Text by Roger Sands • Photography by Kristine Foley
Getting to know the Broadway star
“I’m a singer—I’m almost required to love tea,” says Ali Ewoldt, who first discovered the pleasures of afternoon tea while traveling with the national production of Les Misérables. “We were touring in major cities throughout the country, and members of the cast would often find a tearoom for afternoon tea,” she recalls. “Having tea with each other, relaxing and getting to know one another better, was really special.”
New York City’s iconic Russian Tea Room, whose venerable history dates back to 1927, provides a perfect setting for TeaTime to get to know Ali, too. Red leather banquettes and shiny bronze samovars dominate the tearoom’s radiant décor. Afternoon tea here is an idyllic way to socialize—and perhaps spot a few celebrities, such as Ali—before attending a Broadway play, sightseeing, or shopping. Since its founding by the Russian Imperial Ballet, the Russian Tea Room has been an exclusive enclave where actors, writers, and politicians gather.
After selecting a rooibos chai (a South African red bush with Indian spices) to drink from an array of six teas, Ali chooses from a variety of delectable vegetarian and seafood finger sandwiches that included shrimp salad with rémoulade, smoked Scottish salmon with chive cream cheese, and artichoke with red pepper, sun-dried tomato, and goat cheese. Other scrumptious sandwiches and blinis with caviar, such Siberian osetra, Russian osetra, hackleback, and paddlefish, are available as well. Guests can also indulge in decadent desserts, including assorted seasonal scones, petits fours, and a red velvet cupcake with luscious cream cheese icing.
Staring on Broadway as Christine in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic Phantom of the Opera, Ali believes tea has a medicinal effect on her vocal cords, which are often tired from the demands of singing in a Broadway show, and tries to sip a cup of tea before each performance. “I love chai and most green teas, especially if they’re infused with ginger, which supposedly possesses anti-inflammatory qualities. I also enjoy any type of peppermint tea,” she shares.
As a child growing up in Westchester County, not far from New York City, she would often come into the city with her parents to see a play. She fell in love with theater and musical theater at age 10 and began acting in high school. The decision to make acting a career, however, came much later as she chose to focus on academics, completing a degree in psychology at Yale University in an attempt to find another career she was similarly passionate about. When Ali secured her role in Phantom in 2016, she became the first Asian-American to play Christine on Broadway in the production’s 30-year history.