Ilana Ransom Toeplitz
Last November, The Prom opened on Broadway. During pre-show arrivals, the cast and crew broke out into applause upon the entrance of an emerging star on its directing/choreographing team: our Spotlight talent, Ilana. She was wearing a silver gown from our Jason Wu x ELOQUII line and its combination of front-twist detail and plunging neckline gave her a next-level look. She told us that for her first Broadway show opening she had worn a black dress - but this time, in this metallic dress, she felt truly special. When I heard this, I knew our team’s goal: To make her feel the same way in every look she modeled on set.
Ilana Ransom Toeplitz and her Broadway Breakthrough
The life of a director/choreographer at the highest echelon requires resilience and tenacity. If you’re Ilana Ransom Toeplitz, it also requires equal amounts offstage party dresses and onstage workout gear. We catch up with this emerging star/casual hiker/wine lover as she plans to take her moves and her looks on the road this year.
Ilana wanted to work on Broadway since she was 3 years old. Now, she’s directed and choreographed under the gleam of Times Square not just once but twice. Her Playbills there include both plays (Violet, 2014) and musical comedies (The Prom, 2018) - not to mention work at Lincoln Center, Tanglewood and on national tours. Now that she’s met her goal, she’s got another: Be the director at a regional theater that specializes in new musicals. This explains why she worked in South Carolina last year and is headed to Connecticut and Florida to kick off 2019. Though the climates couldn’t be more different, she packs the same work uniform - all-black workout gear and a baseball cap - plus, dresses for when she’s off duty. Since she’s got the rehearsal look covered, we focused our Spotlight shoot on offstage looks that let her be the leading lady.
The truth is: She plays the lead in the musical that is her life. “Honestly, yes. I do feel like I live in a musical,” Ilana affirms.
“I live in a heightened world with big expectations. And I love a dance, song and meaningful message at the end of the day. I’m a closeted romantic.” So don’t be surprised to find out there is an official IRT soundtrack (Ilana Ransom Toeplitz) and, yes, we played it on the Spotlight set. It’s a shared Spotify playlist of all the songs that have been a backdrop to her onstage work. It’s perfect for her favorite workout: spin. (And when she’s not listening to her own music for spin, you can find her at “Hamil-spin,” the SoulCycle class that only plays songs from Hamilton) So, yes, the Oklahoma! “Overture” was a true motivator for a few smizes as our model sported new maxis, midis and peplums. These styles played off her self-described colorful, feminine and preppy personal style - a signature she’s had since she was young.
“I would wear a party dress to Kindergarten on a Tuesday,” she shares proudly.
If you know Ilana, you know she’s not afraid of a bright bright or a big print. So it was no surprise that she felt most herself on set in rubies, florals and colorblocked numbers. Take, for instance, the floral maxi wrap dress. She’s channeling summer in it already and picturing a loose-haired look with a slouchy boot to punctuate the ensemble. As at ease in printed looks with a bit more structure, she points to the belted blazer as the perfect pairing piece for her favorite city-worn jeans. One fashion requirement for this New Yorker is the ability to go from practice to dinner to drinks. The blazer checks this box - as does the cross-front shirt with contrast panels that add interest. Plus, its easy-on cut looks polished and feels relaxed - a vibe Ilana seems to strive for herself.
When we ask her how she recharges, she answers without hesitation, “Great question. Wine.”
The theatrical career comedian smiles and elaborates that she also finds her peace among friends outside the industry. She describes this geographically scattered crew as “muggles” (a “Harry Potter” reference to non-wizards) and says they always give her a broader perspective that contributes to her peace of mind. The bonus? She gets to listen and not talk. After a day where a whole room of people is looking to her for what to do and how to do it, she’s most relaxed by becoming the audience herself. This is also why she goes to see other shows.
“It’s really easy in this business to only be friends with each other,” says our Spotlight model. She knows something about insular communities after growing up in a musical one. Her lineage is filled with a flutist grandfather, orchestra-managing father and singer-songwriter mother. “You better believe my father tried to make us play every instrument,” she recalls. He also played Israeli musicals for them like “Hello, Dolly!” and “My Fair Lady.” These types of productions are what had the biggest impression on a young Ilana. “I was obsessed with ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and I loved dressing up like Dorothy,” says Ilana.
“I’m proud to be doing what I always dreamed of doing.”
To get here, she’s focused on staying true to herself and working with the best. There’s no denying the upside of working hand in hand with Tony award-winning director/choreographers that Ilana has - including Susan Stroman (on Crazy for You) and Casey Nicholaw (on The Prom). In particular, she’ll never forget how Stroman influenced her to ask the hard questions - the ones everyone is afraid to ask. “I believe in integrity and putting that first and, despite all the drama, I’ve stayed true to who I am,” Ilana says knowingly.
This year, she’s taking this insight and self-belief on the road.
While she’s traveled to assist in the past, now she’s ready to take the reins. She showed what she’s got last summer in Hilton Head Island when she was the lead on a new musical at Southeastern Summer Theatre Institute. “I’m entering a new chapter now - directing and choreographing regionally. It’s a lot but it’s also a dream come true. I get to go to mid-size cities with a lot of character and see their way of life and their perspective,” explains the go-getter with four productions on her calendar in the next nine months. Not including two of the gigs she’s most excited about this year: choreographing the first dance for two newly engaged friends.
How do you define success?
Success is not how much money I have in my bank account or how many awards are on my shelf or how fancy my friends are. It’s who I am and where I am and who’s surrounding me.
Who are your style icons?
I’d call her a confidence icon - for me, it’s Ashley Graham. She’s beautiful the way she is.
What’s your perfect Saturday?
I’m in the Berkshires in summertime. I hike up Monument Mountain or listen to a morning podcast and enjoy a cheese and charcuterie basket. I put on my maxi dress and go to Tanglewood to sit and hear the Boston Symphony play classical music in an idyllic setting. Oh, by the way, there’s a lot of wine on this day.
What prints and colors are you drawn to?
Yellow, navy and gingham
What trends are you excited about this season?
Mixing patterns and rocking cowboy boots. As a New Yorker and a dancer, I’m all about a fashionable boot with a sensible heel.
Ready to throw on your dancing heels? Shop Ilana’s favorites and all of our newest arrivals on your next shopping spree!