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Student Blog: Chatting with TikTok Sensation Broadway Bob About His New Podcast, Patti LuPone, and More

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His new podcast, The Sunset Project, is an extensive exploration of Sunset Boulevard, and a riveting listen.

Student Blog: Chatting with TikTok Sensation Broadway Bob About His New Podcast, Patti LuPone, and More

This week I had the honor to interview TikTok comedian, activist, theatre-lover, and Patti LuPone-impressionist, Broadway Bob! Bob (@broadwaybob on TikTok and @thebroadwaybob on Instagram) has made a name for himself amongst the TikTok theatre community, ringing in with 45,000 followers and over 2.8 million likes on his account. I found his account over a year ago, instantly dropping a follow when I saw a video in which he voice-dubbed a Patti LuPone performance with uncanny and hilarious accuracy.

Throughout the surge of Covid-19 and the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, Bob was dedicated to spreading awareness towards wrongs done in the theatre community, as well as in the world outside of it. One of the main reasons that people follow his account is also due to his wide range of musical theatre knowledge, which he frequently shares in videos. Recently, he has begun a podcast, The Sunset Project, which gives listeners an extensive history of the musical Sunset Boulevard. As a fan of Bob, as well as a theatre history fanatic, I was delighted to chat with him about his latest creative endeavors.

Alright, so what IS The Sunset Project?

It's a deep dive into one man's obsession with something that really influenced him as a kid and, now, as an adult. You don't have to like Sunset Boulevard to enjoy it. It's about the creation of a thing by a whole bunch of really important people who wanted it to be something wildly special. It's a story about power, my obsession with the show, how it impacted me, and the creation of a big Broadway musical, the last of its kind. On another note, it's about how the musical treats women and the irony that lies within that when you take into account how poorly the actresses cast in the original production were treated. I also am drawn to the behind-the-scenes drama and juiciness present in its creation.

What compelled you to start this podcast now?

It was during winter break when I had some time off from my job. My husband was gone, and I needed to occupy my time with something creative. I already have a podcast, Exclusive Gay Moment, with my friend, Eric, but I wanted to do something scripted and episodic with atmosphere and sound clips. I didn't overthink it, I just sat down at my computer and pulled out an episode every day during my break. I got up every morning at 5, researched, edited, recorded, and then uploaded it. It came easily because I had been thinking about all of this, it was just a matter of organizing my thoughts.

Alright, I've got a hard one for you! Who is your favorite Norma Desmond?

Oh, that's easy for me! It's Helen Schneider. I have a whole episode devoted to her. She was the original Norma in the German production, and she has a background as a punk rock singer in the 80s. She was born in Brooklyn, discovered by producers, then had the hit song, "Rock and Roll Gypsy," with the band, The Kicks. She suddenly switched to stage acting in Germany and performed the roll of Norma thrillingly. I love German language musicals, and I really think that Sunset Boulevard lends itself to the language. However, the Norma Desmond who I have a soft spot for is Diahann Carroll. She was my first Norma, and I saw her in Toronto when I was 16 years old with my mother.

That's so special! Shifting gears a bit to TikTok- your Patti LuPone impression is perfection! How did you discover you could do her voice?

I've had a Patti impression in me since I was a kid. I've done her voice so much that I hear her come out in my own singing voice. I do it to make myself and my friends laugh. One day I did a silly lip sync of Patti doing Anything Goes. I had people posting it on Twitter and sending it to me, some telling me that Betty Buckley saw it and thought it was hilarious! So, then I started doing a few of those live vocals/voice dubbing videos. I'm not making fun of her, it's my way of paying homage. I've done this impression for a long time, and this past year I unleashed it on the world.

Over the last year or so you've been very vocal against performing theatre during the pandemic, which some people strongly disagreed with you over. How do you deal with the negativity and hatred people throw at you?

It's new for me to put my voice out there. When Covid hit, I was getting fired up because I was seeing adults putting children in danger by continuing theatre. People involved in shows that were still happening were reaching out to me and saying that they lost their jobs for speaking up. I didn't see anyone talking about it, and I have a unique privilege of not working in the theatre, so I decided I needed to say something. There came a point where I had to turn off all my TikTok messages because I was getting really aggressive dms. I had to put some guard rails around my own mental health, and I have to be mindful of when I need to actually respond. My social media experience up until TikTok was surrounded with like-minded people, so this app has been an eye-opener and, sometimes, a bit of a shock.

Why do you think it's so important to use TikTok as a platform for social change?

I think TikTok is a great platform in many ways, but it has a lot of problems, especially concerning certain communities being suppressed. One of those examples was with Black creators being silenced in the algorithm when the Black Lives Matter hashtag was trending. One of the unique things about the app is that people gravitate towards messages of trusted voices, and TikTok gives you access to people's perspectives with authentic voices rather than a hidden screen name. It removes the anonymity, while also making you package your message up into 60 seconds or less. You can get a message out there really quickly to a lot of people, if TikTok allows that to happen.

In that same vein, who are some musical theatre artists that you think are doing important work right now?

Michael R. Jackson comes to mind first. He has one of the most unique voices I've heard in a long time. His musical, A Strange Loop, is a show that needs exposure beyond the limited runs it's had. I also think it's essential to attend live readings of new works, as well as pay attention to rising projects created by those who are just graduating.

Thanks again to the wonderful Broadway Bob for speaking with me! Go check out his new podcast, "The Sunset Project," (found wherever you listen to podcasts), as well as Bob's content on TikTok (@broadwaybob) and Instagram (@thebroadwaybob)!


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