Ludacris and Paula Abdul Join HOW TO DANCE IN OHIO Producing Team

How to Dance in Ohio is now in previews at the Belasco Theatre.

By: Dec. 07, 2023
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Ludacris and Paula Abdul Join HOW TO DANCE IN OHIO Producing Team
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Multi-Grammy Award winning music icons Ludacris and Paula Abdul have joined P3 Productions, and Tony Award-winning entertainment mini-studio Level Forward, on the producing team of the new Broadway musical How to Dance in Ohio, now in previews at the Belasco Theatre in NYC. The musical celebrates its opening night this Sunday, December 10, 2023 at the Belasco Theatre (111 W. 44th St). 

“I am excited to make my Broadway debut as a co-producer on this groundbreaking production,” said Ludacris. “How to Dance in Ohio is as joyful as live theatre can get!”  

“History is being made on Broadway with this heartwarming show, and I’m proud and thrilled to be a co-producer,” said Paula Abdul. “I had such an amazing time watching this exceptional cast shine in their rehearsals in New York City and cannot wait for Opening Night!” 

With lyrical acumen, wit, and versatility Chris “Ludacris” Bridges is a recording artist, movie star, and activist.  He has sold more than 24 million albums worldwide, which featured the blockbuster singles “Stand Up,” “Get Back,” “Southern Hospitality,” “Number One Spot,” “Money Maker” and “My Chick Bad.” As an actor, he has portrayed the role of "Tej" in Universal Pictures’ box office phenomenon Fast & Furious franchise, and been featured in New Year’s Eve, No Strings Attached, the Academy Award-winning film Crash and Hustle & Flow, which earned Bridges a SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. As a father of four girls, Ludacris’ latest ventures fittingly include launching an educational platform devoted to the enrichment of children called "KidNation” and creating the animated series “Karma’s World,” a coming-of-age story about a young Black girl finding her voice and using it to change her world.  The series launched in the Top 10 in 42 countries on Netflix, received two NAACP Award nominations and has already been picked up for a third season.   

Paula Abdul is a Grammy & Emmy Award winning music superstar, dancer, renowned choreographer, philanthropist, and TV personality, best known as an original judge on “American Idol”. She has sold 60 million records and earned numerous awards and recognitions. She has choreographed both music videos and live shows for Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, The Jacksons’ Victory Tour, George Michael’s Faith tour, Dolly Parton and ZZ Top, to name a few. Her studio albums include Forever Your Girl (“Forever Your Girl”, “Cold Hearted”, “Opposites Attract”, and “Straight Up”), setting a record for the most #1 Billboard charted singles from a debut album; andSpellbound (“Rush Rush” and “The Promise of a New Day”). Paula is an active and powerful advocate for American Humane Society, National Guide Dog Month, Turnaround Arts, the African Community & Conservation Foundation, Wigs & Wishes cancer charity.  

Inspired by Alexandra Shiva’s Peabody Award-winning documentary of the same name, the new musical How to Dance in Ohio features book and lyrics by Rebekah Greer Melocik, music by Jacob Yandura, choreography by Mayte Natalio, and direction by Sammi Cannold – all making their Broadway debuts. In addition to Ludacris and Paula Abdul, entertainment notables on the team include co-producer Lucy Lawless (“Xena: Warrior Princess”) and investor John Tartaglia (Avenue Q).  

How to Dance in Ohio is a heartfelt and poignant new musical about the desire to connect and the courage it takes to put yourself out into the world. As a group of seven autistic young adults prepare for their first ever formal dance—they face a challenge that breaks open their routines as they experience love, stress, excitement, and independence. How to Dance in Ohio is a story about people on the cusp of the next phase of their lives, facing down hopes and fears, ready to take a momentous first step…and dance. 

