Broadway director Scott Ellis is returning to his old stomping grounds.
Ellis, who graduated from Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax in 1975, will speak with the cast and crew of the school’s production of “Curtains” Friday afternoon. Ellis directed the first Broadway production of the musical murder mystery in 2007, garnering a Tony Award nomination.
Ellis’ experiences at Robinson set the stage for his career, so he jumped at the opportunity to give back.
“When I was in high school, the dramas, the musicals the school put on became my focus,” Ellis said. “I was very actively involved, and I just participated in every play I could ever since my freshman year.”
Performing in plays such as “She Stoops to Conquer” and “The Crucible,” Ellis found his place in high school and his path for the future.
After he graduated, he went to the Goodman School of Drama in Chicago and started on a 10-year career as an actor.
Then, in 1986, he directed his first show, “Flora the Red Menace,” a musical by the songwriting duo composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb. That in turn led to his production of Kander and Ebb’s “Curtains” 10 years later.
“So with me, seeing this show is really full circle,” Ellis said. “It’s written by the team that got me started directing, and then I directed this show, and now to see it at my high school… Wow. It just means a lot.”
Chip Rome, director of Robinson theater program, said that he and a parent in the drama booster club worked together to reach out to Ellis.
At first, they asked if he could videoconference with the students. But Ellis did them one better.
“I just thought, ‘Why don’t I come down and see it?’” Ellis said. “Once I heard about it, there wasn’t anything to say but absolutely, but I wanted to really make it special, for the kids and for me.”
So Ellis will attend a reception with the majority of the 100-student company, which includes about 45 cast members, 30 crew members and 25 members of the orchestra. Ellis will give a brief background on his life and work, but says he really hopes the students pick his brain on his background in theater and the workings of Broadway shows.
Then Ellis will attend Friday night’s production. The curtain will go up at 7:30 p.m.
Jamie Green, a senior at Robinson who portrays one of the main characters in the musical, hopes to get Ellis’ reaction to the high school’s staging, which will be dramatically different than Ellis’ professional staging.
“On Broadway they have fancy rigging and tracks and equipment,” Green said. “We don’t have that luxury. We need to be creative in our use of scenery, of theater space. I hope he likes some of the choices we’ve made.”
For his part, Ellis looks forward to seeing his alma mater’s spin on “Curtains.”
“A high school can’t do what we did on Broadway, that’s true,” Ellis said. “But that can make the show even more imaginative.”