BY: FRANCESCA BRILLI
Megan Minutillo had the idea to pair a Broadway hopeful with a Broadway idol and invite them to perform together. In the past, some of these relationships have grown into long-term mentorships with stars like Tony-nominee Beth Leavel (currently starring in The Prom). Duets recently celebrated its seventh iteration at Feinstein’s/54 Below and Broadway Spin caught up with Megan Minutillo, who dreamt it all up just a few years ago.
Broadway Spin: Tell our readers a little bit more about Duets.
Megan Minutillo: The ‘Hopefuls’ sing one duet with a mentor, and then they sing a solo that tells the audience a little bit about their story. Sometimes it’s a current thing, sometimes it’s, oh this is the first show I ever saw or was cast in, a role I have always wanted to play and never got the chance to and they tell a little bit about that solo and they tell the audience why they want to sing with their duet partner.
BS: Where did you get the idea?
MM: I started a website called The Write Teachers. I felt like there was no other site that celebrated entertainment and arts education for all of the disciplines, and I started interviewing people. So, I would sit and look through the Playbill Vault and hunt for people who had websites that didn’t require an agent and would maybe do an interview with me. Daphne Rubin-Vega was one of the first people who said yes. Then I met the one and only Jennifer Tepper.
BS: And then??
MM: I was in the shower one day and I was like “You know what would be really cool? If I could pair a Broadway performer with someone who doesn’t really have a Broadway credit. So, I asked Jen if I could do it at 54 Below, the first concert I think was 32 people at 54 Below, and I almost lost my mind. And it was great, but something was missing. The teacher part of me was like “What, as an audience member, will make this more interesting?” And the story part was that. And that iteration of this whole thing started at about volume four. And it was like the light bulb went off, and I was like okay, this is it.
BS: It’s a great time for something like this. When you have kids like Andrew Feldman who’s sixteen and he’s a Jimmy Kid and making his Broadway debut, like it’s really in their grasp.
MM: The heart of this concert is putting people on a stage like 54 Below and giving people a chance to be seen, and letting people be heard. Some really wonderful mentorships have come out of this as well. In the last volume, Beth Leavel was kind enough to join us and she’s given her hopeful tips, and I know they’ve had FaceTime conversations and its just great, little moments of mentorship.
BS: How do you select the hopefuls? Is there an application process?
MM: A lot of them are students that I know are looking to pursue this type of career. This year was the first year that I took a lot of recommendations, and I put a call out on Facebook, so people sent me clips and tapes and stuff. I have the hopefuls give me a list of 10 names of people they’d want to sing a duet with and tell me why. And then I go to the people, and say, “This is, you know, Jane Smith and Jane wants to sing with you” and then I just send them their own words from the email they sent me. It’s about their connection.
BS: How does the song selection process work?
MM: It’s a combination of things! The hopefuls really know that their idols are doing them a favor, so we will come to whatever mentor is doing it and say “We’ll sing whatever you want.” But usually the idol or the mentor responds and says, “We’ll sing whatever they want!” But, it’s a conversation and sometimes people want to learn something new, so I let them really choose with oversight and guidance and see what we need.
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A little music for your Monday! Repost @meganminutillo with @get_repost ・・・ Inside the rehearsal room of DUETS with @thewriteteachers Volume 7 with these two magical humans, @derek_klena + @meganjane10. ❤️ Come join the fun at @54below on April 12th! Purchase tickets via the #linkinbio.
BS: Where do you ideally see Duets in the future? Do you see Duet’s continuing to say, a Volume 20?
MM: I hope so! I would love to do more cabaret shows that have a lot of volumes. Duets, I’d like to make it bigger. I don’t know how yet, but I think its just such a nice evening. Even the performers for the last volume were like “This has been one of the best cabaret evenings I’ve been to” just because of the stories. I mean, what is theater if not storytelling. But, it’s when you add that sort of personal component and I think show business is always going to be hard but life in New York, it’s good to have these little tiny moments of just togetherness and shared humanity and it’s great for the hopefuls and it’s great for the Broadway professional folk, and I hope each of them gets something out of it.
BS: If you were going to be in your own show, who would be your idol, and what would you sing?
MM: That is a great question! Who would be my idol? Lin Manuel-Miranda, and what would we sing? I think “Champagne” from In The Heights. My solo, oh gosh. I think “So Much Better” from Legally Blonde.