One of the greatest benefits of writing articles for Charleston And Lowcountry .com is the opportunity it gives me to meet, talk to, and interview outstanding leaders in our community such as Brad and Jennifer Moranz, whom I would otherwise most likely never meet. For that I am grateful.
Brad and his wife Jennifer, or "Jenny" as he affectionately calls her, are responsible for the creation, direction, choreography, and performance of the "Charleston Christmas Special" as well as two other full-scale Broadway type musical revues performed annually at the Charleston Music Hall.
This is Part 1 of a two-part article originating from an interview I recently conducted with Brad Moranz. Part 1 focuses on the history and early beginnings of Moranz Entertainment.
The story behind the Charleston Christmas Special and Moranz Entertainment is both fascinating and inspiring. The origins go all the way back to when Brad and Jennifer met. They were both highly successful Broadway performers. Jennifer was a Rockette and in the Broadway Company 42nd Street. Brad was in "Singing In The Rain" and also played Seymour in "Little Shop of Horrors". However, all of that changed when they got married. To avoid being separated by the different shows in which they would be performing at any given time, they made a decision.
To some their decision may have seemed somewhat drastic. However, listening to Brad tell it, I got the sense that a strong resolve and mutual belief existed between the two of them, that everything would not only work out but work out well. They made the decision to stop performing and leave Broadway. Brad's recollection of that time period:
We basically left the business when we got married. The nature of the business is to separate people – it separates you by geography. So instead of taking different jobs, we just made a decision to always work together and to be together and that's what we did.
There we were two singer-dancer types, all we had done is perform all our lives and it was like well what do we do now? If we're not going to take performing jobs that take us all over the planet, what are we going to do? So that's when we went, "well we could open a dance school". We picked a location – Wilmington, N.C. It had a film studio and offered us the opportunity to continue doing something in that realm. It also had a theater company named "Opera House Theater Company". As soon as we got there, we took our resumes over to the Opera House and they said, "Wow funny you should be here, We were just about to do 'Singing In The Rain' you know as one of our big Summer Shows."
And we said, "well we just finished the national tour of that and I just did it in New York and how about... do you want us to help you?"
He responded, "Yeah! direct and choreograph it."
So we just started directing and choreographing theater. That's what we did for the next 7 years.
While in Wilmington, Brad and Jennifer also had the opportunity to work with George Lucas on several episodes of the television series, "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles", as well as the movie, "Radio Land Murders".
After 7 years of not performing, they both began to realize just how much they missed it. As Brad conveyed his feelings about this time period, I could almost feel the longing they experienced at that time to once again perform on stage.
We missed performing so much because really that's what we had done. Being behind the scenes and creating stuff is a wonderful thing and we still love doing it, but at that time we really did miss performing. So we went to Myrtle Beach which is near Wilmington over to Carolina Opry, handed them our pictures and resumes and said, "if you guys ever need somebody like part-time or to come in and help...".
Well, they called us the next day and said, "please come in and audition".
We came in and auditioned, and they said, "Okay, we want you now. We want you to move to Charleston because we're opening a theater there and we'd like you guys to be in it."
In 95 Calvin Gilmore who owns and operates the Carolina Opry in Myrtle Beach was partnered with the Family Channel. It was the two of them together, the Family Channel and Calvin that came together with Michael Bennet who owns the property where Charleston Music Hall now stands – they built the Charleston Music Hall and signed a 20-year lease. So this show was supposed to run indefinitely.
Starting out it was going to be an on-going variety show. So we opened the very first variety show... I think it was in September of 95 and literally one month later the producer at that time who was Calvin Gilmore looked at Jenny and I and said, "I want you guys to put together a Christmas Show. Quick go – We open in six weeks". That didn't come out of thin air. We had just gone through a three-month rehearsal process with him so we had all gotten to know each other, and he said, "I trust you to do this". So from that point on we were in charge of everything related to the show here in Charleston.
Between 1995 and 98 FOX purchased the Family Channel and then Disney purchased FOX. Toward the end of 1998 Disney made a decision to no longer support the variety show for which the Charleston Music Hall had been built and for which Brad and Jennifer Moranz had uprooted their lives. It was from this place of an apparent end that necessitated the beginnings of Moranz Entertainment. As Brad recounted these events, I perceived no sense of bitterness or even loss. To the contrary, I could sense a great deal of resilience and gratefulness for the opportunity to face the challenge and overcome the adversity.
Jenny and I were standing there saying "what are we going to do?" It was not a completely illogical step to say, "well we've been doing this all along - why don't we just try to do it ourselves", and that's exactly what happened. We knew we couldn't afford to keep it running every day as it had been, so we thought maybe we could do it seasonally and perhaps on a smaller scale since at that time we were playing with our own money. There was nobody else supporting us.
Well, the rest of the story is history and it's history that's still being written. Moranz Entertainment has been providing Charleston with top rate "On Broadway" type quality revues, to include the Charleston Christmas Special for over 20 years, and all indications are that they will continue providing SC Lowcountry residents with excellent and wholesome family friendly entertainment for quite some time to come.
This concludes Part 1 of my interview with Brad Moranz. I am grateful for his time and willingness to share as well as allowing me the opportunity to share their story with all of you.