Darius Smith is a multi talented musician, composer and musical director who can currently be seen leading the band for Signature Theatre’s production of Dreamgirls. His many DC area credits include The Stephen Schwartz Project and Glimpses of The Moon at MetroStage, The Happy Elf for Adventure Theatre at Montgomery College with Tony-Award winners John Rando, Michael Rupert and Harry Connick Jr., Ain’t Misbehavin at Washington Savoyards, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change at Bethesda Theater, Queen of the Bohemian Dream at Source Theater, Mirandy and Brother Wind for Adventure Theater and Atlas Theater, Wind in the Willows at Imagination Stage, and Passing Strange at Howard University. He has had a long association with Adventure Theatre musical directing and or composing many of their productions which include Frosty the Snowman, Big The Musical TYA, Go Dog Go, and The Snowy Day. He is the personal accompanist for 2012 Helen Hayes-Award winner Nova Y. Payton and 2012 Helen Hayes Award nominee Jobari Parker-Namdar. Darius has performed at The Kennedy Center’s Millenium Stage and at Aaron Davis Hall in NYC. When not working on a production Darius can be found at Howard University in the Theatre Arts Department where he heads the Musical Theatre performance area of concentration. This is one crazy talented individual.
How did you get interested in music?
When I was really young (I don’t remember the exact age), my parents enrolled all of us in piano lessons as a family bonding thing. My parents didn’t last beyond the second lesson. My sister dropped shortly after them. I was the only one who stuck around.
You musical directed The Happy Elf for Adventure Theatre at Montgomery College. The score was written and orchestrated by Harry Connick Jr. What was the experience like of working on that show and meeting Harry Connick Jr.?
It was a lot of fun! I was extremely nervous working with those Tony Award winners, John Rando, Michael Rupert, Beowulf Borritt as well as Harry’s personal music supervisor for the project. But everyone was super nice, supportive and really just interested in moving the work to the next level. Harry came to opening and sang and really showed love to the entire team.
You are on the staff of Howard University’s Theatre Arts department. Can you please tell us about the department and your position?
The Department is a great haven for talented students interested in learning about, creating and developing theater and craft from an African-American perspective. It’s essential for any actor or theatrical scholar to have a solid foundation in their own personal experience, history and background in order to effectively communicate a story about the broader human condition and that’s what we give to young, black artists. I head the Musical Theatre Performance area of concentration.
You are making your Signature Theatre debut as conductor of Dreamgirls. How do you like working at Signature Theatre?
Signature has been such an awesome experience. It really is a family and they welcome new additions with open arms. Even with his super busy schedule, Eric Schaeffer is around all the time spreading love and cooking dinner for the cast. Jon Kalbfleisch and Gabriel Mangiante really know what works in their spaces there and have been so easy and collaborative in the process. Matt Gardiner is brilliant, period. I’ve always admired the work they do at Signature, particularly because they boldly balance classic, established theater with daring, courageous new works, and I’m just glad to meet and work with the team there.
After Dreamgirls what are your next few projects?
In addition to the student productions at Howard University, I’m music directing Three Little Birds at Adventure Theater, Defying Gravity (Nova Y. Payton’s cabaret) at Signature Theatre, and I’m working on a workshop presentation of my new song cycle Ham Sandwiches and Promissory Notes in New York.