Todrick Hall is a star of Broadway, MTV and an “American Idol” finalist. He took some time out of his busy schedule to speak with Equality365 about his new show “Straight Outta Oz”, RuPaul, creativity, life and the tragedy in Orlando. Todrick is bringing his new show “Straight Outta Oz” to Tacoma for one show only tomorrow. Don’t miss this grand event. Click here for tickets and kick-off Tacoma Pride in style!
Earle Dutton: You are a busy guy. How do you juggle everything?
Todrick Hall: Honestly, I just have the most amazing friends. We are a team, for sure. By definition they would be employees but they are really my family. They do so much more than employees would ever do. We stayed up all night last night and have not been to sleep at all. We have been hustling. I have a lot of people around me that really believe in me. I also have a praying mom who makes sure that I am taken care of. She is always praying that I will be safe. We just work really hard because we believe in what we do.
ED: How do you stay creative?
TH: I just look for inspiration everywhere. I think that if you are a creative person that everything you do is creative. Just like, if you are an athletic person, the way you walk or run might be considered athletic. I don’t wake up and think “today I am going to be creative.” I just enjoy creating things. I think it is just in my DNA. I love working on projects.
ED: How did this show, “Straight Outta Oz” come about?
TH: I have always been a humongous fan of “The Wizard of Oz”. I have an entire sleeve tattooed on my right arm of “The Wizard of Oz” and the words Made in Oz tattooed on the back of my neck. A funny story is that my elementary school teacher always told me that “The Wizard of Oz” was going to change my life. It was always my biggest love growing up. I was working on this tour and decided that this year it would be “Wizard of Oz” themed. I wrote a forty five second trailer song purely by accident and my friends loved it. They said it was just so cool and that I should write a full-length version. Life experiences, politics and a lot of things happening in our country made me want to turn it into something bigger. It just took over and consumed my entire life and before I knew it, I had a new musical ready.
ED: How many times have you seen “The Wizard of Oz”?
TH: I don’t know. I think you might hang up the phone if I really told you. It is almost psychotic. I don’t know how many times I have really seen it but it is way up there. My mom bought me two versions of the VHS tape because I was so impatient and didn’t want to wait for it to rewind so I could watch it again. We had a machine just to rewind that tape while I watched the other one. It was the easiest way for my mom to keep me focused as a child. I can recite any line from the movie. I love that movie. I don’t even really know why. I just always identified with Dorothy. I grew up in Texas and always knew there was something bigger and better than that small town.
ED: How long did it take you to come up with twenty original songs for this show?
TH: Well, you know it is insane what the human brain can do if you force it to think outside the box and push it as hard as it will go. Honestly, I have no idea how it all happened. I never thought I had to have a particular number of songs. I just thought of how can I take this classic story and make it all new. It has been done so many times with “Wicked”, “Return to Oz”, “The Wiz”, “Journey Back to Oz”. I was super inspired by Lin-Manuel Miranda and his work on “Hamilton”. I think it is so cool that he is making musical theater into pop culture again. I think that is what it should be. There is this stigma that it is this old school art form and not hip anymore and that is not true. I think Broadway is really cool. He has made it a trending topic on social media again. I want to do that as well. Without tooting my own horn, I think this show is really edgy, fun and all of the things that audiences look for when they come to be entertained.
ED: What is your favorite part your favorite part of the show right now?
TH: Wow, that is so hard. We sit around as a team and talk about the parts we like. It always changes. There is one song that just means so much to me. At the beginning of the show, I sing “Over the Rainbow”. I wrote this song about me growing up as an African-American kid in the South. I remember very vividly the first time I realized I was different. I was told that little boys are supposed to act a certain way. In my mind, I was just being myself. I think that we are all really born about the same. Little boys don’t know that they are supposed to like blue. Little girls don’t know that they are supposed to like pink. I remember feeling ashamed in that moment and I wrote this beautiful song that explains how I felt back then. It is about how I had to teach myself to not do certain things and so that I could be a little boy. My mom was my role model. I didn’t have a father figure. I wanted to be like my mom. I wanted to wear her clothes and dance around like the people on television. It was really weird. I came from a group of twelve grandsons who all played sports. I was the only one that liked ballet, theater and artistic things.
ED: How fun is it to work with RuPaul on “Drag Race” and the “Gay for Play Game Show”?
TH: Oh my gosh, that is a dream come true. I am a huge fan of RuPaul anway. Working with him and seeing how he treats his employees is amazing. I just aspire to be like him in my career. We just also announced that I am the new resident judge on “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars”. I am just so grateful for them to think enough of me to let me work with them. I am just flattered.
ED: Is it really different talking to Rupaul when he comes out in his business suit out of drag?
TH: It is crazy! It is almost like a Jekyll and Hyde situation. I mean both of them are sweet and beautiful but I feel like I am talking to two different people. I mean there is the one, RuPaul in his glam. Then there is the Rupaul in his business suit which makes me think he is the black Willy Wonka. They are both really fun. He is so witty and just packed full of knowledge. He is a great person. A fun fact, he is also one of the biggest ‘Wizard of Oz” fans that I have ever met. He can give me a run for my money.
ED: Would you like to say a few words about the shootings in Orlando?
TH: Yes, I am so glad you asked. It was heavy on my heart to write a song about gun violence. I didn’t know why I needed to do it. That Friday before the tragedy I finished writing one of the last songs for the show. The witch gets killed with water guns. I wrote a song about water guns. One of the few memories I have about growing up with my dad is that we used to play with water guns all the time. In the song I say that they aren’t water guns we are fighting with anymore. A fellow Youtuber, Christina Grimmie died that same night. She was shot and passed away. I had a lot of friends who knew her and I was completely brokenhearted. I recorded the song with Jordin Sparks that Saturday night. Then, we found about the shooting in Orlando. There is a moment that I dedicate to Orlando in the show. I knew a lot of people there. I have even met a few of the people that are no longer with us after that event. Part of me wanted to be afraid of what I do as my job but I can’t let fear dictate what I do in my life.
Info about Todrick Hall and “Straight Outta Oz” from The Broadway Center:
Broadway Actor, MTV star, American Idol Finalist and Viral YouTube personality Todrick Hall is putting a new “twister” on L. Frank Baum’s most classic creation, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” With over 20 original songs, Hall brings to life this American Classic like you’ve never seen it before. This summer, you don’t have to go to Oz because “Straight Outta Oz” is coming to a city near you. Watch as Todrick and his talented crew tell the tale of Hall’s adventures from his small town in Texas, to the big Emerald City lights of “Oz Angeles.” How does a hollywood hopeful succeed in the business while dodging falling houses, wicked witches and the infamous “Poppyrazzi.” This show is great for the family with powerful musical numbers, innovative sets, sensational choreography, dazzling costumes and a great social message.