Actors spend their working hours embodying a character — inside out, bones to skin, head to toe. When that brass door swings open to the barricaded throng, fans meet the people behind the artistry. We get a glimpse of who these people are in "real life," and nothing says "Here I am!" like fashion. Some stars work it, others opt for comfort. Broadway is teaming with actors strutting their unique style down the nightly runway that is the stage door line.
When you get dressed to go to work, are you thinking about what you'll look like at the door afterwards?
The last time I was on Broadway there was no such thing as social media. All of a sudden I started seeing all these pictures pop up on the internet of me looking like a ragamuffin and I was like "Oh my G-d, I have to dress up everyday!" When you're doing rehearsals during the day and the show at night and [we were] in previews it's easy to be schlumpy, but even on the days I don't feel like it, I still look presentable.
My style is...Geek chic with a sort of grand fabulous flair to it — geek chic with a twist. I feel like I'm a modern representation of a dandy, and dandies are back. I'm always looking for a pop of plumage. It's a little bit about peacocking. I've always had an eye for fashion, and I've always had my own style. I'm the guy that wore the lavender parachute pants to the after-prom with a paisley shirt and a bolo tie. Maybe Anna Wintour might pay attention and invite me to the Met Ball because I'm the only one on Broadway that's dressing like that every day. Maybe she'll look at some photos and be like "Oh we need that Queen over here." They need to pay attention to Miss Portah!
I feel most myself when I'm wearing... Two summers ago I was walking to work and this girl in the street looked me up and down and she goes, "All right! You are giving us high-fashion Pinocchio realness." And I literally fell out because it's the truth! My summer outfits tend to stop traffic because my legs are out and I wear my shorts tight, so my booty is very prevalent.
My signature accessory is... Hats. I am such a hat fan. I probably have 50 hats. My friends joke with me that I always have my purse. It's a man bag, I just call it a purse. It's either a full bag or it's a little clutch. The clutch is even more of a purse.
My fashion motto... My great-Aunt Dorothy, my grandmother's sister, always said "Dress for the job you want, not the job you have." She also said, "Buy what you want, and buy it right the first time. Then you won't have to keep replacing it."
Do you enjoy greeting fans at the stage door? Do you get dressed knowing they're waiting for you?
I was definitely one of those kids that just loved Broadway, and I still have a couple of those Playbills that are signed. I try to do it as much as possible because I know that it means something to those people and I've been in their shoes. I definitely have pictures of me with Brian d'Arcy James, which is so funny because I later went on to play opposite him at New York Stage and Film. We had to kiss and I remember thinking back on that picture and being like, "Oh my God so crazy, dreams coming true." So if I'm going out somewhere after the show I will [dress up]. But if I know that I'm just going to come to the theatre and go home and veg out, I'll wear what I normally wear.
My style is... I'd say I'm a Stevie Nicks meets Coven, meets a little bit of whimsy. I'm a curvy girl and have big boobs; I just look better in stuff that's fitted. Whenever there is something peplum, anything that goes in, I gravitate towards [that]. I love shoes. I always feel like I wear a skinny black jean and a black tank top with some sort of flowy thing, and I like lots of jewelry.
My signature accessory is... I always have one long necklace on. Right now, I have two. I have my mermaid sword and then I have a B medallion because my family calls me B. It's stands for Alysha Bee. They dropped me off at preschool when I was a little kid and the ladies at the preschool — they had this little song that was Alysha Bee lives in a tree, what do you see, Alysha Bee. It just kind of caught. Just these big black ladies would be like "OOOH Alysha Bee!"
So jewelry... One thing about me is that I never match my earrings. Even on Tony night I had a pair of rhinestone earrings that said Queen for one side and then just a big silver hoop. You have two [ears], so you have more options. You don't wear the same ring on every finger, so why wear the same earring?
I cannot go anywhere without... Hand sanitizer. And, at any given time I probably have four different lipsticks or lip glosses or balms. I have to have a balm, a tinted balm, a color.
My fashion motto...You gotta show off your assets. I wear what I feel comfortable, but also confident, in.
When you get dressed to go to work, are you thinking about the door knowing that you're greeting fans?
Kind of, yeah. There are certain shirts I have that I know probably wouldn't be appropriate for stage door fans because they could be a little bit younger. I also always try to look good because the other brothers in our show look great, so I always try to come to work looking good.
My style is... I have two styles. I kind of have your regular casual street hip-hop look, but I also have always had an affinity for sparkles and bright colors. I'm usually color-coordinated. Whenever I go to red carpets, it's going to be as stylish or as sparkly as I possibly can. I was a big fan of MC Hammer and Michael Jackson as a kid.
