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5 Questions: Billy Porter on Past, Present, and Pose

The Broadway star's latest projects offer a twist on Richard Rodgers and time-travel back to the '80s.

This weekend, Tony Award winner Billy Porter heads to the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts in Los Angeles to perform songs from his 2017 album, The Soul of Richard Rodgers. With shows like Oklahoma, The Sound of Music, Carousel, and South Pacific to his name, Richard Rodgers is responsible for some of the most iconic showtunes in musical-theater history, and Porter has reimagined them with a soulful twist.

Porter's LA concert is set for June 2, but 24 hours later he'll be celebrating his debut in the premiere of Pose, Ryan Murphy's new FX series that delves into the ball culture of 1980s New York (a fitting follow-up to his Tony-winning role as Lola in Kinky Boots). The actor and activist, recently recognized by the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles with the Courageous Voice Award, has his hand in a lot of projects, but he took some time to answer TheaterMania's five questions.

Billy Porter sings songs from his album The Soul of Richard Rodgers on June 2 at the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts in Los Angeles.
(© Ron Cadiz for Sony Music Entertainment)

1. Which Richard Rodgers song are you most excited for your Los Angeles audience to hear in a brand-new way?
All of the arrangements are so unique and freshly urban-contemporary-music-based that I'm excited for all of them.

2. Growing up, what was your favorite Richard Rodgers song to listen to?
"Edelweiss."

3. Pose explores the ball culture of 1980s New York. What, if any, exposure did you have to that world?
I came out as a teenager in the '80s. The documentary Paris Is Burning came out while I was in college. As a young black gay man, this was pretty much the only representation we had of ourselves. I moved to New York and found the scene.

4. The first episode of Pose airs the day after your concert. Do you have any viewing-party plans?
I'll be flying back to NYC. I have to shoot the next morning. But I'll do something small.

5. You recently received the Courageous Voice Award from the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles. What does it mean to you to be a considered an icon to gay and black youth?
I'm humbled. I'm honored. It's my life's work.

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