Out Music: David Hernandez & Benji Schwimmer Dance It Out In ‘ILY.’

Benji Schwimmer and David Hernandez in "ILY."
Benji Schwimmer and David Hernandez in "ILY."
Benji Schwimmer and David Hernandez in “ILY.”

Former American Idol David Hernandez drops his new summer anthem, “ILY.” with an powerful message of how vital it is that we love one another for who and what we are.

“ILY. is not pronoun specific and that was intentional,” Hernandez points out. The initial pre-chorus was written as “I wouldn’t be the man I am if it weren’t for you.” Hernandez changed the line to “I wouldn’t be who I am, if it weren’t for you.”

Hernandez, who has been a force in pop music since he hit the national spotlight on American Idol in 2008, sings his face off in “ILY.” Leaving no corner of his vocal range and power untouched, the 37-year-old is brimming with joy and passion. This is a real singer, folks.

In the music video (by Arno Diem), Hernandez and his co-star – Benji Schwimmer of So You Think You Can Dance fame – play a couple struggling with each other’s shortcomings and insecurities.

They visit a therapist, played by trans actress, Alexa Abraxas, and discover that through the heartache, they share a common thread of love for one another and that for many, it’s the obstacles we overcome that make a relationship stronger.

Benji Schwimmer and David Hernandez in "ILY."
Benji Schwimmer and David Hernandez in “ILY.”

“Talent is a funny thing,” says Schwimmer, who also choreographed the artful and nuanced movement for the video. “It sometimes means you have to deal with personalities that aren’t the easiest to get along with because it goes hand in hand with one’s genius. That was not the case with David.”

“Here you have an artist who not only can sing the roof off but also was on time for every rehearsal, practiced till we both were hot sweaty messes and never stopped seeking the best solutions to the project at hand,” continued the dancer/choreographer.

Benji Schwimmer and David Hernandez in "ILY."
Benji Schwimmer and David Hernandez in “ILY.”

In addition to American Idol, Hernandez’s numerous TV appearances include The Ellen Show, The Today Show, MTV’s TRL, EXTRA, Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, Teen Choice Awards, Idol Tonight, and FOX-TV’s Idol Gives Back.

His previous single, “Beautiful,” released in 2016 became a Billboard Top 200 Dance Chart hit – and I named the track one of the Top 5 LGBTQ singles of 2016.

By the way, hit that link to my Best of 2016 podcast – wow, what a great year in LGBTQ entertainment that was!

Cover art for David Hernandez's new single "ILY."

With this release, Hernandez says it’s important that we normalize the LGBTQ experience, and instill in everyone that love is love, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation.

“Growing up, I was only taught the dynamic and gender roles between a man and a woman,” Hernandez reflects. “There was never any rule or guide book on how two men can coexist in a romantic relationship. Navigating it on my own has been challenging, especially when many people in the world still continue to view same sex relationships as not normal.”

“We are all beautiful and intricate beings that just want to love and be loved,” he adds. “This Pride season, be who you are unapologetically and authentically. Break free from judgment and live your best life! ILY.”

Hit the play button below to take in “ILY.” You can also check out my coverage of his recent releases – “Kingdom” and “Boomerang.”

Broadway Icon Ann Reinking Passes Away At 71

Ann Reinking in ‘All That Jazz’ (screen capture)

Tony Award-winning actress/dancer/choreographer Ann Reinking (Chicago, Fosse, Pippin, Sweet Charity, Over Here!) passed away Saturday night at the age of 71.

From Variety:

She is perhaps best known for playing Roxie Hart in 1977’s “Chicago,” replacing Gwen Verdon. She reprised the part when she returned for the 1996 revival of the famed production.

“The hope is that in rediscovering ‘Chicago,’ audiences will rediscover what theater was,” Reinking told The New York Times at the time of the show’s revival. “It was sophisticated, complicated, adult.”

Her work on the later “Chicago” ultimately earned her a Tony Award for best choreography.

