On New Years Day I ran into my friend Chester at an after hours breakfast party. We got to talking about music and gigs as we always do: good conversation, good times, potatoes were sizzlin’ on the griddle. Chester keeps the music going. So I couldn’t wait to tell you guys about his upcoming show at 54 Below on February 4th. Even at 5 in the morning, he was buzzing about his collaboration with director Da’Vine Joy Randolph, musical director Rob Lewis and his co-writer Crystal Lucas-Perry! Chester Gregory is arguably one of the most gifted vocalists in the NYC, so I urge you to check him out if you never seen him live before. Many may have seen him recently in Broadway’s Sister Act or in one of my favorite roles, as Jimmy Early in Dreamgirls with Syesha Mercado, but his live show is definitely something to behold. With a solid and dedicated fan base, he’s got the look, he’s knows music, and has his own brand of R&B soul . I see him as a sort of kindred spirit in music, like my friend Christine Horn too, always striving with an independent and entrepreneurial spirit. Doing the acting thing yet always being called back by the music. Delightfully we also get to see the fabulous Lillias White in a special turn as “LaVerne Baker”. I heard about the Jackie Wilson show he did a while back and never had a chance to see it so I’m looking forward to witnessing this new look at the legend. Fashion styled and costumed by the fashion master himself, Carl Ulysses I’m excited to see the look and learn more about Jackie Wilson. Ironically, on the Motown front, Jackie Wilson was one of the first artists Berry Gordy wrote songs for in his early years in the music industry. “Too Be Loved” written by Berry Gordy is one of Jackie Wilson’s classics.
Chester Gregory (Sister Act, Hairspray) reprises his award winning interpretation of Jackie Wilson in the world premiere of his one man show , “The Eve of Jackie” at 54 Below on February 4th at 9:30PM.
Gregory portrays Jackie Wilson, live in concert during his final days, revealing another side to the man “who truly gave his all and left it on the stage.”
THE EVE OF JACKIE WILSON:
Starring Chester Gregory as Jackie Wilson, with special guest Lillias White as LaVern Baker
Directed by Da’Vine Joy Randolph Musically Directed by Rob Lewis Written by Crystal Lucas-Perry & Chester Gregory
Angela Bassett attends Morgan James Concert at 54 Below
photo by: Frederick Johnson used by permission
I’m way too excited about the new Lifetime movie “Betty & Coretta”… I only heard about it today. On a break from Motown rehearsal I went up the block to run errands was struck by the haunting photo of Miss. Basset and Miss. Blige staring into the ethers like beautiful black eagles. I was like dayum Angela Bassett and Mary J. Blige in a movie, together! Now, I pride myself on being in the know with these sorts of things but this one completely slipped my radar.
I mean even the other night I was at Morgan James show chatting my mouth away with the Angela Bassett, talkin’ bout Motown this and Motown that, and this fabulous diva has a new movie coming out?! We know we blactresses and blactors cannot get enough of her ever since she turned it out in her Oscar nominated role as Tina Turner in “What’s Love Got to Do With It.” And there I am in her face, not knowing this film was underway and soon to be aired on television! I can’t be slippin’ yall! I certainly could have gotten some info about that film that night. Anyway check out this trailer for the new movie. I’m really excited to see friend, Malik Yoba in the movie as Rev. Martin Luther King. (Shout out to cousin Qua ;)Folks are doing big things! 2013 ya’ll LET’S GET IT!
What a weekend! I participated in a rehearsal read through of a new short film script for Mitch Hooks, 138 Films and then dashed off to see Morgan and left my cell phone! After turning around to get it and headed back, I was late. Catching the later part of her set I was so glad I finally got to see Morgan James do her thing. Outside of rehearsal that is. She is, as I mentioned before, a part of our Motown cast, so I had to support as she promotes her new album. I had a ball last night and knew I would. I teased my ‘fro, put on my favorite aloe vera essential oil, grabbed my purse and headed to 54 Below ready to enjoy some good music and celebrate Morgan’s new album Excited to hear her take on Nina Simone and Morgan did not disappoint. It was a fun opportunity to shmooz with the crowd. I mean why wouldn’t I, some of entertainment’s mightiest were in tow, record label execs, stars from the upcoming “Black Nativity” the movie, along with singer Crystal Monet-Hall, actress Angela Bassett, not to mention some of the gorgeous cast of Motown too. Entertainment royalty Vivian Nixon attended along with her beau wordsmith and dancer Daniel Watts, along with Marva Hicks and her hilarious boyfriend Kwaysee, and of course me! The room was naturally filled with the glamour and energy of a new year. And for a room full of “singer’s singers” with raised brows ready to be entertained. Miss James was prepared to, as we say down south, “show-out”! She gave it to us indeed petite curves and throaty wails with a range to be proud of. She is quite a thrilling performer to watch, giving you show biz, elegance, and good old fashion sex appeal!
