BWW Interviews: Q&A with Rhett George
Good Morning! Thank you for taking the time to speak with BroadwayWorld in Omaha today, Rhett.
Let's start at the beginning. I read that your mother was actually part of a musical Christian group in the Caribbean... Was the love of music something you were just born with, or when did you know you wanted to be a performer as well?
You know, my whole family is very musical, so I grew up with music in the house. We were always singing in the house. My mom bought me a recorder when I was three, so we used to sing together all the time. As for when I realized that I wanted to perform as a profession, I think that came a little later in life, like when I was 16 or 17. I've always loved singing, but I don't think I decided to be a performer until a little later in life.
Did you receive any specialized training growing up?
No, I just learned to sing by listening to my mom's records by artists like Whitney Houston and Stevie Wonder, you know, and all those artists I grew up on. Early on, of course, my mom helped to show me how to sing, but growing up not really anything other than that. I've taken voice lessons, but for breathing techniques only, because I found that sometimes the teachers tried to change my style. But sometimes we all just need help on how to breathe and our range and stuff like that, especially when you start performing 8 shows a week.
Do you remember your first musical theatre experience?
Honestly, We just weren't really the musical theatre family. I went to concerts. I didn't really get into musical theatre until I went to audition for Rent. When I decided to audition for Rent at 17, I went to see it so I had an idea of what I was auditioning for. And I was cast in the Toronto cast.
Since then you've moved onto mega hits on Broadway and National Tours such as Wicked, Sweet Charity (with Christina Applegate), The Color Purple and of course, the Tony Award winning musical Memphis. What has your experience been like being a part of these shows?
I just think it's fantastic, you know. There are a lot of musicals that make it to Broadway and they're not as successful, so just to be blessed to be a part of great musicals that have been so successful and popular is a blessing. I mean, I was in the original cast of Wicked, and to think that was almost 10 years ago, and to see that it's still one of the top musicals out there, it's really a blessing and I'm extremely grateful for the experiences I've had.
Anything you've learned over the years that you wish you knew at the beginning of your career?
Yes! You know, when I was younger I didn't know anything about doing musical theatre. I wish someone had told me about the 8 shows a week, and just about musical theatre and performing in a musical and how to condition your body, your voice and your mind for the shows. At first it took me off guard a bit, but during Rent I learned about it all. I'm thankful for the stage managers at Rent for teaching me and pretty much being my professors.
Stepping away from the musical theatre world for a minute, you have released 2 CDs since 2008, the first titled "Something Better" and the most recent CD, "The Music Will Save Me" - can you tell us a little about those and what the recording experience was like for you? Didn't you write all the songs?
Yes, I did! You know, the first CD I put together while I was on the road with The Color Purple when we had Mondays and Tuesdays off. I used those days to record the album with a producer in Chicago. I actually recorded like 25 songs, and I put 16 of them on the album. For that album, I would come in with the melody and they would create more music around it with machines making the tracks. It was more like a pop record for me. The second CD I actually worked on with a piano player with live instruments and I recorded the album in my room. As for the title, I think that when you're down or when you're tired, music is a universal language and can speak volumes to anyone. It's an album that didn't have any time constraints and is a lot more piano driven.
And those are available on iTunes as well as CD baby?
Yes, they are.
Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?
You know, if you had asked me that 5 years ago I would have said that I wanted to be a big recording artist. And that's still true today, but I say that with a lot more caution because I feel like the music industry has changed a lot over the years. In my mind, I would love to just get a good record deal and tour with a band and get my music out there. And of course, I'd love to win a Grammy one day. Those will always be dreams of mine. But at the same time, I would love to star in a big musical. I've grown to really enjoy musical theatre, so if there would be a way to do both at the same time, I would love to do that and really excel in both as much as I can.
Ok, back to theatre. Tell me a little about your character in Memphis, Gator.
Gator is not an outcast, but he's definitely different.. He's the bartender who doesn't speak due to a tragedy, which is all I'll say for people who haven't seen the show. Even though he doesn't speak, he is still very much alive and a great part of this show. He's different and he's cool.
Is there a part of the show that you look forward to most every night, whether it be something you are in or are watching?
You know, not really. Honestly, I just love this show and I love all the numbers. I feel like this is one of those shows that just goes by so fast with the energetic numbers and moving story. There's never a part that I can't wait to get through. I look forward to every number and it's just a lot of fun.
What is it about Memphis that really connects with the audience?
I think that it's rare that you see a musical that has great singing, dancing, and a great story all in one. Memphis has it all. It's a great story, and very educational. It makes you think about your life and about acceptance and giving people a chance even if they're different. I think that at the end of the show, the audience leaves knowing they saw a great show. I mean, I've been on the road for a year and a half, and every night the audience are on their feet at the end of the show.
Any last thoughts for the readers?
If you want to be entertained, and to be moved, and to hear great voices while seeing the ultimate Broadway show, come see Memphis. It's the ultimate Broadway show. When you think of Broadway, I think Memphis represents it 100%.