Allstate Sugar Bowl 2020 – National Anthem
Photo by Wally Porter
Music has been referred to as the heartbeat of New Orleans. At every turn in the vibrant city, visitors’ ears will be tickled by some type of music, whether it be brass bands, plastic drum barrels, tapping shoes, rock and roll, the blues or the amazing sounds of jazz which were invented here in the city. With such a tremendous music background, it’s only fitting that the singing of the national anthem at the iconic Allstate Sugar Bowl will be handled by a local.
Leslie Castay is a multi-talented Broadway, television and film actress. She is also a graduate of Uptown’s Ursuline Academy, which was founded in 1727 and is the oldest continuously-operating school for girls in the country.
Castay’s dazzling résumé includes appearing on Broadway in performances such as 42nd Street, 3Penny Opera, Guys and Dolls and Beauty and the Beast. She has also been a soloist at Carnegie Hall with the New York Pops and has starred in numerous national tours, Off-Broadway and regional productions.
Even with her impressive performance credits, she shows her excitement to perform tonight’s Star-Spangled Banner.
“Having grown up here and following football, the Sugar Bowl looms large in my childhood,” Castay said. “It’s such an honor to be asked to do it. I really can’t wait. The Sugar Bowl is iconic and it’s a jewel in the crown of college football.”
Castay has extensive experience performing the national anthem, but a massive indoor venue like the Mercedes-Benz Superdome presents unique challenges.
“I’ve sung the national anthem previously at the Superdome and it’s always quite fun,” she said. “The reverb is so wild. I’ve sung in large arenas before – Camden Yards in Baltimore, Candlestick Park in San Francisco. But when I was first on the floor of the Superdome and started singing and actually heard my voice coming back at me, much louder than I was actually singing, it was quite an experience. I’ll be prepared for that this time.”
Now based in New Orleans, Castay is a multiple Big Easy award-winning actress who performs extensively with local companies such as Southern Rep, Le Petit, New Orleans Opera, Summer Lyric Theatre and the NOLA Project. Her acclaimed cabaret shows have played to sold out audiences at Le Chat Noir, the Little Gem Saloon, and the New Orleans Shakespeare Festival. Castay’s film and TV credits include The Big Short, Green Book, Beautiful Creatures, and recurring and guest starring roles on Good Girls, NCIS:New Orleans, Cloak and Dagger, The Purge, Common Law, and American Horror Story.
“I’ve been so lucky to have such a wide-variety of performing experiences in my life,” she said. “I love feeling a connection with a crowd, when they’re right there with you. I’ll never forget the first time I stepped out in a leading role on Broadway (Guys and Dolls). It was thrilling; there’s nothing like that.”
Most recently, Castay directed her own musical – Mandatory Merriment at Southern Rep Theater in New Orleans.
“It’s a homegrown original musical about five New Orleans characters stranded in a bar for three days before Christmas,” she said. “Lots of hijinx ensue. We had great singing and a lot of jokes. It was a lot of fun.”
For tonight, expect a traditional style national anthem.
“I like it classic; it will be a nice, contemporary, full-throated sound. It’s a challenging piece, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s thrilling for me.”