Music video director Liz Friedlander makes her feature film debut with the Dianne Houston-penned drama which opens wide April 7.
"Inspired by a true story," according to production notes, "Take The Lead" follows the tale of a former professional dancer Pierre Dulane (Banderas) who volunteers as a teacher in the New York public school system. Assigned to monitor detention, the teacher soon finds a way to reach them and create a completely new style of dance.
Benanti (a veteran of Into The Woods and The Sound of Music) played muse Claudia to Banderas' Guido Contini in his Broadway debut in 2003's revival of Nine. The duo sang the Maury Yeston-penned ballad "Unusual Way." Benanti currently appears on Broadway in the new musical The Wedding Singer based on the movie.
Also feature in the film are Woodard and Ortiz. A recent addition to the "Desperate Housewives" cast, Woodard last appeared on Broadway in Drowning Crow. She is also known for her television work on "Hill Street Blues," "St. Elsewhere," "L.A. Law," "Miss Evers' Boys" and the small screen adaptations of "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf" and "The Piano Lesson."
Ortiz, Labyrinth Theatre Company co-artistic director (with Philip Seymour Hoffman), made his Broadway debut in Anna in the Tropics following noted Off-Broadway turns in References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot and Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train. He was a regular on the short-lived TV show "The Job" and slated to appear in the upcoming "Miami Vice" film. Other stage work includes The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, Guinea Pig Solo, Sueno and Cloud Tectonics. Director Friedlander is known for her work on the music videos for R.E.M.'s "The Great Beyond," Simple Plan's "Perfect," Counting Crows' "Big Yellow Taxi" and U2's "Walk On" among others.
For more information and a trailer of the upcoming film, visit the "Take The Lead" website at www.theleadmovie.com.