Reinking was also the co-creator, co-director and co-choreographer for “Fosse,” a musical meant to showcase Fosse’s choreography. She created the project alongside Richard Maltby Jr. and Chet Walker. The musical was Reinking’s final bow on Broadway, as she served as a replacement ensemble member in 2001.

The Broadway revival of Chicago the Musical was an unexpected and thrilling part of my career on Broadway.

I had moved to Los Angeles to be with my husband Michael in 1996, thinking perhaps my dancing career was behind me. And then, on a whim, I went to an open call for replacements for Chicago the Musical in early 1998.

Over 300 dancers attended that call, and at the end of the day, I was one of ten left standing. Three days later, Ann and director Walter Bobbie were coming through LA and the ten of us were called back to show what we had to offer.

Four months later, I got a call asking me to join the national touring company that was playing in Los Angeles, and ultimately I was hired about a dozen times over the next 15 years to go into the Broadway and touring companies. Sometimes, it would be for a year, sometimes for a month as a temporary replacement.

And I know that was because of Ann. She trusted me over and over again to be a part of her thrilling choreography.

Imagine not only meeting one of your heroes but working with them. And learning from them. And dancing right alongside them.

Ann Reinking as Roxie Hart in the Broadway revival of Chicago (photo: Max Vadukul)

One of my most memorable times with Ann was during brushup rehearsals for the Broadway company’s second anniversary.

I vividly remember, and I’ve quoted her often, her saying that dance represents tradition – and that it’s our responsibility as dancers to pass steps and style on to the next generation.

The last time I saw Ann was during her run in FOSSE in the early 2000s. We chatted backstage in her dressing room after the performance. She was, of course, brilliant.

As we parted ways leaving the Broadhurst Theater, she asked in passing, “So, you’re in NYC for a while?” I said, “Yes.”

Of course, the next day, the casting folks called – per Ann’s request – and asked if I was available to go back into Chicago.

With Ann Reinking in 1998 celebrating the 2nd anniversary of CHICAGO on Broadway

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Annie.  For the inspiration, for the laughs, for the insight, and for your genius.

RIP Ann Reinking.

By the way, just to underscore how lucky I’ve been in my theater career, I’ve danced with all three of these great stars. Color me grateful.

Daily Dance: Noah Galvin “Boyfriend” From THE REAL O’NEALS

My longtime friend Fred Tallaksen is nominated for a World Choreography Award for his work on ABC’s The Real O’Neals last season.

The awards are on Monday, thinking good thoughts Fred’s way!

Fred was also nominated for an Emmy Award for his terpsichorean contributions.

Very proud of him. Watch one of his uber-cute numbers featuring Noah Galvin, who will soon take over the lead in Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway.

Clip description:

When Kenny (Noah Galvin) finally gets a boyfriend, he’s worried that his family won’t react well. What better way to cope with all of these emotions than to break out into song and dance?

Daily Dance: Savion Glover & Cast of “Shuffle Along”

Tony Award winner Savion Glover appeared with the cast of his on the new show “Maya and Marty” with his cast of the Broadway hit, Shuffle Along, to perform “The Pennsylvania Graveyard Shuffle.”

Note: Glover is nominated for another Tony Award this year for his resoundingly praised choreography. I expect the choreography category to be a close race between Savion and Hamilton‘s Andy Blankenbuehler.

It was recently announced that Savion will be joining the cast of Shuffle Along soon.

Dance Shoes, Dancing and “Showing Up”

Posting was a little light here on The Randy Report yesterday as I was heading up the Los Angeles dance auditions for Sacramento Music Circus’ upcoming summer season.

As regular readers of The Randy Report know, I began my professional life as an actor and dancer in musical theater, working on Broadway and in national touring companies of shows like Hello, Dolly!, A Chorus Line, Chicago, 42nd Street and Follies.

Today I’m fortunate to continue working as a director and choreographer. This summer will mark my 4th season at Sacramento Music Circus where I’ll be choreographing Hello, Dolly!

