Wayne Brady is BIG on Improv

“It’s what I have always done,” said three-time Emmy Award winner Wayne Brady when asked why he had a passion for musical theater. Brady just completed a run as Lola in the Tony Award-winning “Kinky Boots” in March.

“A plumber doesn’t have a passion for being a plumber; it’s what they do well. I am a musical theater performer. It’s something I’ve always done well. It’s a childhood dream that has come true,” he said.

The comedian and TV personality returned to his first love in the Broadway production of “Chicago” in 2004, when he played lawyer Billy Flynn, and in 2010, when he performed as Tom Collins in the Neil Patrick Harris-directed production of “Rent” at the Hollywood Bowl. I asked Brady if he had a bucket list of roles that he’d love to play. With little hesitation, he shared, “Don Quixote in ‘Man of La Mancha,’ ‘Jelly’s Last Jam,’ ‘Shuffle Along,’ which is running right now, Jim in ‘Big River.’ Really the whole thing is a bucket list. If you’re an actor, as long as you’re alive, there’ll be roles you want to play.”

Most people know Brady for his razor-sharp improv skills. I asked what that brings to a live performer’s skill set.

“Beyond a shadow of a doubt, it is an incredible tool and it’s been good to me,” he shared. “Many people today will say, ‘I’m going to do improv.’ Improv is and it isn’t its own thing. For me it’s a tool, a great tool, and it has got me out of many an awkward live moment. As an actor, I’m going to explore everything I can get my hands on.”

From cruise ships to theme park shows with Disney and Universal, to weddings and bar mitzvahs, Brady expounded, “Whatever it takes to get on stage.”

I shared that my favorite project of his was the “Chappelle’s Show” sketch, where he played an out-of-character gangster version of himself, and asked how it came about.

“We had a blast,” he said. “I had been a (Dave) Chappelle fan long before his sketch comedy show. When Paul Mooney made a joke about me, I was offended, so I spoke with the writers and said, ‘If you’re going to make fun of me, it’s got to be funnier.’ We met and wrote the sketch in two days and then shot the whole thing in one night in New York. When you’re doing something you dig, it’s not work, it’s just playing. To go back to your question about improv, it is the same thing. I started in improv as a kid without knowing it and Dave and I just played. Those opportunities don’t happen every day, and those are the days when a job equals fun.”

Brady has a busy 2017 planned. In addition to his four TV shows, the new improv-infused “Let’s Make a Deal”; “Whose Line Is It Anyway” on the CW network; Kevin Hart’s “The Real Husbands of Hollywood”; and voicing Clover the Rabbit on the Disney Channel’s “Sophia the First,” he is developing a new music-based improv game show for CW as well as a new sitcom. He also has two theater projects in the works.

“I can’t say too much about it; it will open in the fall in L.A., and it’s a big deal,” he shared. “I’m also participating in a ‘Smokey Joe’s Cafe’ workshop, which could be coming back to Broadway next season, and I also have a new album planned for 2017.”

I asked what Maui audience members can expect in tonight’s show.

“The same thing I’ve been doing on TV for years,” he replied. “If you’ve never seen me, expect an improv rock concert from the moment I hit the stage to the time I leave. I’ll start with an improv freestyle song from audience suggestions to leave no doubt on whether my shows are scripted. Then for the next hour and a half, I’m pulling the audience on stage for scenes, using them as props and sound effects. There’s nothing like Hawaii, and Maui’s a gem. The people couldn’t be any nicer, and I’m ready.”

ALSO THIS WEEKEND

The Maui Theatre in Lahaina continues “Magic on Maui” starring Seth Grabel. The Las Vegas-based magician will showcase his magic and comedy skills in this production created especially for the Maui Theatre.

* Performances are at 7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through July 10 at the Maui Theatre. Tickets range from $49 to $99 and are available by calling 856-7900 or visiting www.mauitheatre.com.

UPCOMING

Maui OnStage presents Monty Python’s “Spamalot,” directed by Steven Dascoulias, choreographed by Kalani Whitford and under the musical direction of Vania Jerome.

Lovingly ripped off from the classic film comedy “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” “Spamalot” retells the legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, and features a bevy of beautiful showgirls, not to mention cows, killer rabbits and French people.

* Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and at 3 p.m. Sundays, from July 8 through 31 at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku. Tickets range from $20 to $40 and are available by calling 242-6969 or online at www.mauionstage.com.

***

Lovingly ripped off from the classic film comedy “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” “Spamalot” retells the legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, and features a bevy of beautiful showgirls, not to mention cows, killer rabbits and French people.

* Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and at 3 p.m. Sundays, from July 8 through 31 at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku. Tickets range from $20 to $40 and are available by calling 242-6969 or online at www.mauionstage.com.