Not Throwing Away Her Shot: CAH Alumna Abby Jaros ’14 Blends Passions to Create Rewarding Career

By Camille Dolan ’98

In 2019, Abby Jaros, at right, was selected as a member of the UCF 30 Under 30 class. Jaros credits her parents, Jash and Terri Jaroszewicz, with unconditionally supporting her at every turn.

Building a Foundation

When Abby Jaros ’14 was growing up in Boca Raton, she always considered dancing to be a hobby; it was something she enjoyed very much, but she couldn’t imagine that it would lead to her dream career.

Her parents, Jash and Terri Jaroszewicz, had initially suggested that their only child consider a career path that was perhaps more stable than one in the performing arts. Jaros mulled marine biology, briefly.

As a student at Boca Raton Community High School, Jaros excelled in academics but also continued cultivating her affinity for theatre.

When she was a rising senior, Jaros attended the Broadway Theatre Project at the University of South Florida. The summer program, founded in 1991 by the legendary Ann Reinking and Debra McWaters, is “the world’s most prestigious musical theatre arts education program for high school and college students,” according to Playbill.

The program was not only life changing for Jaros, but also for her parents, who were in the audience for her final showcase. Before Jaros performed, program officials announced that she had been selected for the Gregory Hines Scholarship, a coveted honor that was given to students who showed artistic merit.

Jaros’s parents had of course believed in their daughter and her considerable talent, but to have such overwhelming confirmation from strangers caused them to immediately tell their daughter to pursue her dreams.

“They said they were 100 percent behind me because of getting the scholarship that day,” Jaros says. “They said, ‘We will accompany you to any audition you want to go to. Whatever you want, we will do whatever it takes.’”

Jaros was accepted into UCF’s prestigious BFA musical theatre program, where she starred as Spider Woman in the university’s production of Kiss of the Spider Woman (below), directed by Mark Brotherton. She also understudied Mae in The Pajama Game while continuing her studies in ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary and hip hop; voice training and acting.

She was intentional and focused her efforts on completing her studies as soon as possible. She graduated in December 2014, a semester ahead of plans, and three weeks later, in the dead of winter, she was living the dream in NYC.

Jaros spared herself just one moment of self-doubt before making that move. What if, she asked her parents, she was making a terrible mistake?

Her parents asked, rhetorically, ‘If not you, then who?’

Making it in NYC

According to The Broadway Collective, there are approximately 1,260 Broadway roles that need to be filled each season. There are also at least 10,000 actors who try each season to fill those roles.

Jaros wasted no time getting into the grind of a working actor. Auditions, classes, networking. She booked West Side Story and Saturday Night Fever for a company in Auburn, NY, and followed that up with joining the national tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

After that, she was asked to join the production’s international tour, which ran for two weeks in Tokyo. She was an original company member of the second national tour of Hamilton from December 2017 to March 2019.

She made NYC her home base. And as more on-camera opportunities came her way, she also began learning more about that process.

“It’s really wild how much goes into filming a short commercial,” Jaros says. Camera angles, continuity and even the acting that is involved when consuming food on camera.

Hamilton (and Abby) On Broadway!

Currently, Jaros is making magic eight times a week at the historic Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway as part of the ensemble cast of Hamilton. It’s one of many “pinch me” moments she has had since moving to NYC, and the feeling never goes away. ​

Above, Jaros signs autographs at the stage door after a performance.

“I am definitely not an ‘overnight success,’” Jaros says. “I’ve worked my tail off every day since I’ve moved here, and even now, when I walk through Times Square on the way to work, I still get the feeling of disbelief that I’m really here.”

That attitude of gratitude propels Jaros every day and has fostered her desire to give back to the community through her profession. She found the perfect opportunity through a connection that her father made in Boca Raton.

Abby Partners with the Ukelele Kids Club

“My dad works in real estate, but he is also a talented guitarist who occasionally performs at local open-mike nights in South Florida,” Jaros said.

One night, he met Corey Bergman, a musician from the area who began volunteering at local hospitals as a way of coping with the tragic loss of his son, Jared, in 2010. He wasn’t sure how he could help anyone, but he brought his guitar, and strolled around like a troubadour of sorts.

