When she got the text that she was needed that night, “My first immediate emotion was panic, just because I was in the middle of the Atlantic. There was no way I could press the gas pedal on a plane, you know what I mean?,” Renfrow tells Inside Edition.
Actress Mikayla Renfrow has friends in some high places, along with a wish granted of sorts.
She was four hours into a flight home following a 10-day vacation to Milan, Italy, when she got a text message from stage management asking her to step into the lead role of Jasmine in "Aladdin" on Broadway. Actress Sonya Balsara, who currently plays the Disney princess, was sick, and Renfrow was the only one who could step in.
“My first immediate emotion was panic, just because I was in the middle of the Atlantic. There was no way I could press the gas pedal on a plane, you know what I mean?,” Renfrow tells Inside Edition.
Renfrow, who is in the ensemble of the musical, which is playing at the New Amsterdam Theatre, somehow worked her magic to make it happen. Around 1 or 2 p.m. EST, she turned to a flight attendant, Leicha Richardson, to see what they could do, if at all possible, and get her to the theater for a 7 p.m curtain.
“I asked the flight attendant if I could possibly get off the plane first. She brought me to the front of the plane to have a conversation and get more details. And as I shared those details, she was ready with a game plan,” Renfrow recalls.
With five-and-half hours to get to the theater (and four more hours in the air), Renfrow was ushered to first class, so she’d be the first off the plane. Then the pilot assured her he’d do everything he could to make sure she’d make it on time to the theater.
The minute Renfrow had a moment to take a deep breath and calm down from the adrenaline rush, she put on her headphones and listened to the soundtrack in order to prepare to go on. “I had been out of the show for 10 days, so I needed to be placed back into the world and reminded of what that was, and I just felt like the easiest thing to do was just listen to the music," she says.
Once the flight landed, Richardson helped her speed through customs and get onboard her own magic carpet — a helicopter from JFK airport to Manhattan. That commute, which normally could take nearly two hours in rush-hour traffic, took seven minutes. As soon as she landed, she hopped on the subway and booked it to the stage door. She had 30 minutes until showtime to get into costume and makeup.
This isn’t the first time an understudy has gone through hoops to play the starring role on a Broadway stage.
With 24 hours' notice, Carla Stickler was on a plane from Michigan to New York City during one of the worst travel days of the year to star on Broadway as Elphaba in “Wicked.” “I was like, ‘I've got to go. I've got to do this,'" she told Inside Edition.
Stickler was on her holiday vacation from her full-time job as a software engineer when she got the call on Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021. By Monday night, she was sitting in the audience at the Gershwin Theatre. Tuesday, she had rehearsals. And on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022 she put on the costume and went on stage in the leading role.
Stickler hadn’t been in the show for years. Renfrow had gone on for Jasmine about 10 times since she joined the company in March.
For Renfrow, Leicha Richardson helped one wish come true.
“The amount of times that I thought to myself that line from the show, ‘you never had a friend like me.’ That's Leicha on Delta for sure.”