Tony Award-winner brings a little Broadway to Ridgefield

With a Broadway resumé that includes starring roles in Chicago, Les Miserables and Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, the latter of which earned her a Tony Award, Debbie Gravitte has been a voice to be reckoned with in the theater.

Gravitte recently released a new album entitled “Big Band Broadway!” and will be bringing a 16-piece, live big-band with her to the Ridgefield Playhouse on Feb. 3 to play songs off the recording, backed by RK Big Band, led by Russ Kassoff.

Although born and raised in Los Angeles, Gravitte calls Redding home now, after spending many years in Ridgefield, and is always excited to return to the Ridgefield Playhouse for a gig.

Keith Loria: Having been part of this community for a while, why do you feel the Ridgefield Playhouse is such an important venue for the area?

Debbie Gravitte: In my opinion, the Playhouse has an iconic status. When I first moved to Ridgefield, I was a teeny bit involved and I remember Barbara Manners (first president of the Friends of the RPAC, which founded it) taking me to see this shell of an auditorium and talking about what they had in mind for it, so I feel a little possessive of it. I did one of the first galas here. Ridgefield was always a fantastic place to live and raise a family but with the Playhouse, it is truly on the map. I love every time I perform there and every time I watch something there.

KL: What can you preview about your upcoming show?

DG: I have a new album called “Big Band Broadway,” and we are basically doing the album plus other fabulous songs. To me, there’s nothing better than standing on the stage with a real-life, 16-piece big band. Everyone will be tapping their toes.

KL: Talk a little about the tunes on the new album — all Broadway-inspired?

DG: It was an idea I had because I’m a Tony Award winner and from the world of Broadway and I’ve always loved big band music. I wanted to blend the two together. This is only part one, so most of the tunes are from 1940 through the ’60s, such as “Surrey With the Fringe on Top” and “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” these gems we all have in our brains somewhere that are a lot of fun.

KL: Your first Broadway show was They’re Playing Our Song back in 1979. What did hitting the stage for the first time mean to you?

DG: It was such an amazing thing to be a part of and I loved every minute. I remember everything about it. Money was no issue and it was Marvin Hamlisch and Neil Simon, all A+ listers in the Imperial Theatre, where I have done three Broadway shows. I remember opening night and saying, ‘OK, you made it to Broadway, now what happens?’ I wanted it so bad and I wasn’t sure what was going to come next.

KL: You’ve had such a great Broadway career. What was it about the theater that made you want to pursue this life?

DG: I was this girl in Los Angeles going to dance class and singing and the high school star and all I wanted to do was Broadway. Growing up in L.A., you would think that all I would want was TV and movies, but I was completely stage struck. There was really no choice for me than to head East to New York. I got an agent and was told it was going to take some time, and eight months later I booked They’re Playing Our Song.

KL: What’s on your docket for 2018?

DG: We’ll be touring this around. I have some other concerts I’m doing and there are lots of potential great things happening. I’m also ready to go back to Broadway and although there are no plans yet, I’m keeping an eye on that closely.

KL: Does it matter to you if you join a show already running or would you rather take part in something original and new?

DG: That’s the dream of everybody, to have that show written for you or where you get to create a new role, but I wouldn’t be heartbroken to do a fabulous role whatever it is.

KL: Any last message for your fans out there about your upcoming show?

DG: The album will be for sale during the show or they can go to my website and I can send them a copy signed, but I promise no one will leave the show disappointed, so they should definitely come on out.

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