What he noticed was how his chords struck a chord with the patients and their families. Music brought a smile to everyone’s faces; it has also been shown to improve healing, not only anecdotally, but empirically.

Bergman told Jash Jaroszewicz about his newly formed nonprofit, The Ukelele Kids Club, which uses the humble ukelele to bring happiness and healing for medically fragile, hospitalized children.

Jaroszewicz knew that it was a cause that his daughter would also champion. And once Jaros connected with Bergman, she knew that she had found a cause where she could make a difference.

What Jaros envisioned was a Broadway cabaret that would help raise funds for Bergman’s nonprofit. In early 2020, she began lining up performers for the event, and had already secured support for what was planned to be a sold-out showstopper.

Then, everything shut down because of the pandemic. But Jaros knew the show must go on. The mission of UKC was too important; Bergman’s international nonprofit had already provided the gift of music and ukeleles to thousands of children.

“Music heals,” Jaros says. “Music is there when nothing else is, and has given me such happiness and peace in my own life that I knew that providing this gift to children would also change their lives.”

The ukelele is often seen backstage during performers’ down times, Jaros says. She taught herself how to play the little instrument in a day; as the Director of UKC Broadway, it wasn’t necessarily a requirement, but the ukelele has become a fun, meaningful addition to her life.

It took Jaros about a year to launch the first online UKC Broadway cabaret. She produced, cast, wrote, publicized and emceed from her NYC living room, along with the help of colleagues Marlen Rodriguez-Wolfe, Stephanie Epstein and the UKC staff. Between lining up performers and sponsors, coordinating with UKC children to include their special performances, and then launching the cabaret in April 2021, Jaros says she was amazed at how everyone with the production came together in support of UKC’s mission, and how excited they were to help spread the word about UKC, and to see the joy that music brought to  children.

To launch her branch of #UKCBroadway at The Ukulele Kids Club, Jaros also had a special dance duet with a child.

Watch Duet Video

The UKC Broadway continues to change lives. After the success of the online cabarets, Jaros knew that her dream of having a live performance to benefit the charity was something that had to happen.

They found the perfect venue for the event: The Green Room 42, located in the heart of Times Square, opened its doors to UKC Broadway, and Jaros and the #UKCBroadway Team got to work filling it with her friends and colleagues who left it all on the stage as they gave the performances of their lives for  children they may never meet.

The third cabaret on May 8 featured a silent auction that included ukeleles signed by the Jonas Brothers, and casts of Broadway blockbusters Wicked, Moulin Rouge, Dear Evan Hansen and more.

The UKC Broadway Cabaret also featured performances by Broadway’s biggest stars including Michael Thatcher, Allie Trimm, Tally Sessions, Chris Rice Thomson, Natalia Artigas, Carly Gold, Gianna Harris, and a special appearance by Annabel, a UKC Star who appeared virtually playing the ukelele.

The event also featured Tony Award-winner Laura Benanti and was hosted by Joshua Turchin, a 16-year-old multi-hyphenate performer who is also the host and creator of the hit web series, The Early Night Show.

“There is something about sharing the air with an audience that can never be replaced,” Jaros says. “The energy was incredible, and I am looking forward to the future of UKC Broadway.”

What’s Next for Abby Jaros?

Jaros doesn’t actually have more hours in the day than the rest of us, but she is determined to make the most of the opportunities that she has been given throughout her life, and to not take anything for granted. She is especially grateful to her parents for not only supporting her dreams all her life, but for also teaching her that to those who much is given, much is expected.

“I like to use my platform to give back to the world,” Jaros says. “It is so important for me to highlight the good things in the world; when someone is going through difficulties in their life, the performing arts can be a respite that can help. I am so grateful and humbled to be able to bring some moments of happiness into someone’s life.”

Despite her busy schedule, Abby Jaros often gets back to UCF for special workshops and events. Here, she stands in front of some of the costumes she work for the UCF production of Kiss of the Spider Woman.
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