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BWW Interview: Michael Hull & Dylan Bustamante of BROADWAY TALK LIVE!

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Just two boys with a cocktail shaker... and a TV network.

BWW Interview: Michael Hull & Dylan Bustamante of BROADWAY TALK LIVE!What do you get when you take two best friends, a love of cocktail hour, a passion for the performing arts, put them in a cocktail shaker, and mix for twenty seconds? Something sweet, sassy, and silly that can be served over ice, in all of its frothy and fun finery.

You also get a new YouTube TV network devoted to the arts. Oh, and the cocktails.

Dylan Bustamante and Michael Hull started their Youtube show THE 5:30 QUARANTINI WITH Michael Hull AND DYLAN BUSTAMANTE at the start of the New York City lockdown and seven months later the program is going strong and so is their newly formed network BROADWAY TALK LIVE, which features their own chat show and two others, MT TRIVIA and GOOD MORNING TONIGHT. The first of the additional shows is all about musical theater, while the second is your typical morning chat show, only it happens at 7 pm for the benefit of show folk who don't care to rise for Good Morning America. All three shows are clever, well-produced, and entertaining; they are also a shining example of what can happen when a person (or people) take a passing idea, give it some attention and consideration, then nurture it into life. It may not have been on Hull and Bustamante's radar to become TV producers but thanks to their collective imaginations, modern-day technology, and a global health crisis, that's what they are now.

And the industry is so much luckier because of it.

BWW Interview: Michael Hull & Dylan Bustamante of BROADWAY TALK LIVE!

I caught up with Michael and Dylan for a digital chat to get the story on their new online empire - they had the drinks, I had a pot of tea. Before reading further, you should get yourself a refreshment, too.

Dylan Bustamante and Michael Hull, welcome to Broadway World! I am super excited we are getting to have this chat.

Both: Thank you!

You guys have had quite a busy year since the live entertainment shut down - just looking at what you've done is a little exhausting. How many weeks into the lockdown was it before you decided to create your show THE 5:30 QUARANTINI WITH Michael Hull AND DYLAN BUSTAMANTE?

BWW Interview: Michael Hull & Dylan Bustamante of BROADWAY TALK LIVE!MH: Honestly, it was almost immediately. The idea of going into a "lockdown" felt strange and lonely. We knew that creating a routine for ourselves would be super important, and starting a show like this had been something we wanted to do for a really long time. At the onset of a really devastating time for our world, this opportunity seemed like one small silver-lining.

Let's start with some honest show business talk: how did you decide who would get first billing?

DB: (laughs) this has to do with the VERY beginning of The Quarantini. The first Quarantini was an Instagram Live that Michael did because he was mad at someone.

MH: It was! We had been in lockdown for maybe 2 days, and I opened Instagram to see someone out at a bar like "escaped quarantine for a quick quarantini with my babe!" Now I don't know about you, but I'm under the impression that a drink is only a "Quarantini" is you make it yourself, and serve it to yourself, in your own home. So I went live that night on Instagram and kind of "rage-bartended" while talking about how important it was to stay home. Dylan joined that "live," and the Quarantini was born.

What was the impulse that led to the creation of the show?

BWW Interview: Michael Hull & Dylan Bustamante of BROADWAY TALK LIVE!DB: I wish I could tell you that it was more deliberate than this- but I don't think we knew what we were starting. It wasn't until a few weeks in that we were making green juice with Christy Altomare on YouTube and we were like "well. I guess we have a show now!"

Dylan, though most people know you as one of the House Managers at Feinstein's/54 Below, your work away from the club is about producing and directing - though you host the 54 Below Staff Shows. Is there something about being out front that attracts you as well as being behind the scenes?

DB: I don't think I intended to end up "out front." One of the things I've always loved about working at Feinstein's / 54 Below is the sense of family and belonging that this community shares. In quarantine, I knew that I really missed that, and it felt like oddly, I was in a unique position to produce content that could foster that, not just for myself, but for a larger community. Stepping into the spotlight wasn't my goal, but it felt like a natural way to start re-connecting with people that I love and miss.

And Michael, you are one of the industry's great photographers. Obviously, doing shows in our current life situation, most cameras are on a remote feed. Is there a future vision where you are working behind the live-action camera as a director or cinematographer?

MH: Sure! I've always been a bit of a theatrical busy-body. I moved here as a performer and did that for a while. Before quarantine hit, I had been working more consistently as a director and photographer, and since being locked away at home I've been trying really hard to stay ahead of the live-streaming/content producing curve. I'm such a nerd for this stuff and have been loving getting to produce broadcasts so regularly. When it's safe to re-open our industry, I think I'll just have that many more skills at my disposal.

You've had some impressive guests on Quarantini - which one of you is acting as talent booker for the show?

DB & MH: (both laugh) everyone.

DB: The show in its current state really is a two-hander. For every guest, there's so much to do. We're constantly booking people, building video packages, inventing games, and spending a ton of time digging into our guests' pasts to find what we want to gab with them about. Luckily, we talk almost every day and so it's a constant juggling act of who wants to take what duties.

You ran Quarantini for a long time before you debuted MT Trivia and Good Morning Tonight. What was the trajectory of the creation of these two shows and the Broadway Talk LIVE Network?

