A Guiding Light on Broadway

A man with many credits to his name, Jeff Whiting has been the Associate Director on Broadway productions Big Fish, Bullets Over Broadway (six Tony Nominations), Hair (Tony Best Revival) and Wicked (Fifth Anniversary), as well as Director/Associate Director of multiple National Tours including Young Frankenstein, Hairspray, and The Producers.

The New York Times exclaimed, “Mr. Whiting directs with an airy, joyous touch,” while “The View” praised him as “a truly remarkable talent.”

We caught up with Jeff in Raleigh, North Carolina during the last week of rehearsals in September 2016 — just before RR2D set off on its 60-city national tour. It was a busy time, and we are so grateful that Jeff is here today.

Be Inkandescent: Jeff, you are the director of the 60-city tour, Rockin’ Road to Dublin. Tell us about yourself, your amazing background and what brought you to be the guiding light for this wonderful Irish dance and rock concert that is bringing audiences to their feet.

Jeff Whiting: I’m a theater director and I live in New York City. I have been very fortunate to get to work on lots of Broadway shows — including Broadway Bullets Over Broadway, Young Frankenstein, and Big Fish.

I met the creators of Rockin’ Road to Dublin — Celtic rocker Chris Smith and Irish Dance World Champion Scott Doherty — when I was hired to direct a show called Monster Stomp at Busch Gardens a few years ago. They are very talented, and we have a great time doing the show. Then, earlier in 2016 they called to ask me if I’d be interested in doing this show — and I said yes immediately. It has been an incredible experience.

Be Inkandescent: So what was it about Rockin’ Road to Dublin, of Irish dance to rock music that drew you to this show?

Jeff Whiting: I’ve always been a huge fan of the Irish dance. In fact, I dance a little myself as a tapper. And I have long been fascinated by the shows that I’ve seen that have Irish dance in them. So when I began working on this show, I did some research about Irish music and how Irish dance came to be.

One of my favorite legends about it goes like this: There was a young king that was in love with a young maiden, but he didn’t dare to tell her directly. Instead, he whispered words that described the depth of his love to a beautiful old tree in the woods. Later, the tree was cut down and eventually was turned into the first Irish harp for a musician in the land. When the first notes were struck, the sound of the king’s love reached his lover’s ears, and she came to him. That’s basically how Irish music was born. Isn’t that a great story?

So I took this idea and embedded it into the core of our show. We’re taking these beautiful Irish tunes, turning them on their ear and giving them a rock-n-roll flair. But at the heart of it is a love story between the two singing leads — performed by Megan Browning and Brett Benowitz. As they belt out the songs, we find there are many kinds of love. Couple that with the wonderful dancers, and the show has a lot of nuances.

Be Inkandescent: That is fantastic because Chris and Scott and the other cast members have been performing a variation of this show for about three years — mostly as a music and dance show — but the addition of the story makes it even more unique and novel. Did you feel that its the element that was missing?

Jeff Whiting: I think any time you see a stage performance — no matter if it’s dance or music or a dramatic performance on Broadway — there needs to be a reason you stick with it. Scott had created these beautiful dances and so it was very simple to go, “Oh you know what? She’s doing that dance to celebrate her love for him.” It was actually quite easy to flesh it out, once I figured out what the story was. The through line simply allows the audience to follow and cheer this couple as they go throughout their journey.

Be Inkandescent: And the music is incredible, as are the dancers. Those feet — those fast moving feet! It’s a joy to watch all of the performers.

Jeff Whiting: Yes! The feet are incredible. I mean I tap a little bit, but these guys — you watch them and it’s just absolutely spectacular. Every beat is full of life and energy, and they have milliseconds of beats. And the way they divide it up is really spectacular. Plus their work ethic is absolutely incredible. It has been thrilling this week to watch them.

Be Inkandescent: What is your vision for Rockin’ Road to Dublin?

Jeff Whiting: I think the trajectory of this show is that it will become an international brand. It’s something really unique and special. Chris and Scott have taken this idea of combining what we love about Irish music, and what we love as Irish dance, and fused them together in a way that no one has ever seen before.

I forecast that Rockin’ Road to Dublin will grow, and people will begin to know us for this brand of rock music set to this Irish old tunes. Plus, you’ll find the most amazing feet that you’ll ever see around the world.

Click here to buy tickets to see the next show: RR2D.com

Click here to learn more about Jeff Whiting: JeffWhiting.com.