Reprising their roles on Broadway from the world premiere engagement at Syracuse Stage, the cast was heralded by The Syracuse Post Standard as, “both reflecting and respecting neurodivergence, with every single actor onstage delivering a distinguished, joyous, jaw-dropping performance.” In the parts of the real-life autistic young adults featured in the HBO documentary, are a cast of seven autistic actors, all making their Broadway debuts: Desmond Edwards (he/they) as Remy, Amelia Fei [Yi-Hsuan Fei] (she/her) as Caroline, Madison Kopec (they/she) as Marideth, Liam Pearce (he/him) as Drew, Imani Russell (they/them) as Mel, Conor Tague (he/him) as Tommy, and Ashley Wool (she/her) as Jessica.  

Broadway veteran Caesar Samayoa (he/him; Come from Away, Sister Act) will star as renown psychologist Dr. Emilio Amigo and Cristina Sastre (she/her; Legally Blonde at The Muny) will play his daughter Ashley Amigo. Also featured in the cast are Broadway veterans Haven Burton (she/her; Shrek the Musical, Violet) as Terry, Darlesia Cearcy (she/her; Shuffle Along, Once On This Island) as Johanna, Carlos L Encinias (he/him; Les Miserables), Nick Gaswirth (he/him; …The Great Comet of 1812), Melina Kalomas (she/her; Young Frankenstein), and Martín Solá (he/him; On Your Feet!). Completing the cast are Jean Christian Barry (they/them; Stranger Sings), Collin Hancock (he/him), Hunter Hollingsworth (he/him), Marina Jansen (they/them), Ayanna Nicole Thomas (she/her), and Marina Pires (she/her; Aladdin, On Your Feet!).   

The musical was originally developed with the late, legendary Broadway director Harold Prince and is dedicated to his instrumental work on the project.  

The full creative team includes Tony Award nominated scenic designer Robert Brill (Ain’t Too Proud, Thoughts of a Colored Man), Tony Award nominated costume designer Sarafina Bush (For Colored Girls…), two–time Tony Award winning lighting designer Bradley King (Hadestown; Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812) and sound designer Connor Wang (The Cher Show – assist). Orchestrations are by Tony Award winner Bruce Coughlin (The Light in the Piazza), Music Direction is by Lily Ling and Scott Rowen (Hamilton) is the production stage manager. The production is cast by Benton Whitley, CSA & Micah Johnson-Levy of Whitley Theatrical. General management is by ShowTown Theatricals, Music Consultation is by Mary-Mitchell Campbell, Production counsel isDoug Nevin/ Klaris Law and the Production Manager is Bethany Stewert (What the Constitution Means to Me). 

How to Dance in Ohio played its World Premiere engagement at Syracuse Stage in the fall of 2022 with The Syracuse Post-Standard declaring it “an exhilarating, groundbreaking, celebratory musical. You’ll walk out of the theater wiping your eyes. You’ll pause in the lobby to catch your breath, clear your head, and see if anyone else is as giddy as you are. How to Dance in Ohio is the musical you’ll talk about for the rest of your life.”. The News House calls the show “joyful and uplifting …celebrating the trials and tribulations of human connection,” and The Ithaca Times says, “tender, funny, and charming in the best sense, How To Dance In Ohio offers a fresh look at the musical genre.”  

Through a dedication to authentic autistic representation, the musical’s creators adhere closely to the documentary’s narrative and spirit, offering a visible platform for autistic actors in a way that has never happened before in a new musical, either on or off the stage. Ava Xiao-Lin Rigelhaupt (she/her) serves as the production’s Autistic Creative Consultant with Becky Leifman (she/her) as the Director of Community Engagement. The Accessibility Team also includes Jeremy Wein (Associate Producer) and Nicole D'Angelo (Assistant Music Director).  The How to Dance in Ohio production has also been developed to be inherently sensory-friendly (an environment accommodating to individuals with sensory sensitivities), and the team is working on several elements in the theater to ensure an experience that is accessible for as many audience members as possible. Elements that are currently being developed, include: advance information (videos & maps) about the theater experience, sensory tool kits, cool-down spaces, and a performance sensitivity list. Updates and announcements regarding accessibility will be posted on the show’s website and social media pages. In addition to guidance from the show’s Accessibility Team, the production uses the resources found here. 