My style reflects who I am because... I'm a bright personality, so even when wearing black or dark purple there's some part of brightness. I can't walk around in dour style. My boys think it's funny: "Dad, we can see you a mile away." I can't help it. I'm also a huge nerd, so you will see me in a Batman shirt, a Superman shirt, some sort of professional WWE shirt. If I'm wearing something dark, I'll lift up my pant leg and I have Fozzy Bear or Kermit the Frog on my socks. The nerd in me kind of conflicts with the rapper in me so you get this mesh of bright colors with cartoon characters on my shirts with these cool sneakers.
My signature accessory is... I'm a shoe man, but hoop earrings. When I was a kid I thought hoop earrings were the coolest thing in the world and so I got my ears pierced when I was 18. I was wearing hoops before I was The Genie. I feel like myself when I've got the hoops in. I could be wearing a paper bag, but I'll still feel like myself.
I cannot go anywhere without... I have a necklace with a dragon on it and it represents my wife because she was born in the year of the dragon. I always wear it. As a mater of fact, I wear it to the point where it's been incorporated into my costume. You can't see it in the show, but my microphone loops through my necklace and it kind of weighs the microphone down so it doesn't go flopping around. I can't wear my wedding ring onstage so I wear the necklace instead, so my wife is always with me.
My fashion motto is... Dude, I'm a frustrated rapper.
When you get dressed in the morning, are you thinking about coming out to the stage door and snapping fan photos?
Well, I don't change clothes to go to the theatre. It's just what I'm wearing that day. I guess I just dress up for New York. When you step out of your apartment building when you're in New York, it's like entering a pageant. You walk down the street and you'll just see the most outlandishly wonderfully fantastically attired people who go to great pains and effort to look the way they do. You have to applaud.
My style is... Dressed-for-the-occasion. Maybe I'd call myself a restrained, quiet dandy. I'm a bit mousy when it comes to my palette. I don't just grab and put on. Being an actor you naturally suffer from a benign sort of multiple personality disorder, in which it depends on how you feel.
Some of my favorite looks include... A linen suit with a boater — that's fantastic. I remember bringing my wife to the airport wearing a sola topee — one of those pith helmets, actually one of my characters wears one in the show. It just seemed like the appropriate thing to wear. You wear a top hat to a theatrical something. I have a huge collection of canes. I have four or five three-piece suits [that I wear]. Whatever the occasion demands I suppose.
My style reflects who I am because... I think it probably stems from my youth. I used to come in with my family in the late 60s and 70s and we'd go to the theatre, go to museums. It was always an event to come to New York City. We'd all get dressed up. I remember my mother wearing a hat and gloves and my father in a suit and tie. I would wear flannel shorts and knee socks and a little Quarter Masters peacoat with an insignia on it. I never forget the feeling — and I still feel it today — of coming up the stairs from one of the Connecticut New Haven Line line platforms in Grand Central Station. It just felt like the great foyer of Manhattan and all it had to offer. So that sort of ceremony of entering into New York City. I don't like to leave my house without dressing up with a hat or a tie or a jacket, especially going to the theatre because it's such an event.
I never go anywhere without... I'm always carrying a leather briefcase. I'll carry a book I'm reading, or my script, sometimes my lunch, but it's a carryall. I always feel a bit ill at ease if I'm out without my briefcase, and I'll often carry an umbrella in my other hand just to balance me out.
My fashion motto is... The theatre is my church. When you go to the theatre anything can happen and you can have a life-transforming experience at this place and be thrilled and shocked and changed forever sometimes by a play or a performance in that play. So, yes, I feel compelled to dress up for it.
How does the scene at the stage door impact what you wear? I like to be sure I feel presentable as a member of a company. You want to hold up your Broadway show, you want to hold up Broadway, you want to be presentable for yourself. There's always a bit of program-plugging that goes on. If I'm going to wear a hat, rather than a hat from the US Open, why not wear your show hat? And I always go to the stage door in my show face. It's part of my ritual of getting home and decompressing is taking off the makeup once I get home.
My style is... I like simplicity and a sense of ease and elegance about my clothing. I also like things that are properly fitted. I am not a fan of getting dressed and then having to fidget with your clothes all day — I don't have the time for it and I certainly don't have the attention for it.
My style reflects who I am because... I actually buy myself a gift for every role that I play. Right now I'm really loving what I bought for It Shoulda Been You, which is a beautiful rose gold ring with diamonds and I wear it every day, like an everyday piece, and I really love it.
My signature accessory is... When I got my first Broadway show, I promised myself I would buy a Louis Vuitton handbag that I've always wanted, and I've always loved the idea of a very small and very understated simple pinky ring. I saw one on Oprah Winfrey and I was like, "Well, if Oprah can wear one then so can I!" I picked out a very simple gold band with 12 diamonds in it, one for each month of my first year in my first Broadway show. I wear it every day.
I cannot go anywhere without... Earrings. Mascara. A proper handbag. My pinky ring and the ring I just bought for the show. But, I have to be wearing earrings. I'm not dressed until I have earrings on.
My fashion motto is... I believe in function. Also: You're not a proper lady until you acquire a set of pearls and a couple of silk scarves.