January 26, 2017
How do you do your job so well, that no one notices?
That's what Ashley Leitzel-Reichenbach does day in and day out as a Broadway hairdresser.
"There is a saying in our field that if you don't know we were there, then we did our job," Leitzel-Reichenbach said. "The best compliments I have received in my career were when someone said, 'Wait! That was a wig?'"
Leitzel-Reichenbach graduated from Susquehanna University in 2002 with a degree in theatre. She wanted to be an actor, but was worried she wouldn't be able to support herself. Still longing for a future in theatre, Leitzel-Reichenbach earned her master's degree in wig and make-up design from the North Carolina School of the Arts.
Since then, Leitzel-Reichenbach has worked on NBC's The Sound of Music Live and Peter Pan Live, and Broadway's Mary Poppins, Sister Act, Bridges of Madison County and An American in Paris. She has had the pleasure of working with stars such as Julie Andrews.
"She was amazing. Kind, smart and generous," Leitzel-Reichenbach said. "She gave opening-night gifts to everyone, down to the lowest position, with a hand written card. She was just lovely."
Shows like Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music Live! have given Leitzel-Reichenbach the opportunity to time travel.
"Hair and make-up are amazingly transformative," she said. "We can make a person look completely different by changing the shape of their nose or the color of their hair, and transport their appearance to a different time period."
The greatest challenge for Leitzel-Reichenbach has been the repetitive nature of her work, styling the same styles over and over again for a long-running show.
"Broadway is the top level of theatre, so it has to be your best work every single day," she said. "We have to take into account the microphone packs, which we put on the actor's head under the wig, while we also are doing our best to replicate real life. That is sometimes hard."
"They gave me the tools to follow my own path, even when that wasn't their expertise," she said. "They pushed me forward instead of holding me back."