When young Broadway actress Mikayla Renfrow’s Delta Air Lines flight to New York from Europe was delayed, the casting director of Aladdin texted her not to worry. They’d find someone else to fill her spot in the ensemble for that night. But four hours into the flight, she got another text. Renfrow is also the understudy for actress Sonja Bolsara in the lead role of Jasmine, and Bolsara had taken ill. Could Renfrow get to the theater on time for the 7 p.m. curtain? The flight’s ETA at JFK was 5 pm.
Renfrow explained the situation to a flight attendant (so far, only identified as “Leisha”), desperately hoping for a seat nearer the front of the plane for a hasty exit. What she got was a lot more than that.
When Leisha notified the flight crew of the situation, the pilots first arranged for a gate closer to Customs, then asked if Renfrow was aware of Blade’s helicopter service from JFK to Manhattan. “I’m a normal person,” she told Playbill magazine. “I have no idea what that is. I was shocked that they cared.” The Delta crew booked her for the seven-minute ride to Manhattan—price $175, which the Aladdin casting director gladly paid. Perhaps the bargain of a lifetime for the Broadway hopeful.
For the rest of the flight, Renfrow tried to relax and rest up for her opportunity. The captain came back for a visit, cheering her on with her adventure. After landing (one can likely assume there was some throttle-bending and negotiations with ATC from the seats up front), Delta staff members whisked the young actress through Customs and into a car to take her to her Blade flight. Just like in … a Broadway show, she arrived at the stage door of the New Amsterdam Theater 30 minutes before curtain, not a minute to spare for getting into costume and makeup.
After the drama just to get her there, performing on stage might have felt like an anticlimax. But Renfrow told Playbill, “There were a lot of moments during that show where I was [thinking], ‘I’m going to open my mouth and hope the right thing comes out.”
After the final curtain, she was surprised to see Leisha, still in uniform, waiting to congratulate her on her performance. The theater had comped her a ticket. “It was just special moment after special moment after special moment,” Renfrow said.
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