Spotlight on Hinton BattleBy Michael Clark • Apr 1st, 2013 • Category: Interviews
Michael Clark, for ShowBizRadio: Hinton Battle began his career on Broadway at the age of 15, appearing as the Scarecrow in The Wiz. He’s won the Tony Award as Featured Actor in a Musical three times. He’s appeared in Dreamgirls, Sophisticated Ladies, Chicago (Billy Flynn), Ragtime (Coalhouse Walker Jr.), Miss Saigon and The Tap Dance Kid. On TV, he was the dancing demon “Sweet” in the musical episode of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and appeared on “Touched by an Angel” and “Quantum Leap.” As a choreographer, Hinton’s credits include the 65th and 66th Academy Awards and the stage production of Evil Dead: The Musical. He also appeared in and choreographed the ABC movie “Child Star: The Shirley Temple Story.” He has now written and is directing a musical going out on a national tour Live Lies, opening at the Warner Theatre in Washington DC April 2nd. Thank you for talking with me today.
Hinton: Thank you for having me. How are you?
SBR: I am doing good. Looking forward to talking with you about your great career and the show Love Lies.
Hinton: Love to talk to you about it.
SBR: Yesterday my wife and I watched “Quantum Leap,” saw you on that.
Hinton: Oh, you’re kidding me! Where did you see that?
SBR: I read your bio and I was like, “Oh I think ‘Quantum Leap’ is on Netflix.” I pulled it up and we found which episode it was. So we watched that and then we watched the musical episode of “Buffy.”
Hinton: That’s cool. I’ll have to watch that sometime. I haven’t seen it. I didn’t know it was on. I’ll have to go check it out.
SBR: Yeah, it was cool. I looked on YouTube and I saw a bunch of old clips and I saw a bunch of award shows and different numbers that you were in. Incredible dancing going on.
Hinton: Incredible dancers. Absolutely. I remember we did “Night of 100 Stars” when they used to do those. It had Gregory Hines. They had everybody. Dancing and singing was pretty great.
SBR: I looked for The Wiz, but I could not find it anywhere.
Hinton: The Wiz, back then they did not record shows. They didn’t record. You would have to go to the Lincoln Center library and you could see them there. Now everything is recorded.
SBR: You’ve started writing your own show. What is it like to be the playwright? To be on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Hinton: It is kind of lonely. You do spend a lot of time in a room by yourself. And a computer. And you hope nobody walks by because they’ll hear you playing all the character roles out. Being the girls, the guys, the this, the that. You don’t want anybody to walk by because the next thing you know they may come back with the little jacket for you to put on with the strap around it. But I’m enjoying it; I’m really enjoying it.
The great thing about being a writer, this is my first writing venture, is being able to create different characters. And then I have this incredible cast during the show: Brian McKnight, Angie Stone, Elise Neal, Kier Spates (Junior from the Steve Harvey Show) Crystal Aikin (one of BET “Sunday Gospel’s Best”) and a newcomer Amber Harris. To see them take the work and the characters and bring them to life and have so much fun with it is just unbelievable for me to have put it to paper and just imagine what it could be and then seeing it actually happen. I call it my dream cast. Coming in and making it fantastic is just great.
SBR: Tell us about the show. What is Love Lies?
Hinton: Love Lies is about three women who go to the funeral of their fiancé.
SBR: Ok. That seems straightforward.
Hinton: They find out at the funeral that there are two other women.
SBR: Oooohhhhh, they are all engaged to the same guy.
Hinton: They are all engaged to the same man. And they are supposed to be getting married the next week. And he just happened to die. It was his lucky day. We go through the whole cycle of when men cheat on the women. The women accuse the other woman and they go after each other and that whole cycle that kind of happens.
A lot of the play’s set in flashback. So we see how they met him and how much he’s meant to ech one of these women. And they are comparing notes and finding out all these things. It’s pretty hilarious. I call it a dramedy because you have all this high energy drama and this high energy comedy. Because it’s funerals and people’s reactions to funerals can be pretty funny.
We get a chance to kind of laugh at ourselves. And we get a chance to see what kind of life that cycle is. How we see it. And the men get a chance to see what that does to people. That sort of ‘I love ’em all’ thing. What that ‘I love ’em all’ can do. So I mean it’s great. It’s got a lot of heart in this show. It’s got a lot of funny. And some great singing. Some great songs.
SBR: Did you write the music and the songs as well?
Hinton: No, I was lucky and I’m using all the songs that we know and love. There is one song that I wrote in the show called “Holy Holy.” But the songs are like… I was able to take Angie’s hit “Wish I Didn’t Miss You” and Brian McKnight’s “Back at One.” And incorporate it in the story that pushes the narrative forward of the show. You get to see Brian McKnight sing his hit song and in context, you know, you’re going to have your own personal experience with the song anyway, but now you are seeing it used in a new way, pushing the story forward. So it’s great. So the performances are great. I sit there in awe every time one of them opens their mouth or they do a scene, I just sit there going “wow, oh right I gotta go do so and so.” I forget what I’m supposed to be doing. It is a pleasure. It’s really a pleasure.
SBR: Is the title Love Lies a pun because every time I type it into the computer it auto corrects to Lovelies?
Hinton: Lovelies? Maybe, I don’t know. I only know Love Lies.
SBR: I was reading there is a gospel choir in the show, but it’s a different choir at each place the show goes to. How does that work?
Hinton: Well, we go out and o what’s called “The Love Lies Choir Search.” Every market, every city we go into we reach out to the community and have them come in and we look for that choir or those choirs to be a part of th show. And what it is is three moments in the show that the choir would appear in in the show as part of the show. So they get to actually sing with Crystal Aikin and with Brian McKnight. So I wanted to be able to have the community involved with the show as well as bringing a great show to every city. The response has been ridiculously incredible. So some nights we’ll have three and four choirs in the show at the same time singing a song, which is kind of neat.
SBR: How does rehearsal work for that? Do they get to do a run through?
Hinton: Oh yeah. We do a run through. They get to work with our musical director one night. The songs they’ll know, because they sing them in their churches already. So they just have to learn how we’re doing them and we block them in the show. And they’re on. They’re up and on. I do a special thing where I introduce them in the show as part of the funeral procession. I don’t want to give away too much, but they are definitely a big part of the show. They are in the show. They are not just coming out and singing a number before or after the show. They are a part of the show.
SBR: Part of the show. And then you’re directing as well. Was it hard to take what you’ve written and then to direct to performers to do what you want to pull out of them?
Hinton: When you have talent like that to work with, talented people to work with, it’s like a breeze. It’s so easy. It’s so much fun. We laugh so much doing it putting it together. We’re having a ball. Just having a ball. It’s really been a big joy. It’s just been great.
SBR: Where can people get tickets?
Hinton: You can go to www.hintonbattle.com and it has every city we’ll be visiting and you just click on that and it takes you right to where you can purchase tickets.
SBR: Anything else we need to touch base on that I don’t know about the show that you can share?
Hinton: Um.. you’ve hit everything there.
SBR: Ok great. I appreciate you talking with me.
Hinton: Michael, I appreciate you having me on. I really do.
SBR: Thanks very much. Love Lies plays at the Warner Theatre in downtown Washington DC, Tuesday April 2nd through Sunday the 7th.
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