How to Dance in Ohio is produced on Broadway by P3 Productions, Ben Holtzman, Sammy Lopez, Fiona Howe Rudin, and Level Forward, in addition to Abigail E. Disney, Paul Canaan & Greg Kamp, Jonathan Pollard/Michael Feldman, Tom D’Angora & Michael D’Angora, Emily Blavatnik, PPMF Productions, Betsy Pitts, ShowTown Productions, The David and Lura Lovell Foundation, Dina S. Friedler, Judith Ann Abrams Productions/The Broadway Investor’s Club, Jennifer Allan Soros, Howard & Nancy Alter, Nate Bertone & Roderick Justice, Burnt Umber Productions, Julie Cohen, Con Limón Productions, CR Productions/Axler & Granger, Raymond & Samantha Esposito, Freedom Theatricals, Lindsay Gates, John Gore Organization, Jonathan Hogue/Kathryn Cole Feldman, Lucy Lawless & Rob Tapert, Michael J. Moritz Jr., Julie Parker Benello, Denny Paschall & Ellora Decarlo, The Shubert Organization, Laurie Tisch & Emily Tisch Sussman, Tyce-Hill-Steinfast, Elizabeth Zoia, Plate Spinner Productions, Isabel Rose & Jeff Fagen, Beth Rudin DeWoody, New Vintage Theatricals, Independent Producers Network/Abby Schreer, About Time Entertainment/Couple of Swells Productions, Denise & Lon Bevers/Andrew Caravella, Gary & Marlene Cohen/Michael B. Cox, DeNovo Initiative/Ryan Duncan-Ayala, Lisa & Brian Feldman/Funroe Productions, Jeffrey Grove-WitzEnd/Paris Keena, Willette & Manny Klausner/Ladybug Productions, Vasi Laurence/Nick Padgett, PerlJam Productions/Nancy Poses, Quiñones & Das/Sarfarazi Brown Howe , Songbird Productions/Jamie Stone O’Brien, PROSCENIUM/Theatre Producers of Color, Jefferson W. Tidwell/Van Dean Productions, The Wharton Center/John Yonover, Anne Keating, Christen James, Melissa Jessel, Steven Grossman, Ludacris, and Paula Abdul

CHRIS “LUDACRIS” BRIDGES 

The career of the multitalented CHRIS “LUDACRIS” BRIDGES can best be described as remarkable. As a recording artist, he has sold more than 24 million albums worldwide, thanks to the blockbuster success of such singles as “Stand Up,” “Get Back,” “Southern Hospitality,” “Number One Spot,” “Money Maker” and “My Chick Bad.” All these records were accompanied by ingenious videos that demonstrated Bridges’ far-reaching imagination, and his willingness to stretch the boundaries of what rap videos should look and feel like. 

With an unrivaled match of lyrical acumen, wit, and imagery, Ludacris has solidified himself as one of music's premier entertainers. His versatility and artistic complexity also enabled him to make a seamless transition to acting, including the fan favorite role of "Tej" in Universal Pictures’ box office phenomenon Fast & Furious franchise where he was introduced for the first time in 2003 in 2 Fast 2 Furious.  He recently reprised his role of “Tej” for the seventh time in Fast X, which was released May 20, 2023, while simultaneously hitting the road with Janet Jackson to perform his greatest hits for the 33-city “Together Again” tour, once again proving himself to be a true, modern-day Renaissance man.  

His other notable feature film credits include Garry Marshall’s ensemble comedy New Year’s Eve, Ivan Reitman’s romantic comedy, No Strings Attached, Paul Higgin’s Crash which received an Academy Award for Best Picture in 2006 and Hustle & Flow which earned Bridges a SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.  Not to mention, he started alongside Lil Rel in the Christmas comedy “Dashing Through The Snow” out now on Disney+.  

As a father of four girls, his latest ventures fittingly include launching his educational platform devoted to the enrichment of children called "KidNation".  In addition, Bridges created the animated series KARMA’S WORLD which launched in the Top 10 in 42 countries on Netflix, received two NAACP Award nominations and has already been picked up for a third season.  The series for children ages 6-9 is a coming-of-age story about a young Black girl finding her voice and using it to change her world -- originally inspired by Chris’s oldest daughter Karma and based on the interactive educational website of the same name created by Karma’s World Entertainment in 2009. 

