A force of nature with boundless energy and sharp as a tack, Wayne Brady has conquered live theater with memorable performances in “Kinky Boots” and as Hamilton’s antagonist, “Aaron Burr,” but is best known on television for his gift of off-the-cuff improv on “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”
The actor/dancer/singer also hosts “Let’s Make a Deal” and had a guest role on “The Bold and the Beautiful.” He brings his A game in improvisational comedy and music to the Ridgefield Playhouse on May 4 to create an interactive experience with the audience.
Andrea Valluzzo: Tell us about your show at the Ridgefield Playhouse.
Wayne Brady: It’s an evening of improvisation for fans of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” and other things I have done that are improv-based. I use the audience, I come to them, they write down song titles, I make up songs based on what they give me. I bring folks up on stage, I use them in scenes, I bring my partner with me, Jonathan Mangum, we do scenes right on the spot. It’s an unpredictable show so I don’t know what’s going to happen. They don’t know what’s going to happen. It can happen on the stage, I might jump out into the audience. There is a Q&A session, which is also improvisation as well, because it’s whatever questions that they ask and I promise to answer as honestly as I can as long as the person asks a question stands up and owns up to their question so we can have a dialogue between the two of us, which is a form of improv so the entire thing really is based on creating things in the moment.
AV: How will music be incorporated into the show?
WB: It’s improv music so I am not performing song songs, these are all songs that the audience gives me so I’ll just be creating these on the spot using any style that they suggest. When I am doing an actual concert — like just recently I finished doing a concert with the Omaha Pops and their symphony — I got the chance to do an evening of Sam Cooke and Sammy Davis Jr. music. I love doing that. I love singing with an orchestra. I also love musical theater so some of my favorite songs are musical theater songs and some of the Broadway shows I have done. I also love straight-up R&B. I just love music in its totality so I am pretty open to listening to anything.
AV: You make improv look so easy. Does it come naturally or is a learned skill you have to work at?
WB: It’s the same thing as asking a doctor, ‘Hey, how do you cut into people?’ because he’s done it. He or she is trained, that’s what they do. So this is what I do. It’s creating something on the spot. If your brain is not wired to work like that, it’s not going to work like that and that’s cool because mine is, thank goodness, and that’s why I can do this show.
AV: Where do you get your comedic inspiration?
WB: I don’t know exactly the answer to that because I’m not a stand-up comedian so it isn’t like I think I have a joke-telling style. I love the actors, like Whoopi Goldberg and John Leguizamo, Robin Williams, of course, and Jonathan Winters: actors who are always quick on their feet. They can create these worlds in their head and you see these worlds that they are creating right on the spot.
AV: You have done Broadway to TV to comedy, so is there a medium or project you have not done yet that you want to?
WB: I’m working on developing a sitcom right now for CBS. I have done lots of sitcoms but never had my own so that’s one venture that I’m looking to break into and crack, and to think also in terms of film. But I’ve been very blessed that I’ve been able to hop around and do so much in each piece of show business so I think definitely the sitcom is next on my radar.
AV: Another top bucket list item, perhaps a vacation spot?
WB: You can take a vacation when you’re finished working on the things that you got to work on, that’s kind of my mindset. And I love my job because my job fills me with creativity, versus someone who may be a pharmacist but wants to be a performer, they have to use that as their side outlet. My side outlet is my main outlet so I’m always having fun doing that. I think when I get a break, I’ll probably let my daughter decide where we’ll go for vacation, she is much better at that than I am.
AV: Final advice to people coming to your show?
WB: Come ready to give me your best suggestions and to be part of the evening. It’s definitely not like watching TV, you are in the TV!