From Dreams to Reality: A USC alumna’s journey to Broadway

Photo courtesy of Scalla Jakso
For the love of the stage · Alumna Julie Boardman will debut as a Broadway producer for the musical An American in Paris on April 25.

Broadway has been a lifelong passion of alumna Julie Boardman, who graduated in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in music industry. Since her first performance in a musical at the age of five, Boardman performed every chance she could, dreaming of the day when she would finally break into the elite Broadway community. Her efforts finally paid off this month with An American in Paris — Boardman’s debut as a Broadway producer.

An American in Paris, which opens on April 25 at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, is a Tony Award-winning musical about an American World War II veteran who pursues art in Paris and becomes entranced with a mysterious French ballerina. Featuring songs from music legends George and Ira Gershwin, the musical is a celebration of love and the power of art.

“[An American in Paris] is  a traditional musical with all the singing and dancing and acting, but it still feels new and relevant, especially today with what’s going on in the world,” Boardman said.

The musical holds special significance to Boardman — not only did the Gershwins compose the soundtrack of her childhood, but she also grew up in Irvine, Calif. by the Segerstrom Center. Boardman described Paris as both escapist and relevant. She also deeply connects to its theme of the power of art, which is reflected in a line from the musical: “Life is already so dark. If you have the talent to make it brighter, to bring people joy and hope, why would you withhold that?” Boardman’s decision to become a Broadway producer is guided by this philosophy.

“That’s why I do this — to see people walking up the aisle and laughing,” Boardman said. “You’ve changed their lives, and they’ve left their troubles at the door. You see them going out, and they have a big smile on their faces and they’re singing the songs.”

Boardman considers art to be an essential part of human nature. She believes that being creative benefits the development of children, cultivating their imaginations and teaching them essential problem-solving skills. When Boardman was 15, she joined the nonprofit The Young Americans and then performed in a national tour, teaching underserved children how to sing, dance and act. The experience taught her about the ability of art to give people hope.

“Their lives were changed,” Boardman said. “They might not have had love or support at home, but you could see the power of the arts in transforming their lives.”

Boardman continued pursuing her Broadway ambitions at USC, where she majored in music industry at the Thornton School of Music. At USC, Boardman took on various internships and packed her 18-unit schedules with diverse courses in business and music industry. She claims that receiving this well-rounded education helped prepare her for her future Broadway career. Boardman also began to develop the leadership skills of a producer through her involvement in the greek system as the president of Alpha Phi.

“[It] was a really great experience running things and learning leadership skills and delegation,” Boardman said. “I learned that I didn’t have to do everything by myself and that I could trust others to do it.”

A week after her graduation, Boardman moved to New York to work at Jive Records, a company at which she had interned when she was at USC. After performing on the national tour of 42nd Street for a year, Boardman decided to become a producer because she “wanted to be the puppeteer and not the puppet.” However, becoming a Broadway producer was no easy task.

“Broadway is a small community, predominantly run by older, white males, and it turned out that I am in the minority as a young female,” Boardman said. “However, I think I stand out and have something to say and have proved that I’m worthy to be there.”

Boardman acknowledges that she has a long road ahead of her, but she is still persevering in her goal to create new musicals based on her own ideas. This would require the formation of her own creative team and about seven or eight years of development before the show is finally ready for Broadway. However, she is optimistic about her future and encourages fellow artists at USC to continue pursuing their dreams.

“Believe in yourself and know that you can do it,” Boardman said. “Go for it and make it happen, and if you fail you probably learned more from your failures than your successes. So don’t hold back.”

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the performance of An American in Paris will be shown at the Segerstrom Center for Performing Arts. The venue’s name is actually Segerstrom Center for the Arts.