Posted on May 29, 2019 at 2:11 am

What is the recipe for a Wayne Brady? You need a pound of generosity and, like, a ton of charm, and then fourteen gallons of talent, open up a can of fearlessness, and sprinkle at least four bags of joy; stir all that together and bake it until it’s steaming hot, and then just let it ooze on out until you can feel the love bubbling up from the ground. I may have gotten the proportions wrong and missed some ingredients, but somebody should figure out all the specs because we need as much Wayne Brady in the world as we can get.

Of COURSE he got funky with some Al Green and Otis Redding and made the audience get up and dance. Of COURSE he channeled Sam Cooke and led the horn section in the Watusi. Of COURSE he got Ruthie to stand up and tell the whole story of her last relationship, and then of COURSE he improvised a song about it. Of COURSE I got up to dance with the man; why would I let that chance go by?

But what you maybe didn’t expect was how exposed he was, how vulnerable, how lost, when he sang “Wondering.” Or the deep resonant spirituality, the unstoppable belief in humanity that powered his transcendent take on “All Things In Time.”

And what you would never see is how hard he worked, how much he pushed himself, so that he could be that smooth and relaxed on stage. In 49 shows, no one has asked me for as much rehearsal time as Wayne wanted, time to sit with me and really understand the meat of the music, the layers of the lyrics, until the songs fit him like a second skin. All this while he was doing shows across the continent, performing in benefits, and generally running around like the six-time Emmy-winning TV star he is.

About once a year, I allow myself to pull out the stops and bring in a horn section, strings, backup singers, and if ever there was a night to do it, it was this one. Having all that energy and power on the stage created this incredible feedback loop – Wayne pushed us, the horns pushed the singers, the band pushed Wayne, and I just rode those waves.

I premiered a new song, adapted from one of my State Farm industrials, and also got to play the big cha-cha from The Trumpet of the Swan, featuring some amazing solos from Jami Dauber and the rest of the band. And extra points to Danielle and Anastasia, who went right with me to provide instant soul sister backup vocals when Wayne started improvising his song. I am surrounded by magicians, I tell you.

Invisible from How We React and How We Recover (2018)
Step It Up To The Next Level (premiere, 2019)
Everybody Knows from How We React and How We Recover (2018)
Low Morals and High Prices adapted from The Trumpet of the Swan (2008)
WAYNE: Twistin’ the Night Away (music and lyric by Sam Cooke, 1962)
WAYNE: Wondering from The Bridges of Madison County (2014)
WAYNE: Ghosted! (improvised by Wayne, JRB and the whole band)
WAYNE: All Things In Time from How We React and How We Recover (2018)
Melinda from How We React and How We Recover (2018)
Caravan of Angels from How We React and How We Recover (2018)
THE WAYNE BRADY DANCE PARTY:

I Can’t Get Next To You (music and lyric by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, 1969)
I Can’t Turn You Loose (music and lyric by Otis Redding, 1965)
I Can’t Stop Dancing (music and lyrics by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, 1969)
Tighten Up (music and lyrics by Archie Bell and Billy Butler, 1968)

Wait ‘Til You See What’s Next from How We React and How We Recover (2018)

JRB: vocals, piano
Wayne Brady: vocals, dance party percussion
Brian Dunne: drums
Randy Landau: bass
Gary Sieger: guitar
Todd Reynolds: violin
Mairi Dorman-Phaneuf: cello
Jami Dauber: trumpet
Alexa Tarantino: alto and tenor sax, flute
Robert DeBellis: tenor and baritone sax
Clint Sharman: trombone
Danielle Greaves & Anastasia Talley: vocals

And next month? The 50th Residency Concert, featuring Tony Award-winning genius Katrina Lenk and … oh, what’s his name again? … ah, that’s it: Stephen Sondheim. June 24, 8 pm at the Town Hall.

Credits:

Photos by Erika Kapin