When you love where you live as much as Daniel C. Levine and Bryan Perri do, daily life in Ridgefield, aka the slow lane, more than makes up for the late hours and long commute into Manhattan aka the show lane. Some people would call them crazy, but life in Ridgefield is good for Daniel C. Levine and Bryan Perri.
“Bryan and I love this community,” said Levine. “I originally bought my home in Ridgefield as a little ‘weekend escape’ from Manhattan. Living and working in New York City for 20 years can take a toll you, so after I bought my house — and for the first couple of years — I split my week between Ridgefield and New York. But that quickly changed. I found myself commuting to the city from Ridgefield during the week, just so I could spend more and more time here. And now, Bryan and I are full-time residents and commute to work on The Great White Way!”
Bryan is Bryan Perri, Daniel’s husband and the music conductor for the smash Broadway hit Wicked, which requires that Bryan be at work eight shows a week, not to mention the added duty of oftentimes being at The Gershwin Theater, where Wicked is staged, to rehearse new cast members, sometimes all day long only to conduct the show at night. That means leaving the city after the show at 10:45 p.m. and arriving home around midnight.
The good news for Ridgefielders is that the couple’s brilliant collaboration has led to a new concept show Gotta Dance!, being staged at The Ridgefield Playhouse on Friday, May 8, at 8 p.m. As a 20-year Broadway veteran with leading roles in original Broadway productions and National Tours of Les Misérables, Mamma Mia!, Chicago, Tommy, Jesus Christ Superstar, Little Shop of Horrors, and The Rocky Horror Show, Levine, like all professional performers, has “down time.” So, beginning in the late ’90s, he started performing on international stages with symphonies, orchestras, and in pops events. This is where he learned that audiences outside New York City “crave fantastic Broadway-caliber talent and shows.” Hence, Broadway Backstage was born and was staged at The Ridgefield Playhouse in 2012 and 2013. Levine is back with the dance extravaganza Gotta Dance!, knowing that it is often the dance numbers that can make or break a show. Broadway ensembles — in particular the dancers themselves — are the unsung heroes of the stage!
To that end, “Gotta Dance!” will celebrate the Broadway dancer, the evolution of dance on Broadway through the ages, from the early musical theater spectaculars such as Oklahoma, Carousel, and Brigadoon, to the later blockbusters West Side Story, Hello Dolly, Guys and Dolls and Chicago, and finally the current Broadway hits like “Mamma Mia!” and “Kinky Boots”. In his new production, Daniel says the audience will learn how the early pioneer choreographers (Agnes Demille and Jerome Robbins, for example) have influenced today’s TONY Award winning choreographers including Jerry Mitchell and Susan Stroman. “We see how people like Bob Fosse’s work shaped and changed the trajectory of the American musical theater,” explains Levine.
Anyone who loves the high-stepping thrill of live dance performance is in for a treat when two hours of non-stop dancing from six of Broadway’s finest dancers, backed up by Bryan Perri’s music direction and band plus three Broadway singers, turn East Ridge into The Great White Way.
Other highlights of this new show include pre-taped appearances by the stars who tell what it truly takes to make it on Broadway…the ups, the downs, the passion, the injuries, the successes, the failures. “Gotta Dance!” is a high-energy, touching, informative, and action packed evening of theater.
“Bryan has written some fantastic arrangements for this new show and has assembled a terrific band, many of whom play in the pit for Wicked,” says Daniel. “I also was lucky enough to secure Mark Myars to choreograph the show. Mark’s list of Broadway credits is remarkable, and he is the associate choreographer of Wicked as well as the associate choreographer of If/Then. With Mark’s help, we hired six of the most talented dancers in New York City. Among the six dancers, three singers, and the band — we have appeared in more than 40 Broadway shows!”
Daniel says he was thrilled to recently be appointed to The Ridgefield Playhouse Arts Advisory Board Broadway and Cabaret Series, joining such luminaries as Lucie Arnaz, Morton Dean, Giancarlo Esposito, Harvey Fierstein, Ira Joe Fisher, Tony Goldwyn, Debbie Gravitte, Laurence Luckinbill, Jane Musky, Joe Pantoliano, Stephen Schwartz andRobert Vaughn who share their knowledge and connections with the non-profit performing arts center.
“The Playhouse is such an important theater and a staple of our community. So many iconic artists have performed on that stage, it’s remarkable! My goal is to ‘bring a little more Broadway to Ridgefield’. With the support of Allison Stockel (who has truly put the Playhouse on the map), I plan on bringing TONY Award winning performers to The Ridgefield Playhouse for incredible concert work, as well as presenting concert versions of hit Broadway musicals (along with the stars of those shows). We have some amazing things planned for next season,” enthuses Levine.
Some people call Daniel and Bryan crazy for doing what they do from their home base in bucolic Ridgefield. But Daniel has a different take on it. “If crazy is waking up every day in beautiful Ridgefield, Connecticut, walking on our Main Street, grabbing lunch at one of the amazing restaurants in town, talking to all of our fantastic friends and neighbors around town, helping to bring more and more theater to our community — well, then call me crazy!” For tickets ($55 orches., $50 mezzanine/balc., $40 student by calling box office), call (203) 438-5795, or order online at ridgefieldplayhouse.org.