PLAYBILL PLAYLIST: Pippin's Ariana DeBose and Benjamin Rauhala Pick Performances That Defy "Type"

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07 Aug 2014

Ariana DeBose
Ariana DeBose

Ariana DeBose, a cast member in Broadway's Pippin, will return to 54 Below Aug. 15 with her original solo show Typed Out. In anticipation of the concert, DeBose and musical director Benjamin Rauhala pick performances that defy "type" as part of this week's Playbill Playlist

The evening, set to begin at 11 PM, features music direction by Rauhala and arrangements by Kurt Crowley.

"At its core," DeBose explained, "Typed Out is about breaking boundaries, challenging type, labels and changing the game (sprinkled with laughter), so Ben and I decided to create a playlist that celebrates individuals who in our minds are prime examples of those things." 

In an intimate cabaret setting, according to 54 Below, "Ariana (Bring It On, Motown, Pippin) defies limitations of gender, age and race in Typed Out. In collaboration with Ben Rauhala (music direction), Kurt Crowley (arrangements), and two-time Tony nominee Terrence Mann (creative consultant), Ariana investigates what it is to be ethnically ambiguous in a world that thrives on labels. Audiences can expect a variety of mash-ups, medleys and more!"

DeBose, who was a contestant on the reality television series "So You Think You Can Dance?," was also seen on Broadway as Nautica in Bring It On: The Musical and Mary Wilson in Motown. Click here to read her exclusive blog for Playbill.com about performing with both Broadway shows on last year's Tony Awards.

54 Below is located at 254 W. 54th Street. For more information and tickets, call (646) 476-3551 or visit 54Below.com.

Brandy and Whitney Houston in the 1997 ABC telefilm "Cinderella." Seventeen years before Keke Palmer is to tackle the role of Cinderella, Brandy and Whitney Houston, under Walt Disney Television's progressive eye, broke racial boundaries by telling a classic story from a multi-cultural perspective. Executive produced by Houston herself, this is a beautiful example of making a bold statement by re-defining and re-examining type.

Audra McDonald in the 1994 Lincoln Center revival of Carousel. Currently defying expectations in her Tony Award-winning portrayal of Billie Holiday at the Circle in the Square Theatre, Audra McDonald won the hearts of the theatre community (and her first Tony Award) for her portrayal of the whimsical Carrie Pipperidge in the 1994 revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel.

Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl. In 1962, Barbra Streisand, who had become a recording artist of modest success, made her Broadway debut in I Can Get It For You Whole Sale in the character-actress role of Miss Marmelstein. Two short years later, she was starring as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl at the Winter Garden Theatre. She didn't have a classic look, and her voice was unlike any other heard before on the Broadway stage, but the creatives on the project stood by their choice in a leading lady. She would go on to be one of the most influential leading ladies of our time.

Norm Lewis in The Phantom of the Opera. Broadway favorite Norm Lewis made a splash on Broadway this spring when he stepped into the role of the Phantom in Andrew Lloyd Webber's mega-musical The Phantom of the Opera — a role most often played by Caucasian tenors. One of Broadway's most beloved baritones has made a tradition of defying type — starring as Javert in Les Misérables and as King Triton in The Little Mermaid. This, however, may be his largest and most groundbreaking casting thus far.

Patina Miller and Diane Paulus, Pippin. In 2012, Diane Paulus sent a ripple of excitement through the Broadway community when it was revealed that Patina Miller would be starring in a workshop of Pippin as the Leading Player, a role originated on Broadway by Tony Award winner Ben Vereen. Paulus broke through boundaries in her bold and successful reinvention of the iconic musical, paying homage to its iconic original Bob Fosse staging, while enhancing it with Gypsy Synder's circus flair. Under Paulus' watchful eye, Miller, known for her powerhouse vocals, defied expectations by showing audiences several new sides of her abilities, and proving that authority is not exclusively masculine. She became a 'Leading Player' for the history books.

Diana Ross and the Supremes. In a time when women were not at the forefront of the music industry, Diana Ross and the Supremes made music history by becoming the most prominent girl group of their time. It was groundbreaking when Diana Ross and the Supremes appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" because women of color were not often on television. Nonetheless, THESE three women, dressed to the nines and singing pop music, helped redefine the image of women of color projected in the mass media.

Fosse. Bob Fosse was a true game changer. When he came onto the cinema scene as a dancer, his style was unlike anyone that had been seen before. His choreography was first seen in a small sequence of "From This Moment On" in the 1953 film "Kiss Me, Kate." It's evident that his choreographic style was atypical from the traditional style of the day. He went on to be one of the most influential choreographers and directors of his time winning eight Tonys, an Oscar for his direction of "Cabaret" and an Emmy for "Liza with a Z."

Toni Braxton as Belle in Beauty and the Beast. We couldn't not include this one! In 1998 Toni Braxton made history being cast as the first African American to play Belle in Beauty and the Beast at the Palace Theatre. Talk about non-traditional casting. I find what she was able to do with this role admirable seeing as she had to really "buck up" to do eight shows a week, which is unlike anything in the music industry. You go girl!

Madonna. Consistently reinventing her image and her music and defying labels, Madonna is the quintessential queen of typing herself in and out. Whether she's a blonde or brunette — whether starting her own sexual revolution or simply enjoying being a material girl — whether singing R&B with Babyface, dirty pop with Justin Timberlake or with musical theatre bravado in "Evita," Madonna is constantly defying expectations and asking challenging questions with her work.

Sam Smith. Twenty-two-year-old, British singer-songwriter Sam Smith got his big break in the fall of 2012, when he was featured on Disclosure's dance hit "Latch." He most recently has made ripples in the United States with the enormous radio success of his single "Stay With Me" and robust sales of his debut album "In The Lonely Hour." An out gay man, he breaks boundaries and defies expectations with the heavy R&B influences in his songwriting and his rich and soulful sound, while being a champion for the LGBTQ community.