B is for Billy Porter. Tracking his Broadway Dream via videos.

Billy Porter is busy promoting his debut as a film director, for the movie “Anything’s Possible” a romcom on Amazon Prime with a twist — one of the young lovers is trans. But for all his varied accomplishments of late, most prominently his Emmy-winning role in “Pose,” Broadway still looms large, as is clear from the story he told today on Late Night with Seth Meyers.

Given the revival this summer of Kinky Boots, the Broadway musical that made him a star, this seems the right time to offer him up as the latest in my Broadway Alphabet Series.

Billy first auditioned for Dreamgirls when he was 16, as he told Seth Meyers

As he says in his 2021 memoir Unprotected (and at his 2013 Tony acceptance speech), it was hearing Jennifer Holliday sing from “Dreamgirls” on the Tony telecast when he was 13 years old that made him want a career as a theater artist

Billy did eventually get to sing in “Dreamgirls” on Broadway, as James Thunder Early, in a one-night only benefit concert in September 2001, when he was 30.

Here he is singing Fake Your Way To The Top

By then, he had already been in the cast of four Broadway shows. He made his Broadway debut, in the original Broadway production of “Miss Saigon,”  while still a student, at age 21

Here he is as John singing Bui Doi

He worked as an understudy in Five Guys Named Moe,  under the name W. Ellis Porter,  and was a replacement in Smokey Joe’s Café.

He starred as Teen Angel in the Broadway revival of Grease

And then, yes, Kinky Boots, in which he originated the role on stage of Lola, the drag queen who helps save a shoe manufacturer.




Sex is in the Heel


He won the Tony Award for Best Performance By An Actor In A Leading Role In A Musical – and gave a passionate speech:


For the 2016 production of “Shuffle Along, Or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed,” Billy portrayed Aubrey Lee Lyles, a real-life American vaudeville performer, playwright, songwriter, and lyricist. Here he sings “I’ve got the lowdown blues”

Billy’s most recent foray onto Broadway was just this year – as a co-producer of the Tony-winning musical “A Strange Loop”

Even when he’s not busy singing on Broadway, he’s singing Broadway. Broadway songs are the focus of several of his albums

During a commercial break during the 2019 Tony Awards, he was urged into karaoke — and delivered an astonishing rendition of a quintessential Broadway song

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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