The Role of a Lifetime

By Dan Verderosa, July 31, 2018
Theatre student shines in “Interstate” at the New York Musical Festival.

Updated 8/7/2018:

At the New York Musical Festival's Awards for Excellence, Sushma Saha was awarded Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role.

Musical theatre student Sushma Saha ’20 has played plenty of lead roles, but none that spoke to their identity as much as Henry, the South Asian, transgender teen at the center of “Interstate,” which had a run of six performances during the 2018 New York Musical Festival. On the biggest stage of their career, Saha earned rave reviews from publications like the Village Voice.

Interstate” was performed at the Acorn Theatre, an off-Broadway playhouse in New York City. The pop-rock musical tells the story of Henry, a transgender teenage vlogger who sets out to meet Queer Malady, the Asian-American activist band whose music inspires him.

“This show was really special because it wasn’t just LGBTQIA+ people, it was POC LGBTQIA+ people,” said Saha. “Those are people whose stories need to be told.”

Saha learned about the role through an email sent to students by the Department of Theatre Arts. The producers of the show were looking for a young, South Asian, queer person who could sing soprano.

“I remember reading the casting call and getting chills because I had never read a call for someone who was so accurate to myself,” said Saha. “I knew if I didn’t audition I’d be missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Saha auditioned and landed the role. Soon, they were receiving plaudits in the press. In its review of the musical, the Village Voice praised Saha for their “flawless rendition” of the song “I Don’t Look” and the poignancy they brought to Henry’s spoken vlogs. Broadway World’s Stephanie Wild said, “Saha plays the role with such sincerity that you can't help but root for Henry throughout the show. I was moved to tears by the end, seeing how his story turned out.”

The youngest person in the show, Saha worked hard to be at the same level as their more experienced cast mates. “To see that the hard work paid off and it was noticed by people who were reviewing the show — especially the Village Voice — it was very gratifying,” said Saha.