A consummate businessman, Ludacris is enjoying success outside of entertainment. One of his most successful ventures includes opening his long-anticipated restaurant “Chicken-n-Beer” at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport and LAX earlier this year.  

Bridge’s philanthropic efforts rival his entertainment accomplishments. He started The Ludacris Foundation in 2001 which focuses on helping the youth in his hometown of Atlanta and has partnered with No Kid Hungry and Feeding America.  

Paula Abdul 

Global icon Paula Abdul is a music superstar, dancer, renowned choreographer, and TV personality, most notably recognized as an original judge on American Idol. She has sold 60 million records and earned numerous awards and recognitions including 17 MTV Video Music Awards nominations with five wins, two GRAMMY Awards, three American Music Awards, two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Choreography (The Tracey Ullman Show, and her performance on the American Music Awards), two People’s Choice Awards as Favorite Female Music Performer, and five Juno Awards. She was the first entertainer to receive the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards Hall of Fame Award. Most recently she was featured performing her classic hit “Straight Up!” at the iconic Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  

She began her illustrious career as one of the first Laker girls at the age of 18. Her amazing talent led her to become the head choreographer for the renowned squad. The recent attention that the Lakers are getting on film and television have affirmed her impact and longevity.  While performing and choreographing the Laker girls, she drew the attention of many superstars who were just the beginning of a long list of clients for whom she has choreographed both music videos and live shows, including Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, The Jacksons’ Victory Tour, George Michael’s Faith tour, Dolly Parton and ZZ Top, to name a few. Her talent has also been credited for choreography for numerous box office top grossing films including “Can’t Buy Me Love”, “The Running Man”, “Coming to America”, The Doors” and “Action Jackson”. 

Her vocal gift soon became apparent to music executives at Virgin Records, who signed her. Paula’s first studio album, Forever Your Girl, sold over seven million copies in the U.S. alone and, with four singles topping the charts, “Forever Your Girl”, “Cold Hearted”, “Opposites Attract”, and of course,  “Straight Up”.  She set a record for the most #1 Billboard charted singles from a debut album. “Straight Up” continues its impact to this day. The recent Virgin Orbit launch named its mission “Straight Up” using the anthem as its theme song.  In her sixtieth year (yes, the ever-youthful Paula Abdul turned 60 this year!), Paula’s career continues to skyrocket, keeping her as busy as she’s ever been.  

Her second album, Spellbound, scored two more #1 singles, “Rush Rush” and “The Promise of a New Day”, tying her with Ariana Grande and Diana Ross for the seventh most #1 singles for female performers.  

In 2002 she was part of television history as one of the original judges on American Idol, which pioneered the contemporary trend of talent competition shows. If anyone lived in an audio vacuum and didn’t know Paula, she immediately became a household name.  After seven years, she left that show and has since served in the same capacity on The X Factor, So You Think You Can Dance and was a panelist on The Masked Dancer.  

In 2018, she made a triumphant return to touring, joining Live Nation’s Total Package Tour of 45 cities with Boyz II Men and New Kids on the Block. A solo Straight Up Paula! national tour followed. Paula launched her Paula Abdul: Forever Your Girl Las Vegas residency the following year in the Flamingo showroom.  

Most recently, as active as ever, she is acting, choreographing and performing constantly. She has a recurring role on Made for Love (HBO), her MC Skat Kat character is featured in the Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers film (Disney) and she recently guest starred on an upcoming Muppets show.  

Always interested in giving back, Paula’s philanthropic efforts are broad. She is an active advocate American Humane Society, National Guide Dog Month, Turnaround Arts, the African Community & Conservation Foundation, Wigs & Wishes cancer charity, to name a few of the causes she supports. She received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2019 for her contributions to our country and the Harry Chapin Memorial Humanitarian Award. Add her Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and her legacy is ensured but certainly remains on a continuum! 





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