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Izzo takes new stage with 'Izzo Goes to Broadway'

April 30, 2009

Tom Izzo watches as members of the MSU men’s basketball team dance out onto stage for the final number during a dress rehearsal of “Izzo on Broadway” Wednesday night at Wharton Center.

During his 14 years as head coach of the MSU men’s basketball team, Tom Izzo has participated in his share of pressure-inducing activities.

He’s coached in three Final Fours, thrown out the first pitch of a Detroit Tigers game and even rapelled from the ceiling of Breslin Center.

But Izzo said those stunts will seem like a walk in the park compared to what he experiences May 6 at Wharton Center, where he toes a different type of hardwood as the featured star in the musical “Izzo Goes to Broadway.”

“Riding on the horse was pretty crazy, flying from the ceiling was a little crazy,” said Izzo, invoking memories of crazy things he’s done during Midnight Madness.

“But this one’s going to be tops because … this really is a big-time event. There’s going to be some very, very talented people, and me. It’s like a bunch of A’s and a D-.”

Written and directed by the Greg Ganakas, the award-winning son of former MSU head coach and current radio personality Gus Ganakas, “Izzo Goes to Broadway” celebrates the “‘winning spirit’ with an evening of song, dance and inspiration.”

Tickets to the event range from $55-$150, with proceeds going to the American Cancer Society.

“God, the things I do for the American Cancer Society,” Izzo said Wednesday night during an open rehearsal. “If it wasn’t for that, I’m not sure I’d have the courage to do it.”

When Izzo agreed to act in the play, he didn’t think he’d be making any more than a brief appearance. But as he quickly learned, he was sorely mistaken.

Izzo will be speak, sing, dance and even play an instrument — more than enough to keep him occupied for the one-hour and-45-minute show.

“When this was first presented, I’m not sure I realized the depth of what I was going to be involved in here,” he said. “I thought I was a cameo guy that would just kind of come in and wave and kiss a baby or two and then hit the road, but that’s not what I’m going to be doing.”

Izzo doesn’t have any dancing experience (he said dancing was illegal in the Upper Peninsula), but Ganakas said he’s quickly learning.

With members of the MSU dance team and professionals flying in from New York, he’ll have a good support system to show him the ropes.

“He’s completely committed to it, he’s taking it on as a complete discipline,” Ganakas said. “He’s totally dedicated, and I was nervous a little bit. I didn’t know what it would be at all.”

One of the reasons Ganakas was nervous was because they started rehearsing late.

“I couldn’t get him because of what the team did — that magnificent run,” Ganakas said. “So I’m sitting there waiting and waiting, and finally I get him. When we first started, he was very nervous, but he’s real into it now, and it’s fun because I feel like he took it to another level.”

Izzo won’t be the only MSU celebrity involved in the production — all of his players also will put their reputations at stake.

Their role, however, will be drastically smaller than Izzo’s.

“I was kind of impressed with my players tonight,” Izzo said. “After screwing up for a few they actually got pretty good in a short period of time. They did it a lot quicker than I did it, which means they’re a lot better than I am at dancing.”

Although Izzo’s anxiety is incurable, he said it helps when he puts it into perspective.

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“As nervous as I am to do some things,” Izzo said, “deep down, I sit there and I think of what the cause is for, and you think about what people have to go through that have cancer, and this seems like a piece of cake compared to that.

“So as nervous as I’ll be, I think it will be easier if I think about why we’re doing it.”


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