Tyler Hanes doesn’t like boxes. They are too restrictive and confined, so the Marietta native prefers to step outside of them.
“I’m a variety of things, so I don’t like to play it safe,” he said. “I challenge myself, because that’s where the growth really begins.”
His risk-taking attitude has taken him far. Since age 17, he’s professionally whirled and pranced his way across stages all over the United States, starring in Broadway revivals of “Oklahoma!,” “Sweet Charity,” “On the Town” and “Cats.”
It’s now been six years since Hanes, a New York City resident, has performed in Georgia, but he’s ready to tackle something new. The 36-year-old is returning to his roots, and he’s bringing with him a one-night-only, one-man show titled “Broadway’s Tyler Hanes in Concert.”
On Nov. 2 at the Strand Theatre, the entertainer, who wrote, produced and choreographed the musical, will take the audience on his journey to stardom with personal stories told through live song and dance.
“I knew I had to take it down South,” he said. “That’s where I’m from, I grew up there and so many people have been a part of my journey. So I’m thrilled to be coming home.”
We chatted with Hanes about his creative process and what locals can expect from his upcoming performance:
Talk about your Marietta upbringing. How did it influence your career?
Oh, it changed my life. I’m one of seven kids. The arts have always been a huge part of my childhood. I started dancing at a really young age, my sisters were always in dance class and my grandmother was a singer. My mom had no choice but to put me in dance class, because I begged her. That started my journey, but the big game changer for me was attending the Cobb County Center for Excellence in the Performing Arts at Pebblebrook High School. It turned my fun, little hobby into “I really want to do this.”
What inspired you to create a one-man show?
A lot of producers reached out to me inquiring about it. That was something I had never thought of doing. I’m a choreographer and director as well, and I’m really passionate about creating my own work on other people. But I’d never thought to do it on myself. When those offers came my way, I looked at it as a new venture, and I’ve been having a good time doing it. It’s very freeing, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s also cool telling my story and reflecting on how I got to this point, because I’m still kind of in disbelief that I’m doing what I love.
Describe your process. Does the writing, music or choreography come first?
I decided to do the music first and build the rest of the show around it. I picked about 70 songs that were a part of my history. We lined them up, and cut them out on pieces of paper. We did process of elimination and narrowed them down to 20. Once we decided on a set list, we started writing from there and added choreography.
Your show reveals some personal stories from your life. Without giving too much away, talk about one of them.
It all started in the garage of our house with me and my siblings trying to entertain our relatives. I was so young. I was the pesky baby brother, so I would just hijack the show when they wouldn’t include me. That’s really how it started. I talk about how determined I was as a boy. I was told “no” at a very young age, and I said, “No way! That’s not good enough for me.” So the whole first medley is a bunch of different stories about a determined kid who would not take no for an answer.
What messages do you want to convey?
No matter the industry, people like to put you in boxes. I’ve always wanted more, and I like to challenge myself. I set out on a path that never seemed possible, but anything can happen if you stay open to it. If you do one thing and play it safe, you might not see your potential. But if you think broadly, who knows what’s waiting for you.
What’s been the most difficult part about producing?
As a performer, you just show up. You don’t think about all of the steps. But as a producer, there’s so much work that happens before you even get to day one. It’s a totally separate hat you have to wear in order to make everything happen, and I thrive off of that. It’s a different type of fulfillment.
How has this project strengthened you as an artist?
This is the most vulnerable I’ve ever been. I’m not hiding behind a character. This is 100 percent me. It’s broadened my horizons as a writer and producer. It’s opened my eyes to a whole different medium. It’s put me in touch with an artistic part of myself I never knew was there.
8 p.m. Nov. 2. $25-$65. Strand Theatre, 117 N. Park Square, Marietta. 770-293-0080, earlsmithstrand.org.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.