Ari Axelrod

I was born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan to a loving Jewish family, my parents, Robin and Brad and my older brother Robert.  Growing up, Robert was the actor/singer/dancer, whereas I played football, drums and had a catering business called the Olive Branch…in the first grade.  Acting was always Robert’s thing, until the summer after second grade; I went to a theatre day camp where we did Once On This Island (I played the car). I almost immediately fell in love with that sense of creative ensemble whose purpose is to tell a story.  I felt right at home in a way I had never felt before. 

Growing up in Ann Arbor, I’ve been raised a die-hard University of Michigan sports fan.  Football, basketball, you name it.  Go Blue! I’m also just a huge sports fan in general, as proven by my watching Sports Center every morning, which has paved the way for the copious amounts of sports trivia that’s just sitting in my brain at all times. Ann Arbor, in addition to being quite the sports town, also has a large Jewish community. I take a great deal of pride in my Jewish identity: I host Shabbat dinners at my apartment as many Friday evenings as I possibly can, I’ve staffed a Birthright trip to Israel, I speak Hebrew and this year, I even went on Facebook Live to light my Chanukah candles so I could both celebrate with my family across the country and also answer any questions non-Jews had about being Jewish.

It was really eye-opening and quite meaningful! It was quite “beshert” or, kismet that my first professional credit in NYC was in a revival of Jerry Herman’s Milk and Honey, a musical about Israel, at The York Theatre Company. My dad’s friend from high school who is now a NYC based director was about to begin rehearsals for Milk and Honey around the time I was about to do my cabaret directed by Faith Prince at 54 Below. I had posted a promo video of my show in which I sing a song in Hebrew and my dad’s friend saw the post on Facebook. Because Milk and Honey takes place in Israel, he called me in for a callback.  I went in and sang a song in Hebrew, Come to Me Bend to Me from Brigadoon and Aldolpho from Drowsy Chaperone. I got the call the next week that I not only got the job but that I was going to be able to take my card.

While doing Milk and Honey, I met one of the most influential people in my life, Alix Korey. Alix and Faith, along with my collegiate voice teacher Amanda Taylor, have completely shaped my life as an artist. Faith taught me to utilize the most authentically imperfect parts of myself in any artistic endeavor, and to always be respectfully relentless. Alix taught me to appreciate the art form and it’s history.  I’m a sucker for Broadway history, and Alix and I would sit around for hours, with her telling me all of these stories from her time on Broadway. She continues to remind me to lead compassionately with my heart. Always. Amanda instilled in me an undying work ethic and a hunger to always improve. That work ethic embodies my favorite quote, “If you will it, it’s no dream.” –Theodor Herzl. I received my BFA in musical theatre from The Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University.