ALL FOR THE SHOW

By Bill Thompson

Call it the never-a-dull-moment school of entertainment.

Effervescing with energy, Brad and Jennifer Moranz come to it as naturally as footlights to greasepaint, as Gilbert to Sullivan.

“We’re so hyper,” says Jenny.

And so dynamic in performance. That the musicals and musical revues mounted by Charleston-based Moranz Entertainment (bradandjennifermoranz.com) have a distinct flavor of Broadway is a given. The couple were long-time veterans of the New York and Los Angeles stage scenes before the prospect of one too many separations saw them end their vagabond days.

“At one point in 1987, she was to go out on tour in South Pacific with Robert Goulet, and I was preparing to tour with Me and My Gal starring Tim Curry,” Brad recalls. “We came from the same ‘broken’ home that all actors do, so we asked each other ‘What do we do?’ We decided to stay together, turn down the tours, make our marriage and relationship primary, then just figure out a way to make a living.”

By 1995, the song-and-dance tandem had returned to a professional, theatrical lifestyle, albeit a grounded one, first in Wilmington, North Carolina, and finally in Charleston, where today they are not only fixtures of the local arts scene but the standard bearers for live musical theater.

The Charleston Music Hall resounds with the performances of the Moranzes and their handpicked cast of local and imported talents, from their immensely popular Charleston Christmas Special and Shake, Rattle and Roll (a 1950s, ’60s and ’70s rock revue) to such shows as the Great American Songbook (showcasing the music of George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, et al.) and the recent run of the Charleston Variety Show (from Broadway to Pop, Motown to Country, Rock to Gospel).

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A show can sport an ensemble of 20 singers, dancers and musicians from around the country as well as the usual live band. Versatility is the hallmark, and all of the performers the Moranzes hire must meet the same professional criteria.

Producing, directing, choreographing, singing, dancing, acting, integrating talented casts—how do they do it all? Answer: with the brio befitting an impresario and a former Rockette. They bounce ideas off each other constantly, and fruitfully. Brad does a lot of writing for the shows, several of which have developed story lines and characters. But the Brad-and-Jenny comedy bits that serve to separate songs have not been abandoned. They know their audience very well, and know what they like.

The jaunty, needling husband-and-wife “schtick” that often punctuates their onstage persona has its antecedents in everything from George Burns and Gracie Allen to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, with bits of Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore for good measure. Not that they deliberately set out to mimic comedy teams of the past. It’s more a measure of what they love and are drawn to.

“Whatever the style, we want it to look like it could walk out on Broadway right now, every aspect of it,” Brad says. “We have one goal in everything we do and that’s to make people happy. It’s no more complicated than that. Every choice we make goes toward moving people in that manner. It’s true for us, too. We’re the luckiest people in the world. We’re still in show business, at our age.”

“And every minute we’re onstage,” adds Jenny, “we are 1,000 percent involved in the moment.”

Bill Thompson writes about the arts, film and books.