In 'Suffs' and beyond, Hannah Cruz plays more than a pretty face

This interview is part of our New York Talent Guide series, which spotlights rising and undersung Broadway stars whom theatregoers shouldn't miss on stage.

Gillian Russo
Gillian Russo

Actor Hannah Cruz's star is rising — and fast. If you've seen a buzzy, new Off-Broadway musical in the last two years, there's an outsized chance you've seen her. She made her Off-Broadway debut in spring 2022's Suffs, Shaina Taub's show about lesser-known women's suffrage pioneers at The Public Theater. Soon afterward, she was right back on stage in Hamilton choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler's Only Gold that fall and, most recently, composer Jason Robert Brown's The Connector this January, both at MCC Theater.

Not to mention, Suffs had its eye on Broadway all the while, and Cruz continued to appear in workshops and readings. If her back-to-back-to-back musicals weren't proof enough of Cruz's versatility, Suffs alone should be: She made her Broadway debut with the show on March 26, but in a different role from 2022.

Cruz originated the part of working-class suffragist Ruza Wenclawska at the Public, but for Broadway, she stepped into the glamorous shoes of socialite/suffragist/lawyer Inez Milholland. Cruz admits that both roles scared her as larger-than-life women made even more so in a musical setting. (Off Broadway, Inez first entered the stage on a horse.)

But over the past two years — and across her whole career — she's found her footing in "the simple, tiny things you're doing in the background when nobody's watching."

"It comes down to: I want to play real humans," Cruz said. "All of it for me is not leaning on caricature. Usually things are too theatrical, which is why initially, Ruza scared me. I remember telling my fiancé, 'I don't know how to play this woman.' It took me a while to figure her out in a way that was a character but also human."

Now, she's doing the same for Inez. At Suffs's press day and in a separate interview just before performances began, Cruz spoke with New York Theatre Guide about making her Broadway debut, finding a new side of herself through her characters, and the women who inspire her. Below are edited excerpts from those conversations.

Get Suffs tickets now.

Book Tickets CTA - LT/NYTG

How has it been to do the show in full again after two years?

As prepared as I am, there's almost nothing that can prepare you for how big Broadway is. It's been one of the most tiring tech processes of my life, but, in the same vein, least stressful because I know everybody here knows exactly what they're doing.

How is Suffs different on Broadway than off Broadway?

Especially because I was playing a different part, it's like that part of my brain has shut off to ensure this experience is as brand-new as possible for me.

We're going to get to know these women a lot deeper on a more emotional and personal level, and that's only going to deepen the storytelling of all the work they did outside their personal lives.

How did you first get involved with Suffs?

I was doing Young Frankenstein at Ogunquit Playhouse. I did a self-tape, and they were like, "We want you to come and be in the room for final callback." It's really hard to get to New York quickly from Ogunquit!

My boyfriend at the time [now fiancé] helped me figure out flights. Immediately after a matinee, I took the car to the Portland airport and flew to D.C. The next day, I went straight to the callback. I had no sleep, and I really don't like going into an audition room when I don't feel my best.

They had been told of my travels through my agency, so they stood up and clapped when I entered. I [knew] from that moment I was in a different room than I've ever been in — it was very warm and welcoming. It's been like that since the beginning, and it's never ceased.

On the way back to Ogunquit that night, I got the call that I booked it!

Can you tell me more about working with this show's team? An all-female and non-binary cast and lead creative team is pretty rare.

It's an embarrassment of riches to get to come to work with those women every day and to feel fostered by them and cared for and loved and pushed. I can't wait for the world at large to see what they've done with this piece. Knowing Shaina on a personal level is an honor — to know what she's doing to change musical theatre, to change the scope of our politics this year.

How does Suffs do that?

It's a really scary time, and while this musical could be looked at as a history lesson, it's really humanizing. Seeing these women accomplishing these things together is more than inspiring. It actually gives me hope, which is a very hard thing to come by nowadays.

Why do you think the characters of Suffs were largely written out of history, especially as there is surviving information about them?

The American government jailed and tortured these women for what they did. That alone is so shameful that I can understand why there would be an impetus to hide that.

What was it like to first assume the role of Inez?

I was very nervous about it. Ruza and Inez are very different, but I love doing different things. I did Inez in the workshop we did in 2022 and the reading, so stepping into Broadway rehearsals, I feel a lot more comfortable than I did previously because I had a lot more time to grow.

I really love playing her. I thought I was going to miss Ruza too much, but I found little facets of Inez that I really love living inside of.

What are they?

Inez is interesting because on first glance, she's a socialite, she's beautiful, men adored her, women adored her. She was a big public figure. Part of me balks at playing characters whose identity is attached to their looks. It stresses me out because there's a certain expectation that you are also beautiful and [judged on] your looks, because I attach a lot of myself to every character.

But the more I got into Inez, the more I realized it was less about her outside beauty and more about her confidence. Once I found her walk and the way she holds her cigarette and her posture, that opened up a whole new world of sensuality and vivaciousness through her that has been really exciting to play.

Does Inez still make her grand entrance on a horse, like off Broadway?

You're going to have to come see the show to see.

What do you hope young women take away from Inez and the show?

She was very serious about her cause and believed in it so strongly that — spoiler alert — she died for it. She gave literally every ounce of herself. But she always found the sense of fun and play and sexiness in it. That effervescence is what drew people to her.

There's this amazing picture of her handing out suffrage programs to men. She’s flirting with them, and they're taking these programs with the most excitement in their eyes.

I hope anyone who's watching it and is shy or thinks they can't do that — something changes with your posture or the way you call someone over to you. It invites a lot of light and happiness.

Have you ever had a theatre experience as an audience member that really moved you?

Seeing Patti LuPone in Gypsy at the St. James Theatre. I was in high school. I had never seen anything like it, and it completely transformed my life.

It gave me permission as an actor to go deeper into things than I thought that I could. Seeing her be so human and so broken and not perfect about execution because it was about the moment rather than about the sound. It was so thrilling for me, and I will never forget it.

In the spirit of Suffs, I was going to ask if there's a woman that inspires you, but it seems like you'd give the same answer!

It will always be Patti LuPone.

Get Suffs tickets now.

Book Tickets CTA - LT/NYTG

Discover more spring preview content on New York Theatre Guide and learn about all the Broadway shows this season.

Photo credit: Hannah Cruz. (Photo by Justin Patterson)

Originally published on

Subscribe to our newsletter to unlock exclusive New York theatre updates!

Special offers, reviews and release dates for the best shows in town.

You can unsubscribe at any time. Privacy Policy