Meet the 'Suffs' Broadway cast

Get to know the trailblazing suffragists featured in Shaina Taub's musical about the women's voting rights movement, as well as the actresses who play them.

Gillian Russo
Gillian Russo

Following a sold-out 2022 world premiere at The Public Theater that extended multiple times, Shaina Taub's musical about the women's suffrage movement is marching onto Broadway — with many faces from its Off-Broadway cast in tow. But don't call them "suffragettes." That term was coined to belittle female activists, known collectively in the musical as "suffs."

Suffs centers on lesser-known suffragists like Alice Paul, Inez Milholland, and Doris Stevens — women who joined the movement after well-known pioneers like Susan B. Anthony and were around for the passage of the 19th Amendment. The musical depicts fights within the movement, too: those between generations, who disagreed over how to fight, and races, with women of color fighting not to be sidelined from equal rights.

The suffrage movement was a big one, so naturally, the cast needs to be just as expansive. To help you keep them all straight when you see the show at the Music Box Theatre, learn more below about the all-female and non-binary cast, the historical figures they play, and what it really means to be a suff.

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Shaina Taub

Shaina Taub stars as Alice Paul, a then-young suffragist who changed what activism can look like. Suffs is all about how she organized disruptive marches, protests, and hunger strikes, which previous generations of suffragists thought would make people less likely to take their side.

Taub herself is making women's history in her role: She is only the second woman ever, after Micki Grant with Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope in 1971, to be the star and sole writer of a Broadway show.

What it means to be a suff: Being a suff means being willing to take risks even when you’re afraid, especially when you’re afraid. (via Instagram)

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Nikki M. James

Tony Award winner Nikki M. James returns to Broadway for the first time in nearly 10 years to play Ida B. Wells, a journalist and educator who co-founded the NAACP and spoke out in favor of numerous women's rights and civil rights issues. In the show as in real life, she was often told to "wait her turn" for equality after white women achieved their rights — but she never stopped speaking out.

Who she plays: Ida B. Wells is a beast [...] in terms of her work for women's rights and women's suffrage particularly, but also her unflinching fight against lynching and the horrors that were happening in the South.

Historical fun fact: I've been introduced, through working on this project, to some of Ida's descendants. Getting to be around people who share a little bit of her DNA is pretty special.

What it means to be a suff: Being a suff means not waiting your turn. (via Instagram)

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Jenn Colella

Tony Award nominee Jenn Colella represents the "old guard" of suffrage as Carrie Chapman Catt, who was concerned with fighting for women's rights in a way that wouldn't upset people in power — and finds herself butting heads with Paul, who has other ideas.

Who she plays: I play Carrie Chapman Catt, the president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. She was Susan B. Anthony’s protege and she worked tirelessly for decades to achieve votes for women. Her modus operandi was to win suffrage state by state and to achieve that goal in a ladylike fashion so that men wouldn’t dismiss the suffs as hysterical harpies.

Historical fun fact: Carrie Chapman Catt traveled the globe to fight for women’s equality and peace. She met with Gandhi, Mussolini, and many powerful figures in her lifetime. She’s buried in the Bronx next to her longtime love, Mollie Hay.

What it means to be a suff: Being a suff means believing in yourself and never doubting that you are a badass boss who has the power to elicit change.

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Ally Bonino

Ally Bonino makes her Broadway debut as Lucy Burns, a soft-spoken suffragist who finds her strength and her voice through the movement. In real life, before the events of the show, she and Paul fought for women's rights in the U.K. before continuing the movement stateside.

Who she plays: Lucy Burns is Alice Paul's right-hand woman, best friend, go-to gal.

Historical fun fact: Lucy Burns was a basketball coach! I want to say it was during [the suffrage movement] so we could put it in the show, but it was very much pre-.

What it means to be a suff: You have to be smart in how you move through the world to find a path through. There's a willingness to discover, to play around, to get things wrong, to do better the next time. Never stop never stopping.

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Hannah Cruz

Seen in the role of Ruza Wenclawska off Broadway, Hannah Cruz now steps into the shoes of Inez Milholland, a role originated by Phillipa Soo. Cruz makes her Broadway debut after becoming a familiar face off Broadway in recent shows like The Connector and Only Gold.

Who she plays: Inez Milholland is a socialite, suffragist, lawyer. She joins Alice and Lucy and becomes the face of the movement.

Historical fun fact: Inez applied to Yale, Harvard, and I believe Cornell and was denied admission because of her gender, so she went to NYU Law School.

What it means to be a suff: It is simply about standing up for what you believe in regardless of the obstacles in your way, even if they seem insurmountable. It seems trite, but if you're doing that every day, it's quite a difficult task.

