Todrick Hall comes back toNorth Texas for Black Tie Dinner
It’s less than a week before Todrick Hall is set to perform in at Dallas’ Black Tie Dinner, and he is at home in Los Angeles, packing furiously for his move to New York City and the big time on Broadway.
Beginning Nov. 1, the Texas native steps into the sparkly-red high-heeled footwear of Lola in the Tony Award-winning musical Kinky Boots. It’s not Hall’s first time on Broadway, but it is his first time, he said, he will hit the Great White Way as his true, authentic self.
Hall was born and reared in the Texas Panhandle town of Plainview — although he now considers the DFW Metroplex his hometown — and has been performing on stage since he was 8 years old. At 18, Hall made his Broadway debut as a dancer in The Color Purple, starring Fantasia Barino. At 20, he joined the Broadway cast of the musical, Memphis.
But he wanted more. So he turned his sights on the small screen and auditioned for Season 9 of the star-making TV show American Idol.
“I had worked with Fantasia Barino in Color Purple, and I had seen how much American Idol changed her life,” Hall said. “I was known just as a dancer. I had been dancing classical ballet since I was 8, and that’s all people saw me as — a dancer. I wanted to be more. Dancing wasn’t a factor at all on American Idol, and so I saw that as a way to get people to start seeing me as a singer, and not just a dancer.”
Hall eventually advanced all the way to the semifinals on American Idol, and while he had been “super happy just to get to Hollywood,” he regretted that he had “never really believed in myself.”
Although the shows producers and judges never came out and told him to hide his sexual orientation, Hall said there was “an underlying tone in every thing they said, every critique they gave me,” suggesting that if he were too overtly gay, he would damage his appeal to “middle America” and hurt his chances of advancing.
When he was eliminated, Hall said, “it was super depressing. But mostly I was depressed that I didn’t even show the world who I really was.
They only saw a watered-down version of Todrick Hall. And I made I vow to myself that from then on, no matter what I did, I will show people who I really am.”
So Hall decided that he was going to take advantage of an at-the-time just emerging new performance platform: YouTube. It was, he said, “the best decision I ever made.”
YouTube gave Hall the chance to “come out and be 100 percent myself.” With “no Simon Cowell there to judge me,” he said, he was able to fully express himself and build a devoted audience of fans who loved what they were seeing. His videos quickly went viral and he started making “great money,” allowing him to leave New York for L.A. and make a real career for himself.
In 2015, MTV debuted Todrick, a docuseries about Hall and his life, and this year he is one of the weekly judges on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars. In June of this year, Hall released his visual album, Straight Outta Oz — borrowing from his all-time favorite movie, The Wizard of Oz — on YouTube, then took his Oz show on the road in the Straight Outta Oz tour.
Now, with his cred as a singer and an actor as well as a dancer firmly established, Hall is headed back to New York City, ready to take on the Tony Award-winning lead role in a Tony Award-winning smash show. And he is ready to strut his stuff on Broadway.
But not before he stops by home to perform for a worthy cause.
“I am really excited to be performing at Black Tie,” Hall said, adding that he will be singing a song he wrote specifically as a tribute to his fellow YouTube star, Christina Grimmie, murdered by an obsessed fan June 11 while she signed autographs after a concert in Orlando, Fla.
The song is also a tribute to the 49 people who were murdered and the 53 injured in the mass shooting in the early morning hours of June 12 at Pulse nightclub, also in Orlando.
“The song is called ‘Water Guns,’ and its about acceptance and gun violence. It’s for Christina Grimmie and the people at Pulse,” he said. “I am very vocal about the things I love, the things I stand for, and I think I’ve done my fair share so far on changing people’s minds. But I would also like to do a lot more for social awareness.
“And I am really excited to be in Dallas. I have so many friends and family members there. My mom is there, and she’s coming to the dinner with me,” Hall added. “I am just happy to come home and sing numbers off my album. It’s just so cool that I get to come home for that.”
35th Annual Black Tie Dinner
Sheraton Dallas Hotel
Saturday, Oct. 1, 5 p.m.
Featuring entertainment by:
• Multi-platinum recording artist and actress Deborah Cox, presented by Dallas Summer Musicals and Performing Arts Fort Worth/Bass Performance Hall.
• Texas native Todrick Hall, YouTube star, American Idol semi-finalist and soon-to-be lead in Kinky Boots on Broadway.
• Comedienne Dana Goldberg, returning to once again host the live luxury auction.
• Actress Debra Messing, receiving the Media Award, honoring an individual or industry leader who has demonstrated a solid commitment to bringing public and media attention to major LGBT issues.
• Olympic gold medalist and LGBT activist Greg Louganis, receiving the Elizabeth Birch Award.
• Connie Britton, Emmy-nominated actress and United Nations Development Programme goodwill ambassador, receiving the Ally for Equality Award recognizing her commitment to the LGBT community.
• Dr. Steven Pounders, receiving The Kuchling Humanitarian Award for his positive impact on Dallas’ LGBT community.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2016.