A whole lotta soul – Twisted broadway expands and conquers

Twisted Broadway has grown from a boutique fundraiser in Melbourne to a two state affair in just three years. Co-Producer of the event, Daniel Benge, sat down with AussieTheatre in an exclusive interview to talk about the show’s future in Melbourne and Sydney, his vision and his personal connection with the cause.

Twisted Broadway LogoDan Benge is a go-getter. His emanating passion and drive are evident from the second he shakes your hand. It’s no wonder this Law Student/Theatre Lover/Producer has built the annual charity concert Twisted Broadway from a ‘great idea’ into a widely known, hugely respected (and rapidly growing) enterprise.

“The concept is a few years old”, Benge explained. “It’s taken from a concert called Broadway Backwards, which is performed in New York. Bascially, it’s singers singing songs originally written for the opposite sex.”

Broadway Backwards (New York) supports the charity Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and Twisted Broadway supports the sister charity Oz Showbiz Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Benge’s personal connection with HIV and AIDS is, he says, a driving force behind his passion in producing high quality charity events for the cause.

“I grew up with a family friend who is HIV positive” he confides. “There is such a taboo associated with HIV and AIDS and it affects me greatly. There is such a misconception about the disease, and that is part of the reason I wanted to contribute – in the way that I can”, he said.

And boy, does he contribute.

As co-producer of Twisted Broadway Benge leads a team of dedicated Arts professionals who are committed to creating an event which is entertaining, challenging and thought provoking – all in the name of charity.

“There is a cross pollination within the Twisted Broadway team”, he explains. “We all have allocated positions, but we meet all the time to make sure everyone is aware of what’s going on”.

Currently, the team consists of Ryan Barwood, who comes from Orchestra Victoria, as Production Manager, Kate MacDonald and Daniel Benge continuing in 2012 as executive producers, James Simpson a music theatre student at La Salle, Singapore coming home to musically direct, and in a full time managerial position actor/dancer Mietta Gornall (West Side Story).

Dan Benge Twisted Broadway
Daniel Benge (right) and Danny Whitman, at the Broadway Cares Office in Times Square. Danny is the Director of Communications and Development of Broadway Cares in New York. Whitman aslo heads up "Broadway Backwards" NYC

“We are a really great cohesive unit”, says Benge, who stresses that his main emphasis is collaborative involvement.

“I think we are a great team – my co-producer, Kate picks up on things that I don’t even think of, we know that each other has great ideas and concepts on how things should work.”

This year, in an exciting development for the Twisted Broadway team, will mark the expansion of the brand from a Melbourne-based event to a two state affair. Audiences in both Sydney and Melbourne will have the opportunity to witness the brilliance of this concept and although no theatres and dates can be officially confirmed at this point, we do know that both concerts will take place in July, 2012.

“We will have one show in Melbourne and one show in Sydney” said Benge, “and it’s going to be bigger, more grand”.

Benge emphasises that while he is aware of the potential of the Twisted Broadway concept to take flight, he will never rest on his laurels.

“I refuse to say ‘oh we had a great year last year, this year is going to be easy’ – No, this year is going to be harder because it’s going to be bigger, and I want to make sure we do it right”

So, Benge has travelled to New York to meet with the founders of Broadway Backwards, in an effort to collaborate and discuss how the idea of singing reverse gender show-tunes in concert could become more of a world-wide fundraising concept.

“I want to learn from them, have a meeting with them, discuss with them what they are doing, what we are doing and how we can link up and support each other,” he enthused.

“We are looking at the possibility of doing some reciprocal performances; perhaps a video hookup with Broadway performers performing for the Australian show and vice versa.”

“I refuse to say ‘oh we had a great year last year, this year is going to be easy’ – No, this year is going to be harder because it’s going to be bigger, and I want to make sure we do it right”

It’s true that the concept is very specific, males singing female songs and females belting out the male show tunes, and anyone who saw last year’s concert at BMW Edge Theatre can attest to the colourful evening at the theatre it creates.

This year, artists are clamouring to be involved in the show as concepts are thrown around at Twisted Broadway headquarters.

“Now is such an exciting time because anything could happen. The hosts that we are looking at are hilarious, the program we are discussing is wonderful”, Benge says with a grin, not giving anything away.

“People who were involved last year loved the experience, people who didn’t know us last year have approached us, people who we didn’t know we have since made contact with us after seeing the show.”

This year, through the Victorian AIDS Council, the Twisted Broadway team will be running a ticket offer especially for people living with HIV.

“Not only in 2012 will tickets be sold to raise money for Oz Showbiz Cares, but tickets will be given to people who live with HIV that can’t afford to see shows. Living with HIV is incredibly expensive,” said Benge.

So, what are we to expect next from Twisted Broadway? A national tour in 2013? Is conquering the London theatre scene in their 3 year plan?

An official announcement with dates and venues for this year’s shows is imminent, but Daniel Benge believes in stabilising the current model before setting his sights too high.

“Well, for now we are going to open our Sydney show and that’s going to be great”, he said. “I would like to have a year to stabilise – so 2013 will probably be also Melbourne and Sydney.”

Co-producers Benge and Macdonald, and their team are the heart and soul behind Twisted Broadway. While they endeavour to remain out of the spotlight to let their event do the talking, it is impossible to let their commitment and passion go unrecognised. But for now, it’s on with the planning and on with the show!

More details about Twisted Broadway to come…

Erin James

Erin James is AussieTheatre.com's former Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

Erin James

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