After the show we were buzzing of course about Motown. And honey, the question of the night was “Who will play Marvin Gaye in Motown the Musical?” Even Angela Bassett seemed shocked that none of us knew. Delightful conversation with an Oscar nominated actress indeed. I can only surmise after having worked with several different “Marvins” during the developmental stages, whoever ends up with the role has big shoes to fill, we’ve had Joshua Henry, Isaiah Johnson, Clifton Oliver, and Brian Terrell Clark they were all wonderful and different. I’m curious to see how it ends up.
Big ups to Morgan for a job well done.
Here we are earlier this year singing together at “Broadway Sings Michael Jackson” at Le Pouisson Rouge:
Saycon Sengbloh, Morgan James, and Tituss Burgess
Buzz! Buzz! Buzz! We are counting down the days until Motown rehearsal starts! And with the buzzzz we’re keeping it going with the several artists from the cast of Motown glowing and showin’ out in NYC! What a treat to have yet another rising star in our midst! I’m talking about Morgan James. This soulful young lady has come on the scene with a steady burn and I’ve watched her rise, working hard as an indie musician ( love it), singing her face off, and reaching the epitome of music fire securing a dream deal with Epic records.
I’m gonna be there to support her I’m sure lots of Motown cast members will be in tow! Will you be there?
Saturday January 12th, 2013
Morgan James 54 Below 254 West 54th St. New York, NY 10019 866-468-7619 use code Morgan5 for $5 off cover charge in main diningroom
Hoping everyone had a fabulous New Years Eve, or a prayerful one, or a hell of a party night as was the case for most of New York city. I brought in the new year with my last of many performances for 2012. I was a featured performer for the Ice Ball at XL complete with James Bond theme. The handsome Scott Nevins was the host and I conjured up some Shirley Bassey for the kids. Scott and I do killer shows together and they really seemed to enjoy it. It was a pretty uneventful night until I got a the train on my way home. Why do folks just have to fight when they’ve had too much to drink? Woo I saw some craziness in the subway car next to me and the train stopped in between stations for like 20 minutes. I was like Lord don’t let me spend the night on this train I got another party to go to LOL. Well I guess destiny meant for me to make it my next destination, the New Years breakfast was yummy, and I saw lots of friends and acquaintances. Plus had an impromptu interview with Chester Gregory regarding his upcoming career moves. K.I.T. ya’ll more juice later
I attended a wonderful show this past week, the scene was magical. Joe’ Pub was on its feet, quiet, and breathless! Sasha Allen was singing many classic soul hits and it was a lovely sight to behold, the silence really took hold once she had begun her tribute-medley to Whitney Houston. We sort of all held our breath not wanting to miss a note. There’ was not the usual hooping and hollering you hear at these sort of shows because the audience litteraly did not want to miss a note. Miss. Allen was in top form, wearing a simple white blouse and black pants. The vocalists accompanying her were true soulsingers, nothing background about them (among them underground soul rocktress Kimberly Nicole) were dressed to impress and the band was immaculate and lush: strings, horns, they spared no expense. later in the eveing even the vocalists Cheryl Pepsi Riley and Inaya Day aka “Jiffy” came out and did a powerhouse rendition of “This Will Be”. Wooo lawd! Their “Teflon” voices were in the house! The Musical Director, her long time beau, Rob Lewis, put together an amazing show and I was happy to be there!This was a beautiful night always a treat to hear a voice like hers and see all the wonderful Hair Broadway peeps in the crowd! It was like a reunion of sorts.