MH: At this point, we'd made the leap from Instagram over to YouTube. When I started the YouTube channel, I wanted to treat it like the back room of a friendly neighborhood bar. So I set out to find other "acts" that would want to appear on other nights of the week. Dylan and I were both huge fans of "MT Trivia," which our friends Christopher & Kevin Metzger-Timson were doing on Instagram, so I reached out to them first. Then Jackie Cox actually reached out to US. I've known Jackie forever and she's a very active participant in and supporter of the arts community. She'd just finished filming RuPaul's Drag Race and wanted to use her platform to support a community that was hurting, so "Good Morning, Tonight" was born."

How would you describe the mission statement of your network?

MH: I think Dylan put it perfectly before. This whole channel was started as a way to support a community that thrives on family and collaboration but is suddenly being told that they can't see each other anymore. We wanted to create a safe, encouraging, uplifting space to provide some levity in a rough time and remind people why theater is so essential.

What has been the response to Broadway Talk LIVE and the shows the network presents?

DB: The response has been great! Each week between the three shows we get to talk to about a half a dozen of our Broadway friends and sometimes even people that we've both looked up but maybe hadn't met before. I love hearing from our guests and our audience that they had a great time and can't wait to come back for more.

Both of you work in industries that are still being affected by COVID-19 health restrictions. Are you able to make an income from the network - will it help you both to stay afloat in these harsh economic times?

MH: Look if we are being really honest, the entire theatre community is hurting now. My heart goes out to every artist that is struggling to make rent, or can't live off of whatever unemployment is. Believe me, Dylan & I are right there with you. We have chosen to not make this a financial endeavor. It is something we love doing. Each month we do encourage "tips", but 100% of those go to organizations that we feel support our community.

If I were a stranger, could you get me to tune into each of your shows with one high-concept description of each of the programs?

MH: Yes! There are three shows on the network. They're all different, but they share a few things. They're all LIVE, they feature some incredible faces from the Broadway Community, and they share a sense of playfulness & surprise!

DB: Monday is MT Trivia with our very own MT's the Metzer- Timsons. (Christopher and Kevin) Their show includes three rounds of MT trivia, two Broadway guests, and only one winner! Each week their guests battle not only with their minds but with their voices as well! It's honestly, one of my favorite parts of the week.

BWW Interview: Michael Hull & Dylan Bustamante of BROADWAY TALK LIVE!

MH: Then on Tuesday, it's Good Morning Tonight, with me and my best gal pal Jackie Cox. Since most theatre people revolve around a nighttime show schedule, we do our show at 7 pm and call it "a morning show for nighttime people." You can expect lots of guests, exclusive interviews, special performances, plus Jackie makes me wear a suit, which just doesn't seem fair during a pandemic.

BWW Interview: Michael Hull & Dylan Bustamante of BROADWAY TALK LIVE!

DB: Thursday's is our show! The 5:30 Quarantini is at... you guessed it 5:30 pm.

The 5:30 Quarantini is a Broadway Happy Hour featuring a special Guest Bartender, served with a cocktail of the day, and garnished with a round of puzzles and word-games. We make up each game based on who our guest is, so you may be playing "In The Bathroom" trivia with George Salazar, or "Wicked Word-Smashes" with Julia Murney.

BWW Interview: Michael Hull & Dylan Bustamante of BROADWAY TALK LIVE!

You two are very close friends in real life - what is the nature of working on something as big as building a virtual television network with a best friend? How do you navigate that balancing act?

DB: Everything we do is just so fun. Building this has been something we both have wanted to do and just haven't been able to find the time to do. Michael?

MH: it's awful I hate him.

If you were at a benefit where New York performing artists were stationed at bars around a ballroom, whose bar would you find the best drinks at?

DB: Derek Klena. Hands down.

MH: Whoa that was too fast. Wait, there are so many good ones. What about Kevin Massey & Kara Lindsay! That US Open Melon Ball thing was pure magic.

DB: That's right! I almost forgot. And Nathan Salstone / Micaela Diamond day was awesome. They taught us a whiskey sour. OH! And Ben Rappaport & Megan Kane! They made a painkiller with us and they were so committed. We had special glassware and everything.

MH: And we'd be remiss to not mention Danny Quadrino who poured what I can only describe as a pint of Tequila on top of some ice. This is a fun question. Plus there was Jen Cody's spicy margarita, Amy Jo Jackson made a cold brew coffee cocktail, and Jay Armstrong Johnson did a really awesome Paloma. And this is only to name a few!

DB: Wow, our show is really good.

Play with me for a second: assume that the right person is going to read this and make it happen -- who have you not had on QUARANTINI that you really want to have on the program.

DB and MH: Stephanie J Block.

MH: HA! Jinx! We've already had some pretty dreamy guests on the show, but yes we have a shortlist of people we're still working our way to. There have been a few near-misses with some of our *idols* who are down to join, but we're waiting for the schedule to work out. You'll have to stay tuned to see who's joining us next! And yes. SJB if you're reading this, call me!

Michael and Dylan - which of you is the best bartender, and which of you is most likely to still be standing at the end of a night of drinking?

BOTH: It's me.

MH: I clearly am the better bartender but Dylan will definitely drink both of us under the table.

DB: He's not wrong.

Gentlemen, thank you so much for chatting with me today, and I hope your work with Broadway Talk LIVE yields many great things for you.

DB: No, thank YOU!

MH: Support from you is so incredibly generous and appreciated!

Visit the Broadway Talk LIVE! YouTube channel HERE.

BWW Interview: Michael Hull & Dylan Bustamante of BROADWAY TALK LIVE!

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From This Author Stephen Mosher