Checking In With… Dreamgirls Tony Winner Cleavant Derricks | Playbill

Checking In With... Checking In With… Dreamgirls Tony Winner Cleavant Derricks

The Broadway veteran is currently starring as The Wizard in the hit musical Wicked at the Gershwin Theatre.

Cleavant Derricks

This week Playbill checks in with Tony-winning Broadway veteran Cleavant Derricks, who is currently playing The Wizard in the long-running Broadway musical Wicked at the Gershwin Theatre.

Derricks won Tony and Drama Desk Awards for creating the role of James Thunder Early in the original Broadway production of Dreamgirls. He was also Tony-nominated for his work in Bob Fosse’s Big Deal, and his other Broadway credits include Vinnette Carroll’s Your Arms Too Short to Box With God and But Never Jam Today; the 1977 revival of Hair; and Brooklyn. The actor won the NAACP Theatre Award for Best Actor in the national tour of The Full Monty. Derricks' screen credits include Moscow on the Hudson, The Slugger’s Wife, Offbeat, Carnival of SoulsBluffing It, World Traveler, Sliders, Thea, Drexell’s Class, Good Sports, and Woops!

Checking In With… Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Star Alison Fraser

Cleavant Derricks in Wicked Joan Marcus

What is your typical day like now?
My typical day is seeing old stomping grounds of New York City. What's new, what's gone, how so much has changed. So much has changed, particularly the Lower West Side, since I haven't been in New York in over 15 years.

Are there any parts of your role or the musical that seem particularly poignant/relevant following the events of the past two years?
Regarding the past two years, be careful who you put in political positions.

Cleavant Derricks (center) with Sheryl Lee Ralph, Loretta Devine, and Vanessa Townsell in <i>Dreamgirls</i>
Cleavant Derricks (center) with Sheryl Lee Ralph, Loretta Devine, and Vanessa Townsell in Dreamgirls Martha Swope / New York Public Library

When you look back at your Broadway career, is there a production that most stands out for you? Can you share a memory from the show?
The production that stands out for me of course is Dreamgirls. Being invited by Michael Bennett to participate with the production team as vocal arranger.

During this time of reflection and re-education regarding BIPOC artists and artistry, particularly in the theatre, what do you want people (those in power, fellow artists, audiences) to be aware of? What do you want them to consider further?
I believe that Broadway has been giving those opportunities for years and are getting better at it, as well as audiences in receiving it. It takes time to adjust and educate. Nothing happens overnight. They need to continue to grow.

Ramona Keller, Kevin Anderson, Eden Espinosa, Karen Olivo, and Cleavant Derricks in Brooklyn

What, if anything, did you learn about yourself during the past two years that you didn't already know?
Over the past two years, I am still able to participate in the entertainment industry and enjoy it as much as I always did.

Do you have any other stage or screen projects in the works?
As to other projects, yes, but not to be discussed.

What organization would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
I believe that people should investigate for themselves and make their own choices on where to donate.

Checking In With… Tina—The Tina Turner Musical Star Nick Rashad Burroughs

Look Back at the Original Broadway Production of Dreamgirls

 
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