by Linda Lombardi, Literary Manager
John and Leo Manzari previously appeared in Arena Stage’s production of Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies starring Maurice Hines at the Lincoln Theater. They were also been seen in the 50th Anniversary of the 35th President of the United States at the Kennedy Center, Ellington Songbook and Sacred Concert at the Strathmore Theater and Great American Songbook at The Palladium in Indiana. TV credits include Mo'Nique Show, special guest on So You Think You Can Dance, Jerry Lewis Telethon and PBS NewsHour.
How did you meet Maurice Hines and become part of Tappin’ Thru Life?
Leo: We met Maurice at a jazz/hip-hop class we took at Duke Ellington. He invited us to the auditions for Sophisticated Ladies and through that show we got Tappin’ Thru Life, because of our relationship.
John: It was an open class at Duke Ellington; we went to the Field School.
Leo: Meeting Maurice created a great artistic comfort zone for us to do what we do and be showcased in these great productions.
John: It’s meant an open dialogue about what the business is - what tap is and how people are, how you approach situations and how you go about living life as an artist. You don’t get that if you’re around people your own age all the time. You get that knowledge from someone older, someone who mentors you, like Maurice is doing.
What three words would you use to describe the show?
John: I’d say classy...that’s my first word...
Leo: That’s a good question.
John: Classy and elegant and human. There’s a lot of emotion attached to the show. It’s not just Maurice on stage singing and dancing and us coming out doing whatever we feel like doing. There’s a lot of humanity and emotion and feeling attached throughout the entire show. That’s what makes it special for us. We’re walking through his life...
Leo: We’re tapping through it...
John: OK, we’re tapping through his life - honoring his life and honoring everyone he’s met and there’s something very real about that.
Leo: Timeless historical journey. Maurice goes through his life story in such an interesting and articulate way, yet it’s different every night. He throws in a different characteristic of his story every night which makes it more and more satisfying to listen to.
What’s next for each of you?
John: Tappin’ Thru Life is going to Atlanta, Cleveland and Los Angeles. We’ll be in New York at the Apollo Theater for a different show called Apollo Club Harlem, in February. Maurice is directing that.
I think in the future you will see tap reach a broader audience. Tap hasn’t been in the mainstream. It’s been away for a while, and while it’s been away it’s been able to develop away from judgmental eyes. It didn’t have to stay in the confines of what people thought tap should be. It could break loose. It could have more movement different rhythms, different types of music. It could have different themes and be more of an art form instead of pure entertainment. Leo and I will be a part of that. Leo makes music, we both sing, obviously we dance. Having this all come together will push tap to a broader audience.
Leo: Expect the unexpected. We’re going to push tap in a more artistic way so it’s not just a number in a show - it’s going to be the show. That’s what it’s going to be. And people are going to appreciate it for that.