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Broadway star Billy Porter discusses great career moments and Boston Pops debut

Tony and Grammy award-winning performer Billy Porter is thrilled to make his debut with the Boston Pops in ‘At the Corner of Broadway and Soul’ at Symphony Hall on Tuesday, May 20 and Wednesday, May 21 at 8 p.m. Billy Porter has a diverse background working in television and film, with several CDs out such as ‘Billy’s Back on Broadway’ and ‘At the Corner of Broadway and Soul.’ Visit his website, billyporter.com and visit bostonpops.org for ticket information! To hear the full audio interview, click here.I’m Jeanne Denizard and I have the honor of speaking with Billy Porter.

See Broadway, film, television star Billy Porter sing with the Boston Pops on Tuesday, May 20 and Wedesday, May 21!
Courtesy of Albert Watson

So, you won the Tony Award last year for Best Leading Actor in 2013’s Best Musical, ‘Kinky Boots.’ Your acceptance speech was incredible. (See the acceptance speech here.)

Thank you. I have good people around me. They told me to write something down, so I did. They said we have a one in five chance so don’t embarrass us.

You mentioned a few things in your acceptance speech like how Jennifer Holliday was such an influence in your life at a young age, but what was going through your mind when you were nominated, and when they called your name?

The nomination is right before the campaign. It’s a month of meeting, greeting, handshaking, and literally campaigning and you sort of go everywhere. You’re also doing the show at the same time. That was an interesting time, to sort of try to stay focused and present. I was present all the way up until they called my name. When they called my name, everything went sort of warped, kind of crazy.

I watch that moment and I say, “Ok well, I prepared enough that if it happened I could be grounded enough to actually speak because I had my little note cards with me.” The only thing that was really going through my mind was I have 90 seconds from the time my name is called to the time they start playing me off the stage. So, let me start talking fast because I have a lot of stuff to say.

I imagine this was a moment in your life when you’re saying I can’t believe that I am here.

Yes, it is and I am so grateful. It’s such a wonderful time, especially after having a lot of time off and the down times. Life is up and down. It was wonderful having this resurgence and on my own terms which what I really fought and worked for creatively.

Now, you’ll have your debut performance with the Boston Pops and the name of your show is ‘At the Corner of Broadway and Soul’ which is also the title of your 2005 CD. Now how did you decide on the songs you were going to include on this album?

My current album is called ‘Billy’s Back on Broadway.’ ‘At the Corner of Broadway and Soul’ is my second CD. We’re doing songs from both. The way that I chose the songs on this album is I chose the theme - songs of empowerment, inspiration and hope. Once I chose that theme, the songs chose themselves.

What do you think sets you apart as a performer?

No matter how I answer this question I am going to sound like an ego maniac. I know what I think sets me apart and that is my history, and embracing everything that encompasses who I am from growing up in the church to Broadway to acting to drama school to dancing school, graduate school, to writing, to directing. I’ve always been a renaissance man and I love being a renaissance man. There’s nothing I love more than being a creative person and I get to do this for a living. If that separates me, great! I should be so lucky to just create good work from a real honest place.

What do you think is the best reason people should go to see this performance?

Music is the universal language, and I’m not sure that it matters that it’s Broadway music, especially when it’s coming from me. I am the last person on the planet, if you look at the description of me on paper of who I am and where I came from, what I’m doing right now and the music that I’m singing and how I’m living my life is the last thing that anybody ever would have expected.

With that, music is healing, it’s transformative, and I’m real, real good at it. So COME! With live instruments and live music becoming harder and harder to experience, it doesn’t get any better than this. I am going to stand in front of an orchestra and sing. It’s like a dream.

Absolutely! It’s one of the renowned experiences in the world, performing with the Boston Pops. I just wanted to ask you about your future projects and I so appreciate you talking to me here.

At the moment, I have a play that I wrote called ‘While I Yet Live’ that is being produced by Primary Stages off Broadway in the fall. I’m doing the show, promoting my album, and I’m working on trying to write a book. I’m just keeping it going.

See Tony and Grammy award-winner, Billy Porter perform with the Boston Pops, ‘At the Corner of Broadway and Soul’ on Tuesday, May 20 and Wednesday, May 21 at 8 p.m. All performances will be held at Boston Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts.

Call 1-617-266-1200 or click here for full schedule and ticket information!