Communication alum Claire Kwon announces Broadway debut with ‘Almost Famous’


Photo courtesy of Claire Kwon

Actor and singer Claire Kwon (Communication ’22) will make her Broadway debut in the movie-based musical “Almost Famous” in November.

Jenna Wang, Assistant A&E Editor

Since her Northwestern acting debut, performing on Broadway has always been a goal for Claire Kwon (Communication ’22). However, she never knew how fast the opportunity would arise after graduation. 

“It’s hard to graduate and be like ‘Okay, I’m going to audition and hope that things work out,’” Kwon said. “It was also excitement and like, ‘Oh my gosh, I finally did it. I finally achieved this goal and now, the real work begins.’”

As a swing performer, Kwon will understudy five roles in “Almost Famous” come November. The movie-based musical is about aspiring music journalist William Miller, who finds himself in a rock ‘n’ roll circus in the ’70s and meets a series of unforgettable characters along the way.

As a child who shied away from the spotlight, the New Jersey native said she never imagined pursuing theatre professionally.

Thanks to her mom’s support as a piano teacher and to her elementary school best friend who kickstarted her love of musicals, she came to NU wanting to study theatre as a hobby. However, her professors said they could sense her career-altering potential before Kwon realized it herself. 

Before Communication Prof. David Catlin taught Kwon in his acting sequence, he said Kwon’s initiative to introduce herself while she worked in house management for a show impressed him. 

“I actually remember meeting her more than I remember the show,” Catlin said. “Because she’s so present and full of life, she was incredibly memorable.” 

He said Kwon has a “luminous energy” she brings into every space. Although he didn’t know the full scope of her talents back then, Catlin said he is not surprised by her Broadway debut. 

“It makes all kinds of sense to me,” Catlin said. “I think once the world and directors discover how terrific she is to be in a creative space with, they’re going to fight hard to get her in their plays and productions.” 

Communication Prof. Kelli Morgan McHugh also recalled Kwon’s talent before teaching her. She said she felt like she drew “the golden ticket” upon discovering Kwon was assigned to her vocal studio. 

After seeing Kwon perform in an NU production of “Fun Home,” McHugh said she told her husband Kwon was better in the role than multiple actors she watched on Broadway. Kwon was a sophomore at the time.

“My running line is that Claire Kwon is a national treasure,” McHugh said. “From the moment she stepped onstage, I remember being entranced, thinking there’s no way Claire’s not going to have an incredible career because she’s magic on stage.” 

As an upperclassman, Kwon grappled with the idea of performing professionally. She said she worried about the new emotional element she would have: becoming comfortable with rejection and not knowing when her next gig would come. 

When the pandemic hit, focusing on her theatre work at NU gave her clarity about narrowing her professional directions, Kwon said. 

“There is merit in me being like, ‘Performing is something that I want to do because I’m not actually spending my time working on marketing projects or reading economics textbooks,’” she said. “I had to really bring myself to a place where I’m like, ‘I believe that I can do this and I’m going to try.’”

Though Kwon said she first faced imposter syndrome when rehearsing with other Broadway professionals, she said she felt lucky to work with people who seek to create joy and generate empathy. 

The support and inclusivity of the cast and creative team of “Almost Famous” have helped Kwon realize she is meant to be exactly where she is, she said. 

“Something I love about theatre is it’s given me a home,” Kwon said. “It’s become my community of people where we can celebrate the good in life.” 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jennajwang

Related Stories:

Communication alumni Bryan Eng makes his debut on Broadway with ‘Plaza Suite’

A year into the pandemic, Imagine U’s virtual storytimes continue to evolve

“Fun Home” brings a queer narrative to Northwestern’s campus