And the Tony Nominees Are…

S2019 E10 | FULL EPISODE

Michael McElroy, Founder of Broadway Inspirational Voices

In this episode of “And the Tony Nominees Are…”Michael McElroy, the founder of Broadway Inspirational Voices, which is received the Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theater, shares the childhood experience of seeing Lillias White in “The Wiz” and trying to find ways to hold on to it, and why Broadway Inspirational Voices was started.

AIRED: June 09, 2019 | 0:04:50
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TRANSCRIPT

All of my time was really spent going to see shows,

like I saw, when I was very little,

I saw Leslie Uggams in the national tour

of "West Side Story" playing Maria.

And so, then I would go home and I would take the batteries,

the C batteries,

and I would set them up as the Sharks and the Jets,

and I would reenact those moments.

♪♪

All of my time was really spent going to see shows,

My name is Michael McElroy, and I am the Artistic Director

and Founder of Broadway Inspirational Voices,

and we are receiving the 2019

Tony Honor for Excellence in Theatre.

I saw Lillias White in "The Wiz" play Dorothy when she was like,

you know, in her late teens, early 20s.

And then I would go home and I would reenact those moments.

And so I lived in the scene of the theater,

and then trying to find ways to hold onto it.

I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio,

in a suburb called Shaker Heights,

the Most Livable City.

I was surrounded by music.

My mom was a musician, a pianist.

My grandmother, my sister, my brother, my uncle,

and I grew up in my grandfather's church,

so I grew up playing and singing in the choirs at church,

but also had an uncle who loved theater.

My uncle would come to town every summer,

and he would musical-direct shows,

and so he would take me to the rehearsals,

and he would take me to the performances.

And I had a lot of energy when I was little,

and the theater -- it was the only place where,

when those lights went down, I didn't move.

And I could just be there, all day,

every day if you would let me.

Music was, like, between the gospel music

and the musical theater and the R&B of the '60s and '70s,

when my mom used to host like card parties

and everybody looked so fabulous in their dashikis

and Afros, and they'd come over and smoke cool cigarettes

and play bid whist

or whatever they played.

But I was just surrounded by great music.

I was always taken to see national tours of shows

that came into our city.

And the first one I remember seeing was "Porgy and Bess",

and I think I was eight years old,

and I remember very clearly, in that moment,

seeing people who looked like me on stage

and making the connection of that's something that I can do

and it's something that I want to do.

And so, it took me a while because I loved music so much,

and I loved theater to figure out which path I wanted to go.

But I just loved the community of what theatre was

and what it had the ability to do,

how it had the ability to transform,

how it had the ability to make me feel something

and make me feel less alone

with who I was in the environment where I was.

It started out of something very painful,

out of the AIDS crisis and coming here

and having friends who were passing away

and wanting to do something that was inspirational

and what I knew was gospel music.

Besides representing a diverse group of performers,

that represent different beliefs,

racial identities, sexual identities --

that's a big part of when I started in 1994,

that we look like a community of many different backgrounds.

We felt it was important

that we give back to the community,

to the next generation of artists.

We all recognized, as a community of actors,

of singers -- we realized that we were where we are

because there were mentors and teachers and programs

where someone saw something in us and said, "I see you.

I see something that you have, and I want to cultivate it.

I want to challenge you. I want to mentor you."

So it's important to us to be in spaces

where there are underserved populations,

where there are young people

who are dealing with circumstances

that are sometimes dire,

to let them know that there is support

and also to cultivate that spark that may be in them.

♪♪

All of my time was really spent going to see shows,

All of my time was really spent going to see shows,

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