Check out this link below: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgPxr8LKLzA
Nneka in New York! the Nigerian & German songbird is here in the U.S. to promote her new album. I saw her across the room in a Whole foods store while have a tea with my friend Maia (aka Soulluvlai) often at a loss for words I couldn’t remember her name for the life of me but of course who can forget that face! A classic beauty without a shred of makeup. Boldly, and nosily, I approached her to ask if she was a Nigerian singer she said yes though I’m pretty sure she and her friend thought I was full of sh*t, LOL anyway we began to chat. I told her about my visit to Nigeria last spring. Nneka said she was in town to promote her new album and I was happy to tell her we shared a publicist when we were in Nigeria, Miss Bobby Taylor who did some amazing work during our time there. Nneka was kind and I was random, anyway, well done Nneka let’s do a duet one day 🙂 let’s unite for Liberia and Nigeria ya digg?. Check out this video of Nneka making of her new album. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=pVKyP56PXLY
PS.-Shoutout to my Nigerian brothers and sisters struggling to pay for gasoline with oil prices surging. peace,
y good friend Justin Johnston who will be made his debut soon as Roger in the off-Broadway production of Rent! I’m thrilled because Justin and I go way back. Years ago when I first traveled to New York to audition for the show there I was nervous in the waiting room, waiting for my turn to go inside and sing and read my scenes for my Mimi audition. In the room next door was a window through which I could see the coolest dancers ever. Also peeking into the room was Justin Johnston and we watched excitedly killing time waiting for our chance to shine and we were thrilled to find out that the dancers with rehearsing for Missy Elliots latest video. We always recall this memory and years later he’s about to open as Roger! I’m quite proud. Ha! the show Rent will always be a part of me as, I got my Equity card on the national tour of Rent. Also, my current show Hurt village co-stars Nicholas Christopher who is on leave from the Off-Broadway Rent company in which he plays Collins. Check out some photos of me from the tour for the nostalgia 🙂 and check out the link to the flashback of Broadway’s various casts of Rent as showcased on Playbill.com http://www.playbill.com/news/article/158801-Josh-Grisetti-Justin-Johnston-Rashad-Naylor-Are-Rents-New-Mark-Roger-and-Benny-Starting-Jan-20
Milk like sugar! Milk, milk like sugar! Finally, I got out of the house and saw the show. You know how it is when you’re waiting on something, waiting for time, waiting for people, waiting for money, just waiting to go see a show and somehow you forget because life sort of takes over and then you turn around and the show has closed already! Well that didn’t happen to me, on a whim I called my friend Nicole and we went out to see Milk Like Sugar. Tickets were available we made it happen. I’m shown above with the the cast. If you don’t know, the show written by Kirsten Greenidge, is a play about a trio of young ladies who decide to make a pact to have babies while still in highschool, the young men and friends, and mother involved in their lives . I took in this show that was deeply anxious inspired by true events and well acted by friends and cohorts. Starring the lovely Angela Lewis, Cherise Boothe and Nikiya Mathis as the three naive and scheming teenagers along with young men J. Mallory-McCree, LeRoy McClain, and the awkward friend played by Adrienne C. Moore. Milk Like Sugar is a small play that makes a big statement, its truly exciting to see all this young talent onstage and to witness the hard working cigarette smoking genius of the exquisite Tonya Pinkins as the matriarch of the piece.. On a side note my good friend and “Hair” revival cohort, Nicole Lewis and I happily found ourselves seated behind Heidi Griffiths and the ever smiling Jordan Thaler, the casting directors for the NY Public theater. They looked on us with the twinkling eyes of proud parents as the 4 of us reminisced on how casting a little 3 day 40th anniversary “Hair”concert lead to Tony award winning stint on Broadway , London and a National tour. Our memory was cut short when the lights dimmed and sound of Beyonce “Run the World Girls” theme started pumping from the speakers as the 3 highschool divas in training started us on a journey. I enjoyed the show having recently read another play by the author, and I look forward to more of her work! Peace ya’ll, Saycon ps- I’ve begun working on a new online boutique full of fun items to raise funds for upcoming projects look out for them and the launch of a new youtube page dedicated to all the people who’ve been bitten by the theater bug!
Things started nicely for me this week, in that I’ve been writing new songs, and have great friends in town this week! Its pretty amazing, my girl Day Hill of Buddhaflyy and her whole team included her business partner Keisha Mackie-Coleman came up from Atlanta to do the Mychael Knight show on Saturday night. The quality of his clothing is amazing, I hope to get something made by him asap! The show was flawless and makeup was beautiful and the evening was so much fun! My friend @CharlesBrowning met me at the soho event fresh from another show his cousin Olivia was in. She’s an up and coming model, the 3 of us have been kickin’ it since fashion week began. I won’t front, I had the ultimate fan-out moment when I realized Trina was sitting across from me on the front row! LOL everyone knows me for singing love songs or doing theater but I’m from the dirty south and Trina is one of my favs! Also in the house was celebrity hair stylist Terrence Davidson, VIBE editor Daytwon Thomas, and supermodel, Jessica White, who wore the finale look on the run way. Coming up I’ll be attending Edwing D’angelo and B. Micheal and I’m looking forward to it! Saycon