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Kim Blanck

A new addition to the Suffs cast, Kim Blanck makes her Broadway debut with the show. Her character represents the working class within the suffrage movement, as in real life, she joined the cause to achieve fair treatment for female workers.

Who she plays: Ruza Wenclawska is a Polish immigrant, labor organizer, and suffragist. I like to think of her as the tough bitch backbone of the group.

Historical fun fact: Something true about Ruza that is featured in the show is that, after her career as a suffragist, she was a Broadway actress.

What it means to be a suff: A suff is someone who knows she has bigger dreams than her leaders and fights for the possibility of making those happen. And doesn't take no for an answer. And is creative!

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Nadia Dandashi

Suffragist Doris Stevens joined the movement as a college student, so it's fitting that a young actress like Nadia Dandashi, who graduated college in 2021, plays the role. Suffs off Broadway was Dandashi's first professional performing job, and she now makes her Broadway debut.

Who she plays: Doris Stevens is the young, eager secretary of the group. She writes everything down. She captures the facts and the feelings of the suffrage movement.

Historical fun fact: Doris was an artist herself; she wrote songs. She lived in the East Village; she was very bohemian. I found a song she wrote — there's no sound bite for it, but [I found] the lyrics.

What it means to be a suff: Finding strength in your community and knowing you're stronger in numbers, but also that within the numbers, your individual point of view and story and reason for fighting is just as important as the overall cause.

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Grace McLean

Broadway veteran Grace McLean is one of two Suffs performers to play a man, satirizing former President Woodrow Wilson and his opposition to suffrage — and women's advancement in general.

Who she plays: Woodrow Wilson doesn't quite care about the suffrage movement.

Historical fun fact: Woodrow Wilson is, I think, the only president who has a PhD and the only president who was the president of a university: Princeton.

What it means to be a suff: A suff is someone who takes nothing for granted: good, bad, up, down, any of it — and who knows the power of her voice and uses that power to change the status quo.

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Tsilala Brock

As Wilson's right-hand man, Dudley Malone, Tsilala Brock undergoes a journey of transformation. The actress makes her Broadway debut after originating her role off Broadway.

Who she plays: Dudley Malone, an avid supporter of Woodrow Wilson, realizes within the show that he's not really doing the kind of work that [Dudley] would want to be doing. So I publicly resign from office and become a lawyer and supporter of the suffrage movement.

Historical fun fact: Dudley Malone, after being a lawyer for the suffs, became an actor. He played Winston Churchill [in the 1943 movie Mission to Moscow]. I wanted to find his gait, so I watched the movie.

What it means to be a suff: [Being] a suff means even with your flaws, and even if you don't get all the way to where you want to go, trying your best to be a good ancestor for the next generation.

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Anastacia McCleskey

Mary Church Terrell, played by Anastacia McCleskey, may have a smaller role in Suffs, but she had a major role in history. She founded and actively shaped numerous organizations for Black and women's equality, and she was one of the first African American women to earn a college degree.

Who she plays: Mary Church Terrell is a scholar, an educator, an activist. She is a very affluent woman. She is the daughter of slaves; she was born in the year of emancipation, and she died two months after Brown vs. Board of Education. Within that time period, as a suff, she co-founded with Ida B. [Wells] the National Association of Colored Women. Through that organization, she was able to join NASA.

Historical fun fact: She spoke 6-7 languages. She was a lecturer, lecturing nationally and abroad on the trials and tribulations of Black people in America. There's a quote that I love that she says: "A lot of women ran away to get married; I ran away to teach and to educate."

What it means to be a suff: To plant the seeds so future generations can reap what you've sown.

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Emily Skinner

Tony Award nomination Emily Skinner does double duty in Suffs, playing two people who weren't directly involved in the suffs' demonstrations, but played pivotal roles in the movement behind the scenes. She is a new addition to the Suffs cast for Broadway.

Who she plays: I play Alva Belmont, who was the benefactress of the radical faction of the suffragist movement run by Alice Paul, and Phoebe Burn, the mother of Harry Burn, who cast the determining vote on the 19th Amendment when it was voted on in Tennessee.

Historical fun fact: When [Alva] was married to [William Kissam] Vanderbilt, she gave the most expensive ball ever held in America. It was attended by over 1,000 guests and cost $250,000 (about 6 million today)!

Phoebe Burn sent her son a telegram asking her son to vote for the amendment to give women the right to vote. Shaina found this telegram when doing research for this piece. The little song I sing as Phoebe is that exact telegram she set to music.

What it means to be a suff: Being a suff means being an indefatigable heroine!

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.

Interview excerpts have been condensed and edited for length and clarity.

Top image credit: The cast of Suffs on Broadway. (Photo by Jenny Anderson)

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