Two posts in one day — crazy, I know! But I just had to share with you this awesome interview I did with Danni Gee from SummerStage over email, about tonight’s FREE concert performance of The Wiz! No plans? I’m pretty sure reading this will make you want to come to Rumsey Playfield in Central Park — did I mention it’s free?
Tell me a bit about your role with SummerStage.
I am the Dance Curator for the festival and my role is to engage domestic and international dance companies and masterclass teachers for both Central Park and all five boroughs.
Last week’s Beautiful was the first running musical to perform at SummerStage. An NBC Live production of The Wiz is coming this fall, with an eye to Broadway next year. How is presenting a Broadway show in a concert setting different than a concert performance by a band or dance troupe or other performing groups?
I think just the production elements are mainly different. With a show like The Wiz, we have many moving parts including a full band with pit singers, set pieces, dancers and costume changes so we’ve all had to really come together as an organization to make this look and sound incredible. I think we will achieve that though! We have done two types of shows like this, where we cross the boundaries of live music, theater and dance and I hope to continue bringing these types of events to SummerStage.
What’s your personal history with The Wiz, and what inspired you to stage it for this summer’s festival?
The Wiz was actually the first Broadway musical I ever saw as a child! When George Faison, the show’s original choreographer (and TONY award winner!) mentioned to me that it was the 40th anniversary of the show this year it just seemed like the right thing to do. It is a historic show and has inspired many people, myself included, to become artists.
Have you worked with George Faison or Timothy Graphenreed before? What are you most excited to see about their work together on The Wiz at this performance?
I worked with George back in 1996 when he came to rehearse his ballet “Suite Otis” for The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater while I was still dancing in the company. I ran into him again years later and we discussed working together in some fashion and we came up with the Harlem Dance Caravan which was a showcase of the best and brightest in the dance community. We presented that together the past two years and had such wonderful chemistry that it seemed natural to continue that. I’ve never worked with Timothy before but seeing them in rehearsals for this event has been inspiring. They are legends in the field and know how to bring the MAGIC. So that’s what I’m looking forward….the MAGIC.
What would you most like someone who’s never been to SummerStage to know about the festival?
That it’s for EVERYONE. No matter what your taste is, we have something. With over 140 shows and 200+ artists across multiple genres there is something that appeals to everyone’s tastes. Plus when its FREE, how can you not love it?
If you were performing on Wednesday, which role would you most love to play?
Oooh, if I were dancing still, I would love to dance the role of the Eye of the Tornado!! Swirling in all of that fabric! As a singer, I would love to sing “Be A Lion” that Inaya Day, as Dorothy, is singing. And let me tell you, there won’t be a dry eye in the house!!
Thanks so much, Danni! I can’t wait for tonight’s performance! If you’re interested, doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m.! Click here for more details.
And thanks to SummerStage for the opportunity to ask Danni a few questions! Expect a full report on this performance soon.
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