I really enjoy being at SMC because:

1. The incredibly supportive environment from the producers and artistic director, Glenn Casale

2. The theater is “in the round” so you’re forced to think outside the box of traditional theater and explore more creative ways to tell the story.

3. The talent is absolutely first rate.

Yesterday, I auditioned over 100 super-talented dancers in Los Angeles. What a great experience.

At 52, and as a choreographer, I don’t dance full-out regularly myself. But in audition situations, it’s only fair that the dancers see what it is I want out of the audition combinations. After all, I made this stuff up – I should be able to dance it full out.

I went through three sets of shoes during the day because, as we danced harder and longer, the room got sweatier and sweatier. I had to switch from dance sneakers to hard-soled shoes for one combination. Then from tap shoes back to hard-soled shoes because the room (and effort) made the floor sticky or slick depending on whether we were tapping or not.

So, there I am doing my best “full-out” in front of these terrific dancers. As the primary “music theater” dance combination closed with the “jumps” section from the Waiter’s Gallop in Hello, Dolly!, I promised I would do the section ONCE full out.

ONCE.

It was mainly for comedic effect to put the room at ease.  And, it is fun to find out I can still do this stuff 20 some-odd years after I danced some of this on Broadway. I guess I learned something along the way 🙂

One aspect of the day that I really enjoyed, as I danced groups of four dancers at a time, was the sense of support the dancers had for each other. We’d get to the “jumps” section and the dancers on the edge of the room would start clapping to cheer their fellow dancers on. It is a very athletic, “power” section, and I saved it for the end. I love that part of being an artist that we can cheer each other on.

In the end, while everyone wants a job, folks realize it’s not so much about competing against others as showing up, and “showing off” your best.

Once that’s done – you go home, toss your shoes in the corner, pour a glass of wine, and just know you danced it out and left your best on the floor.

You can’t do better than that. Whether you’re a 52 year old choreographer, or a 20-something young dancer.

Video Montage From “Bye Bye Birdie” At Sacramento Music Circus

“Got A Lot Of Livin To Do”

Regular readers of The Randy Report know I split my career between writing about LGBT and pop culture issues here and working in the theater.

The past two weeks my posting here has been a little light as I’ve been choreographing a new production of the all-American musical Bye Bye Birdie for Sacramento Music Circus. Artistic Director Glenn Casale invited me and a fab cast on a terrific journey bringing this classic to life again.

I’ve received some emails asking how the show went, so I’m happy to share this montage of clips from the opening night performance.

Make sure you catch the moment between my partner in crime/Associate Choreographer Kat Murphy as she reacts to “Conrad Birdie” (Nate Hackmann) at the 4:02 mark. Nate, Kat and the whole company stopped the show with that performance of “Honestly Sincere.”

Loved the whole experience. If you’re in the Sacramento area this week, head over to Sacramento Music Circus and see the result of our work. It’s fun.

Click on any of the pics to enlarge.

“One Last Kiss”

“Healthy Normal American Boy”

“We Love You Conrad”

“The Telephone Hour”

Nate Hackmann as “Conrad Birdie”

More Moments From West Side Story At San Diego Musical Theatre

San Diego Musical Theatre, where I recently choreographed a new production of West Side Story, has put together this new video showcasing highlights from the show.

I’m really proud of this one. Take a look below.

Plus, Broadway World had some very nice things to say about the production, including the choreography:

SDMT has a huge and talented cast to fill their new stage, which is good because this show does shine when they are in their cast numbers. The “Dance at the Gym” is where you see not only the size and scope of the cast, but their dancing and the simmering tensions between the Jets and the Sharks are palpable. The staging is clever and the ebb and flow of the cast during this number feels natural and never pulls focus from what’s happening at the center of the stage.

The dancing is always key in this show, and this show does not disappoint thanks to choreographer Randy Slovacek. Taking a cue from the original production, this dancing is lovely but with some edge. After all, you don’t see gangs dancing through the streets much, but this choreography strikes the right balance between being beautiful and having a hint of menace to it.

And if you happen to be in San Diego, check out the show this weekend. The show closes this Sunday.