Monday, June 2, 2014
Spotlight On...Jason Wise
Hometown: Outer Space
Education: Here & unfortunately there.
Select Credits: Director/Choreographer: 50th Anniversary Concert of Fiddler on the Roof honoring Sheldon Harnick starring Linda Lavin, BD Wong, Tovah Feldshuh, Stephanie J Block (Choreographer), National Tour of 4 GIRLS 4 starring Andrea McArdle, Donna McKechnie, Leslie Uggams & Faith Prince (Associate Choreographer), Bayside: The Saved By The Bell Musical starring Dennis Haskins & Dustin Diamond currently running off-Broadway at Theater 80 (Choreographer & Associate Director), Michael John LaChiusa's See What I Wanna See at The Producers Club (Director/Choreographer), Showgirls: The Musical original East Village production and subsequent off-Broadway transfer (Choreographer & Associate Director). Resident Choreographer at Ellen's Stardust Diner, home of New York's famous singing wait staff. As a performer, over 800 performances in CATS in the US, Canada, Columbia, Costa Rica, Panama, & Venezuela (Tumblebrutus) and the National Tour of Disney's Beauty & The Beast (Carpet).
Why theater?: Why NOT theater? Good question though - and I never know the answer to this when I'm asked. It's not that I'm copping out on the question, I just don't remember the literal moment when I made a conscious decision to 'join the circus'. It's just always been this way. I guess that's how you know it's just part of the universe's big master plan for this lifetime, and you can't question that - you just have to forfeit yourself to it and trust that there's a reason you'll never know about.
Tell us about Night of a Thousand Judys: Night of a Thousand Judys hits a couple of birds with one stone. First off, it gives Judy fans a 'temple' of sorts for the evening. You're only going to hear Judy Garland songs. And not just the hits your Grandma knows, the more obscure ones too. You know, the ones you geeked out about at home in your underwear on YouTube while everyone else was at the Senior Prom. Secondly, it gives Broadway talent the chance to actually sing them on a New York platform for an audience who is not passing out in their wheelchairs. It's an audience that's going to be in the palm of the performer's hand, hanging on to every note and every facial gesticulation they make. Audibly letting you know they're having a religious nervous breakdown. But more importantly, it benefits an incredible organization and I'll tell you what they do before I tell you what they're called because it's an attention getter. They provide housing and support to Homeless LGBT youth. YOUTH. Think about that for a second. Youth. Kids who are kicked out of their homes because of who they choose to love, before they are old enough to legally get a job and support themselves. The organization is The Ali Forney Center, and they deserve a round of applause.
What is it like to be a part of Night of a Thousand Judys?: I'm a big believer in a good cause, and an even bigger believer in a Judy Garland concert. I mean, my life is so hard. Having to listen to Julia Murney sing "The Man That Got Away". Come on! It's the greatest gig ever. THEN, when it's all said & done, and I'm stumbling home from the Opening Night party, and I know that we just helped a TON of kids who deserve it, and I'm sending every gay man who was in the audience skipping home with a Harold Arlen tune stuck in his head? I like making everyone happy. And I will follow Justin Sayre (the host) anywhere. He's one of those delightfully fabulous New York creatures that maybe doesn't translate outside the Metropolitan area, and you can't look away from him. He's the kind of performer that puts the New York in New York. We didn't have people like him where I'm from and I'm a big fan.
What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Big, lavish, show bizzy, shticky, hypnotically glittering, SMART, old-Broadway, New York musical comedies. Showgirls in Bob Mackies. Drum licks. Smoke and Mirrors. Quick changes. False eyelashes. Brassy pits. Sequins, Bugle Beads. Dancer Boys in Top Hats. Red Show Curtains. Ball changes, panache & pizazz - all bottled up in a Martini glass full of CLASS and TACT.
What’s your favorite showtune?: "Mame"
If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Mitzi Gaynor. I feel like we'd just have.. a mutual understanding and it wouldn't have to be a conversation. But if we're not talking about the product and we're talking about the showmance - Alan Cumming. My explanation can be summed up in his last name.
Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: My assistant who is a former Rockette, Laura Henning. She was me for Halloween one year and got more dates at that party than I ever could have. It would be called "Laura Henning is (that's above the title) JASON WISE" - with a Robert Risko drawing of me as a Sad Clown in tap shoes & an “I Love New York” t-shirt smoking a cigarette on top of the Chrysler Building with the poster lined in broken marquee bulbs. Rated R, select cinemas (they wouldn't all be able to sell it).
What show have you recommended to your friends?: La Soiree downtown. I'm not sure if it's still there? If anyone reading this saw it I feel like they just let out a big "YAAAS'". Liza likes it too, and I know this because I sat across from her and she couldn't sit still. It was this twisted burlesque vaudeville circus, and they completely morphed the inside of a proscenium theater to feel like you were inside of a Spiegelworld tent. It was a variety show that featured naked men and women, a giant bunny, a contortionist, puppets, roller skating hula hoop girls, and sword swallowers. It was an only in New York kind of entertainment. And the acts changed night to night, so you could go back and not see the same show. And I did - when I like something I go back, and I go back, and I go back and I go back. At one show a performer grabbed the beer out of my hand and chugged it mid-show, and the bartender came over and put a brand new one in my hand, all while a black drag queen dressed in a lime green onesie was singing Charlie Chaplin's “Smile.” You don't get that on Broadway today. But is that what you meant? Broadway? Anything cheap.
What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Well, the legal one is a 12" Medium Handmade Pan Pizza with Pepperoni from Domino's.
What’s the most played song on your iPod?: By numbers it says “Soul Bossa Nova” (the Austin Powers theme song) but I think that's because I fell asleep listening to it one night and it must have been mistakenly put on repeat. But by choice? It's a medley of “Theme from New York, New York /Give My Regards To Broadway” by Diahann Carroll. Perfect for those late night vodka lemonade-in-a-Dasani Bottle Manhattan walks.
What’s up next?: Good question. Actually, I'm heading over to London to meet my UK agent for a string of meetings regarding a show that hopefully is going to end up on my calendar, and I'm also doing a lot of teaching - come take my class at Broadway Dance Center! Just know if you're late, you're standing in the front.
For more, visit http://www.aliforneycenter.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=cms.page&id=1127