Tituss Burgess is eager to perform with the Seattle Men’s Chorus, having never performed with a choir. He has plenty of musical experience thanks to Broadway (“Jersey Boys,” “Guys and Dolls”).
The urge is to call him his character name from “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” — Titus Andromedon — and to imagine him swanning around his basement apartment in a silky, synthetic robe.
But it’s Tituss Burgess, and he’s all kinds of serious, just back from a table reading for an episode of the Netflix/Tina Fey series that has brought him a new kind of fame — and an invitation from The Seattle Men’s Chorus to headline its two holiday concerts on Thanksgiving weekend.
“I’ve never performed with a chorus,” Burgess said over the phone the other day. “It will be my first time. I don’t know what to expect, but I looked at some clips of the chorus and they sound beautiful.”
Seattle Men’s Chorus: ‘Home for the Holidays’ with Tituss Burgess
8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 28, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 29, Benaroya Hall, 200 University St.,
Seattle: $25-$78 (206-388-1400 or seattlemenschorus.org).
Burgess, who only passed through Seattle once in 2009 (he was performing on one of Rosie O’Donnell’s Alaskan cruises) will arrive the morning of Nov. 28, rehearse with the chorus, and perform that night and the next day.
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“I am filming every day up until then,” he said of the Netflix show. “And then we’re off!”
He knows he and the chorus will be performing Joseph Brackett’s Shaker song, “Simple Gifts.”
“It speaks to the LGBT community, so I am excited to do that,” he said. “I am anxious to celebrate that legacy.
“I sing on the show,” he added, “but not really.”
Indeed, his character’s signature song, “Peeno Noir,” is a nonsensical series of phrases (leather bar, Roseanne Barr) set to an electronic beat. And it’s a crazy, campy hit.
But don’t expect Burgess to perform it at the holiday concert. The show owns the rights.
“And it wouldn’t be funny live,” he said. “What makes it so brilliant are all the random costume changes and all the random locations.”
Burgess grew up in Athens, Ga, where he planned to become a schoolteacher. But on the first day of student teaching, he realized that “taking care of children was not something I was good at. I would be in jail or in the ground.”
So he got his general music degree, became the musical director at the local theater, and then joined the cast of “The Festival of the Lion King” at Disney World. A few years later, he moved to New York.
“No job, no nothing,” he said of his arrival. He made his Broadway debut in 2005 in “Good Vibrations,” then “Jersey Boys” before originating the role of Sebastian the Crab in “The Little Mermaid.” His last stage role was Nicely-Nicely Johnson in “Guys and Dolls” in 2009.
Fey cast him as D’Fwan, Angie Jordan’s (Sherri Shepherd) hairdresser on “30 Rock,” and everything changed.
“After ‘30 Rock,’ I knew that was it,” Burgess said. “I didn’t even know that that was what would feed me creatively. I am one of the lucky ones, to work with comic giants.
“I get to play some zany, multilayered, very complex individuals,” he said. “They are not short on material, that’s for sure, and it’s been lovely to explore these characters with Tina.”
It led to Critics’ Choice and Emmy nods for Best Supporting Actor earlier this yea.
“A year and a half ago, I never would have imagined I would be nominated for an Emmy Award,” he said. “I remember Tina sitting a couple of rows ahead of me and turning around and smiling. She changed my life forever.”