By Brian Scott Lipton
In just 31 years, Corbin Bleu has accomplished a great deal as an entertainer from his star-making role as Chad Danforth in Disney’s High School Musical series to his run on the ABC soap opera One Life to Live and especially his acclaimed Broadway turns in In the Heights, Godspell, Holiday Inn and Kiss Me, Kate.
On May 19, Bleu’s fans will see a different side of him as the title character in the independent film Ovid and the Art of Love, a contemporary take on the story of the renowned Roman poet whose comic verses and permissive lifestyle provoked the brutal Emperor Augustus’s ire.
TheaterPizzazz recently spoke to Bleu about the movie, his decision to become a professional actor, his lifelong love of dance, and what he hopes to do when Broadway is back in business.
Q: How did you get involved in Ovid and the Art of Love?
CB: After reading the script, I thought it was different and interesting, and I liked the idea of this ancient story being told with modern lens. I especially liked that we used Detroit as a backdrop, because we were bringing work into a city that has had a lot of terrible issues and shedding light on the plight of urban decay.
Q: What message do you want audiences to take away from the movie?
CB: I love the idea of Ovid standing up to the establishment, which is very pertinent to our times. I think it would be great for kids to hear the message that you should stand up for what you believe in. And the film also has a great message about love and loving whoever you want to love.
Q: You come from an acting family and did some acting and modeling as a child. When did you decide this was going to be your career?
CB: I was not always convinced I wanted to do this as a job, but on some level, I always knew I wanted performing to be part of my life. When I was in high school figuring out what I wanted to do, I seriously considered being a pediatrician, so I went to this summit at Johns Hopkins called People to People. And after that I ruled out medicine. I felt like it wasn’t going to bring me real passion or joy. However, I still wasn’t sure about a career, so I decided to go to school for psychology, which I thought would be a good base for acting if that’s what I chose to do. I was all set to go to Stanford, and then I got offered High School Musical. So that became a major life choice, but I decided to continue to strike when the iron was hot.
Q: Once High School Musical made you a star, did you just know you’d become one of Broadway’s greatest tap dancers?
CB: No. I always loved to dance and I started when I was 2. I went to Debbie Allen Dance Academy in Los Angeles – I was one of the first boys enrolled there — and we studied everything: ballet, flamenco, salsa, jazz, we even did a Cirque class. But tap was always my favorite. But after High School Musical, I never really got to showcase it until Holiday Inn came along. And getting that part wasn’t easy. I had to put myself on tape, then I had to do an audition on tape, and then they put me onstage with Denis Jones to make sure I could tap!
Q: So is it safe to say getting to dance has been the best part of being on Broadway?
CB: Actually, what makes me really happy is to be an African-American playing roles originated by white men. I love inspiring kids by being someone who looks like them. I felt like no one looked like me when I was growing up and I feel like all people should be able to see themselves everywhere.
Q: When Broadway returns – and when you return to Broadway – what’s on your bucket list?
CB: I have a few dreams. I did Singin’ in the Rain at the MUNY and I would love to do a Broadway run of that show. I am obsessed with it. The role of Gene Lockwood just fits me so well. I love Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party, and I want to play Burr. It’s vocally in my range; in fact, all his songs are already part of my songbook. And most of all, I would love to play Frank ‘n Furter in Rocky Horror. Like a lot of people, I became a fan of the movie in high school and went to a lot of midnight showings. I even dressed as him for Halloween one year. I want to show everyone that I can dance really well in heels. With all of these shows, I know what I’m capable of and I want everyone to see it as well.
Ovid and the Art of Love will be released on all major streaming and VOD platforms including Amazon, iTunes, Comcast, XFinity, Dish, Sling, Microsoft, Google Play, Youtube and many more.