Devanand Janki
Director & Choreographer

from Little India magazine, June 1999

Reel Life

Indian performers crack the big time


A young actor who’s landed regular work on Broadway shows like CATS, Miss Saigon and The King and I is Devanand Janki, whose parents are from Guyana. The son of a biochemist and a cardiac technician, his artistic leanings were recognized and encouraged by his family. He performed with the Edmonton Opera Company in Canada as a boy soprano and in Alberta Ballet’s The Nutcracker at 13. He studied acting at the Citadel Theater School and went on to graduate from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York.

He’s performed in the Broadway blockbusters CATS, Miss Saigon and The King and I, and also in the critically acclaimed but short-lived Side Show, which was nominated for several Tonys. He was in CATS for three years and rose from the chorus to one of the lead roles, that of Mr. Mistofolees. In Miss Saigon he was the understudy for all the men in the show -- covering 13 roles! He’s also done several seasons in the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall and played Chino in West Side Story on its world tour.

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As he points out, "It’s an ongoing process -- you’re always trying to refine your craft and improve your work. It’s important to train and go to school but it’s also important to get out there and perform. Unless you get your feet wet, you don’t stand a chance." Janki also believes that as a performer, it’s important to get involved with the arts community and has participated in many benefits for charities, including Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Janki has always managed to find work be it choreographing The Little Orchestra Society’s production of Babes in Toyland at Lincoln Center or appearances on television shows, but it’s never easy. He says, "It’s still a huge battle trying to break in. There are only three Indians that I know of in musical theater. A lot of times I’ve really had to convince people to go purely on my talent rather than my looks. Unfortunately most of the business is based on how you look and the color of your skin. But it’s slowly changing -- all minority groups go through this. I think the generation after me is going to make those changes. Ten years from now it won’t be such an issue."


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