedies:

Olbas Pastilles are my go-to. And then the concoction is honey, lemon, apple cider vinegar, and a teeny bit of cayenne. That’s what cuts through junk. But if I’m hoarse, it’s because [my throat’s] dry and tired, so just a ton of water. And then when I get home at night, I’ll steam.

On working through intermission:

It goes by quickly. Sometimes it’s socializing and goofing around. Sometimes it’s my moment to catch up on emails. Sometimes I work on [The Ladies Club], my line of golf wear for women that I hand-make. It’s upcycled, pre-owned vintage pieces. I sew on all these patches and they’re all hand-stitched by me. So sometimes I’m stitching.

On dealing with raucous crowds:

Let me tell you a secret — it is my favorite part of the job. In 2009, I did this show called Peepshow in Las Vegas, and there was this portion of the show where I had to call people out of the audience, bring them up on stage. Remember, this is Las Vegas, so people are drunk and foolish and you never know what you’re gonna get. That was a crash course in being able to handle anything.

I’ve been on stage with people like Harvey Fierstein and Billy Crystal, and I’ve done my own solo concerts for decades, so I feel prepared to navigate whatever happens. And I live for it. And I know audiences live for it too.

A couple of weeks ago, I did some riff [in one of my songs] — it’s a cappella — and someone in the audience said, “Sing it again.” And so I sang it again because I could. I love that stuff.

On her post-show hangouts:

The boys’ dressing room is really large, and they have a big terrace, too. I make it sound fancy — it’s a fire escape. But they have blow-up furniture out there to lounge around on. So they’ve hosted a lot of evenings. [If] it’s someone’s birthday, we get pizza. I’ve done cupcakes and champagne for the cast before.

On gearing up for the Tonys:

I haven’t had [a day off] in months because we’re doing a lot of other events and press and there’s so much going on. To be honest with you, I like it that way. It’s one of my toxic traits, staying busy.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.