You know that uncle that comes to family reunions and brings his tiny dog and ridiculously amazing dance expertise? No? Well, the DMR family has someone like this. He’s Brad Bass, and yes, he did bring those things. He worked with the ladies on a cheerleading number, and with the gentlemen on a completely different dance style. He provided great feedback on our show, which opens in one week. During this busy visit, I was able to snag Brad for a quick interview.
Q: Did you learn to dance growing up or did you learn as an adult?
Here’s a funny story…well, not really funny. It’s kinda sad. I always danced growing up. In my house, I made up routines, I did all sorts of things. So my mom tried to sign me up and get me in dance classes, and the dance studios in my hometown wouldn’t allow boys to dance. The first dance class I ever took was when I went to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York when I was eighteen.
Q: Were you ever teased as a boy for liking dance?
I think I hid it from people. [They would’ve] for sure. I grew up in the deep south, and boys were supposed to be farmers and sports players; meanwhile I wanted to do cartwheels and pirouettes.
Q: What is your favorite role that you’ve ever gotten?
Playing Hughie Calhoun in Memphis was my favorite role. It was the most challenging thing I’ve ever done in my life. It was vocally an extreme challenge, physically a challenge, emotionally a challenge, and you know, you combine all that. And he’s onstage almost the entire show. It was really difficult and super rewarding.
Q: What was it like getting cast in your first Broadway show?
Wow. Getting cast in my first Broadway show is interesting, because I got cast in the Chicago company of Wicked, and that was like being on Broadway, really. It was the same production, just living in Chicago. I did that for a little over a year and then they brought me to the Broadway company. So I was 26 when I made my Broadway debut. And I was, you know…dream come true.
Q: Do you like dancing more than acting or singing, or is it the same?
No, I don’t like dancing as much, because my body hurts! All the time. I really like acting first, and I love to sing, but I think if you’re not a good actor, who cares?
Q: Do you prefer working behind the scenes as a choreographer, or onstage as a performer?
I prefer working behind the scenes. The older I’ve gotten, the less I like to be in front of a group. Helping create something is my way of being a part of it without actually having to have my face on it.
Q: Do you prefer working with children or adults?
I prefer working with young adults. By young adults I mean 11 to 18. That’s my favorite group of people to work with. The reason is, young adults are very receptive and willing to try anything. And once they enter college…they’re not as fun to work with anymore. I teach at a university. There is a sense of entitlement that follows everybody. I [also] like working with professionals.
Q: Tell me a little about The Collins Boy.
It is a musical that I’ve been developing for the last two and a half years with my writing partner, and it’s based on a true story about a woman in 1928, a single mother whose son goes missing. It’s at the height of the LAPD [Los Angeles Police Department] corruption scandals that went on. Five months into him missing it gets national attention, and the police say “We found your son”, and when they bring him home, it’s not her son. She tells them “That’s not my son”, and they tell her it is, and she has to take him home. She actually took him home. She tried to will herself into believing it was her son and she couldn’t do it because she knew it wasn’t her son, [so] she goes to the police and says “I’m not caring for this stranger”, and a lot of stuff happens.
Q: What made you want to write this story?
When I read about this story, it spoke to me. I think musical theater is a heightened form of storytelling. To tell a story through music, it has to somewhat be fantastical, for lack of a better word. This story was so unbelievable to me that…it sings. It sings. A lot of people think that, oh, a story about a missing kid? A musical? But it works. It sings. The emotions, the heightened emotions…even the story itself. It’s unbelievable, and that’s why I think it works.
Q: Why is musical theater so important to you?
Musical theater, I think, saved my life. As a 13-year-old boy, discovering musical theater; as a 13-year-old gay kid, who didn’t know how to be himself, I immediately felt like [in] musical theater, I belonged somewhere. It completes me, as a person. A lot of people don’t get it. I just think they’re dumb. A lot of people say, “Oh, I don’t like musicals”, and I immediately think to myself, oh, so you’re just not smart enough to get it. I always wanted to be on Broadway, and I did it, and I became very disenchanted with the theater and left New York. And now writing musical theater, has, in turn, saved my life all over again.
Q: What is your advice for others who wish to step into this career?
I have two pieces of advice. The first one is…if there’s anything that you love doing just as much as singing, acting, or dancing, go do that other thing. That’s my advice. If you want to sing, act, or dance more than anything else in the world, then that’s what you have to go do. If you like working with animals just as much as you like singing, then you need to go and work with animals because you’ll get a paycheck being a veterinarian every week, instead of living on pasta with no sauce and peanut butter crackers because you’re broke as a joke. But if you are willing to be broke as a joke just to be singing at an audition and 6am, waiting in line, then that’s what you’re meant to be doing for the rest of your life. That’s my advice. If you love something just as much as you love theater, go do that other something. That’s my first thing. Second thing is: stop comparing yourself to other people, and start competing with yourself, and no one else.
Me and Brad Bass, 2016
Brad Bass working with the ladies on Opportunity