Interview with David Dower
David Dower: Okay, so here's the thing-- and there's been a lot written and listeners can actually Google these boys-- but these teenagers, John and Leo Manzari. When we started to do auditions for the show, Maurice Hines said he was sure that here in D.C. there were dancers who could do this work. It's very complicated. The range of styles is everything from modern to African to tap to jazz and ballet, and so it requires a certain amount of training. But he thought that there would be people here who could do it. He came down to teach master classes free-- open master classes just to find D.C. dancers. And these two young men were in a couple of the early classes. It wasn't until later that he realized they were brothers, and then when he knew they were brothers, he asked them if they could tap. They came and they did an audition and they did a tap-off with him, and they blew him away. They can tap. If you see the show, they can tap. He built the show around them. And he built the show around a handoff. Maurice and his brother, they were Hines, Hines, and Dad-- he and Gregory danced for decades together. And Gregory died in 2005, and Maurice has always said he's still dancing with his brother. He's been looking for someone to hand the mantle too,. It's been in the Hines' hands for some time, and they picked it up from the Nicholas Brothers. And so he built a show in which literally in the middle of the show he hands the reins, the future of this work, to these two young men, and they were 15 and 17 on opening night. They're amazing, and I hope that people will look them up. But what's beyond amazing about it, and you can feel it in there, is that those two young men grew up right next door to Arena Stage. They grew up on Sixth Street six inches from the Arena property. They're really amazing. And that spirit, it happened that night. The handoff took place that night. Maurice always told us that in the Eleven O'clock number where this moment happens where the three of them tap together and then he leaves the stage, he said, "You'll see my brother there with me on opening night." And there was something special that happened there, and it's been going ever since.
Jo Reed: They stopped the show. I mean, they literally stopped the show.
David Dower: You know what's funny, so these guys have no experience, right? I mean, they've been dancing in many classes and they do a lot of the tap festivals and things, but they've never done a show before. And so at the first preview, they got a standing ovation in the middle of the show. And I went backstage afterwards and I said, "You guys, enjoy that. That never happens. I've never seen that. I'm so delighted for you, but don't count on that. That does not happen." Well, it happens every night for them, and I was the one who learned something. They looked at me like, "Of course we're going to get a standing ovation every night." And they do, in the middle of the show.