Volunteer Spotlight: Jennifer Cody
On Broadway, she’s been Rumpleteazer in Cats, Cha-Cha in Grease and a blind mouse in Shrek. Since 1995, in over a dozen editions of BROADWAY BARES, she’s played dirty girls like Christina Aguilera, mud wrestling in brown oatmeal, and Snooki, the punch-drunk pickle-eater from MTV’s "Jersey Shore."
But Jen Cody is best known for her dirtiest girl of all, the pre-teen urchin in the acerbic duo of “Officer Lockstock and Little Sally,” a part she played in Broadway’s Urinetown before making it a perennial favorite at BC/EFA’s GYPSY OF THE YEAR and EASTER BONNET Competitions, in tandem with Don Richard as the tall, gruff cop. (pictured together at left)
“Our first skit was during the run of Urinetown. It was after 9/11 and we pushed the envelope with a Taliban Beauty Pageant,” says Cody. “Now it’s been so long since Urinetown closed (in 2004), when we appear most people just think we’re this random cop and a little Indian girl in a burlap dress.”
Over the years, Jen’s fearlessness and a competitive streak have made her a terrific fundraiser for BC/EFA. Case in point, during the summer of 2009, Jen took to the streets after matinees of Shrek to raise money for the online Strip-a-thon Competition leading up to BROADWAY BARES, which she won.
“I’d explain to tourists that I was raising money ‘because I’m stripping.’ I’m sure they were confused, but they made donations anyway.” (Below right, Jen is pictured backstage at BARES 2010 with Sebastian LaCause).
On our behalf, Jen’s also coordinated fundraising efforts for countless shows – dating back to Grease in the 1990s, hosted part of BC/EFA’s Annual FLEA MARKET AND GRAND AUCTION, and jumped on a desk to sing “Everything’s Coming up Carpets” at a Karistan conference in Arizona.
“Oh, I can’t remember exactly what this was for, but Broadway Cares sent me downtown and I ended up dancing on a box at a B-52’s concert, wearing a bikini and a bouffant.”
“I was always a dance competition girl,” says Jen, who grew up in Henrietta, New York, just outside Rochester. “Basically, its nine months of eight-foot snowdrifts. My parents still live there; we’re trying to dig them out.”
Outside of dancing, her love of musicals developed while mimicking some of the comic numbers on Barbra Streisand’s early albums and from high school trips to New York City, during which Jen and her classmates would see “seven shows in four days. I remember seeing Bernadette Peters coming out of a stage door and thinking, ‘She’s little. Maybe I could do that, too.”’
After graduating from SUNY Freedonia (where at homecoming students dressed as the Marx Brothers and sang “Hail, Hail, Freedonia!” from Duck Soup), Jen found work almost immediately, playing a six-year old in a three-week benefit production of Anyone Can Whistle for Broadway Cares. While getting bumped from an audition for Guys and Dolls (too short), she caught the eye of casting director for Cats, who found her size and attitude just right for "Rumpleteazer," a role she played on tour and then at the Winter Garden.
Lloyd Webber’s musical was a lucky break in more ways that one. Since 1997 Jen’s been married to Million Dollar Quartet star Hunter Foster, "The Rum Tum Tugger" from that life-changing tour.
When they’re working, Jen and Hunter enjoy spending short weekends – Sunday night through Tuesday morning – at their lake house on Greenwood Lake, 90 minutes north of the city on the border of New York State and New Jersey.
In addition to her work for BC/EFA, Cody has made another significant effort to give back to the entertainment industry. For the past four years she’s been an active representative on the Actors Equity Council. “We meet a lot. So it can be hard to find the time, but it is important work.”
And while she’s happy to be constantly working, Cody still has more than a few unfulfilled ambitions. “I would love to star in a new musical, do a sitcom, be a stand up comic, build a house, learn to cook, travel to every country, plant a garden, climb Mount Everest, make cheese, direct a movie and adopt 100 puppies,” Jen says. “I am content with my life but I have a lot more plans ahead.”
What’s next? Playing an Italian stewardess in a production of the farce Boeing, Boeing on Cape Cod. “I can’t wait.”