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Interview with Tituss Burgess

The annual Rockers on Broadway concert, now in its 17th year, brings rock stars and Broadway stars together to raise money for charity. This year's concert will benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, Broadway Dreams Foundation, Broadway in South Africa, and The Bendheim Performing Arts Center Scholarship Fund.

Nick Orlando recently spoke with Tituss Burgess, one of the Broadway stars participating in this year's dance party. Burgess is best known for his role as Sebastian in Disney's The Little Mermaid on Broadway, and he will be seen as Caterpiller in the upcoming Broadway musical Wonderland: A New Alice. A New Musical Adventure this spring.

Nick Orlando:  Tituss, thanks for taking time out of your day to speak with me. Rockers on Broadway started in 1993. It's for a great cause. How did it come about?

Tituss Burgess:  Donnie Kerr had this great idea to bring Broadway's best together to raise money for a good cause. If my numbers are right, he raised over $100,000 so far.

NO:  You have participated in Rockers on Broadway many times over the years. What does this event mean to you?

TB:  We are doing eight shows per week, with one day off, and you need that day to rest. It is a sure-fire way to give back, to contribute artistically and to support whichever relevant cause there is to fight for at that time.

NO:  How many years have you been participating?

TB:  I think this is my fourth year.

NO:  Can you tell us what you will be performing?

TB:  Yes, I'm going to sing "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'." They put together one hell of an arrangement and I am pretty excited for that.

NO:  Do you have any funny or interesting encounters backstage with the stars at Rockers on Broadway?

TB:  Actually, it was my first year doing this and Liza Minnelli applauded for me and ran backstage. She had this 20 minute conversation with me on why she didn't know me sooner.

NO:  Who is your favorite artist?

TB:  There are so many people I admire. Right now, it's RenĂ©e Fleming. She is an opera singer. She can sing anything and get away with it. I love it.

NO:  Can you let us in on any surprises?

TB:  If this coming show is anything like past shows, there won't be a dull moment.

NO:  By the way, congratulations on your upcoming gig, Wonderland

TB:  Thank you so much. It's a great concept. Frank Wildhorn is fantastic. It will be fun to sing his music.

NO:  When did you audition for this role?

TB:  Back in August. It was around the 17th. It all happened so fast. I never heard of it. That's the way it always happens.

NO:  The musical is different from the Alice story we know.

TB:  It is very different. Alice is an adult, going through a divorce. She is a working mom, who doesn't pay attention to her family. Alice's daughter wants her to read a bedtime story and she reads her "Alice in Wonderland." To me, it's a story of the coming of age all over again.

We did a reading last week. Frank has written some really great songs. It is his signature style.

NO:  When do rehearsals start?

TB:  November 22nd.

NO:  You are playing a pre-Broadway engagement in Tampa?

TB:  Yes, I am looking forward to the warm weather! I used to work in Orlando, which is about an hour from Tampa. I will catch up with old friends. Not being in the cold will be great.

NO:  Do you think playing a caterpillar will be more fun than playing a crab?

TB:  We can't play a human anymore! My life is charmed. This will offer something in a different way. This will be equally as rewarding, but in a different way. The humor is a little more sophisticated.

NO:  What has been the highlight of your career thus far?

TB:  Every major project that has come along, I did not see it coming. Releasing my first album, I would say is the highlight, and now my second album. That is what I came to New York to do. If I could figure out a way to stop doing Broadway shows and travel around the world with my music, I would.

NO:  What kind of music will you be featuring on this album?

TB:  It's a pop album with a soul fusion. There will be two or three love songs, which we can all relate to. This will be a completely different sound than what my audience is used to.

NO:  Do you have a title for the album yet and potential release date?

TB:  It's a working title, but Life is Chromatic. We are hoping for an early spring release.

NO:  Can you tell us a little about the October 30th concert benefitting The Trevor Project, a national organization focused on suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth?

TB:  A month ago, New World Stages approached me about doing a concert with my band. I agreed, but as I was watching television, I was so disgusted by what I was seeing about bullying, etc., I thought I should make money with this concert, not for myself, but for this cause instead. I think we forget that this is an issue. We think this is out of sight and out of mind. I got friends together to help raise money for The Trevor Project.

NO:  What is your advice for people who have been bullied or victimized because of who they are or how they are perceived?

TB:  I was never a victim of such acts. I am lucky in that way. But, I have been mistreated. You have to look for escapes. Run to the nearest adult. Hopefully, they don't have the same belief system as the bullies do. A former student of mine, and now friend, came out to his parents not long ago. They were flipping out. I told him to save his money, in case his parents cut him off. Sure enough, they did. My advice is preparation. Prepare yourself—quietly put your ducks in a row. This way, you are not out in left field when you are making this announcement.

Rockers on Broadway will be playing BB King Blues Club (237 West 42nd Street) on Monday, November 8th, 2010. For more information, including a list of performers, or to purchase tickets, please visit

About the author: Nick Orlando, a top performing sales and marketing representative, has more than nine years experience in the healthcare and media industries. Within the media industry, Nick has worked for WE TV, SIRIUS Satellite Radio, WCBS-TV, Cox Radio, "Saturday Night Live," and "Live with Regis and Kelly." Drawing on his diversified experience in radio and television, which ranges from programming to production to reporting, Nick formed NICO Productions in 2006, providing news and reviewer content on various entertainment, Broadway, music, film, and television topics.

Nick was born in Brooklyn and raised in Staten Island, NY, where he completed his studies. He received his B.S. in communications and marketing from St. John's University in 2005, where he was also inducted into the Golden Key International Honour Society and Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. Nick considers traveling, theater, music and working out his favorite leisure activities. Nick currently devotes some of his personal time to volunteering with One Brick and God's Love We Deliver.

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