5 Messages Wayne Brady Has for Freestyle Love Supreme's Broadway Audiences
Brady will lend his musical improv skills to Lin-Manuel Miranda's entirely ad-libbed show.
Nearly two years to the day after making its Broadway debut, Freestyle Love Supreme, the hip-hop improv show conceived by Lin-Manuel Miranda, is returning to the Booth Theatre October 7-January 12, 2022 to join in the celebration of Broadway's reawakening. Just like last time, the production's regulars will welcome guest performers at each show, and Wayne Brady, once again, was more than happy to nab some of those slots.
The multi-hyphenate performer has plenty to keep him busy without a Broadway schedule, but, in his own words, "How could I not want to have fun with my friends and bring improv to Broadway?" Freestyle Love Supreme is a one-of-a-kind Broadway experience, and to enjoy it to its fullest extent, here are a few pieces of information Brady thinks audiences should know from the start.
1. Improv is improv.
If you're an improv aficionado who's used to consuming your comedy fare in scrappy basement theaters at haphazard late-night hours, do not fret. Freestyle Love Supreme is the same dish, just served at a cozier establishment. "If you're in the Groundlings, Second City, Upright Citizens Brigade, Who's Line…, my own touring show— the art is the art. What makes it different is the format. This format is something unlike Broadway has ever used." When you remember that the production slated to take over the Booth Theatre after Freestyle Love Supreme's first Broadway run was a revival of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, that point is put into stark relief. If anything, this could be your one chance to do as much shouting in a Broadway theater as Martha and George.
2. Don't be shy!
When a show calls for participation, audiences tend to tread lightly. After all, if you've ever been heckled by a comedian, or mocked by a magician, or molested by a Cabaret Emcee, you know the risks. Brady, however, would like you to shed all your past participatory traumas and arrive willing to share your personal stories without reservation. "Come with an open mind," he says. "Come with an open mind and just know, especially in a show like Freestyle Love Supreme, 'love' is there in the title for a reason. We love doing the show. We love the audience. We are never there to make the audience feel bad or stupid."
3. Brady's work for the Broadway community does not end when the curtain comes down.
Freestyle Love Supreme marks Brady's third Broadway credit, following his 2004 turn as Billy Flynn in Chicago and his 2015 and 2018 runs as Lola in Kinky Boots. He of course also performed the role of Aaron Burr in the Chicago run of Hamilton in 2017, and you may have seen him sing the role of Django in the viral TikTok musical Ratatouille last winter. Though he considers himself a relative Broadway newcomer, the Drama League acknowledged his contributions to the community with an invitation to join its National Advisory Council, and it plans to honor him at the organization's annual fall benefit on October 18. As a member of the Advisory Council, as well as the Broadway community at large, Brady says he hopes to move the needle in terms of inclusive, representative, and fresh storytelling. "I don't need to see another Oklahoma! Nothing against Oklahoma!," says Brady, commenting on the fears of those who would rather resist moving away from old traditions. But that very project is how he characterizes his work. "That's all I've ever wanted since I was a kid — to see stories of people who looked like me. All of our stories."
4. Phoning it in is not an option.
There are no lines to memorize or character traits to sculpt for a performance of Freestyle Love Supreme. But that doesn't mean Brady can simply roll out of bed and hop onstage. "At the end of doing any type of improvisational show, especially an improvisational musical, I find that I am weary because of all the mental expenditure," Brady explains. "You always have to be listening. In any improvisational piece, you have to be completely ready at a moment's notice to change." He acknowledges that listening is key to any scripted show as well — and gives a special nod to the physical challenges Aaron Burr and Lola uniquely presented ("Doing Kinky Boots…oh my God, I couldn't even think about going out. I had to ice my feet and sleep.") However, there is no wiggle room in terms of not being present and 100 percent engaged during a Freestyle Love Supreme show. "You can't check out during an improv show," he says. What happens when you press him to think if there has been even a single moment in his improv career when he may have let his mind wander? He misses no beats before declaring, "Absolutely not. Absolutely not."
5. He's having a blast.
Brady was inducted into the Freestyle family several years ago when he played Lin-Manuel Miranda's boss in a sitcom pilot that centered around the improv group. "It has never been seen by the general public, but it's great," says Brady. So performing with the members of FLS is more like a reunion than a job to him. "Doing something with those guys, it's just having fun with your friends. The fun that you're having just happens to be a great show." The last missing piece, Brady says, is the audience. "You can do all the press and rehearsal — but it's not real until you can hear the audience. That's when we'll know we're back."