Category Archives: Music

A Winans Who Doesn’t Want To Sing??? Deborah Joy Shines On OWN’s Greenleaf

Photo courtesy of Derek Blanks
Photo courtesy of Derek Blanks

*Can you imagine a member of the Jackson family who didn’t want to sing? (Even LaToya tried.) How about a Bush or Clinton who didn’t want to be president? (Too soon?)

Deborah Joy Winans, one of gospel music’s Winans dynasty and one of the breakout stars of OWN’s Greenleaf, never wanted to sing. She spent decades eschewing it, in fact, in favor of acting.

I know — it’s hard to believe.  Heck, that family even had singing in-laws!  

As the superb series’ first season prepares to wrap up next week, and OWN releases an accompanying soundtrack album, I had to catch up with Winans and ask her about this “no singing” thing.

“My dad [Carvin Winans, one of the original Winans group] and mom never wanted to force us into the singing thing,” Winans, 32, told me. “They wanted us to find our own path. Singing was just never a passion. Since I was a little girl, I felt that acting was what I was called to do.”

Winans acted on that calling, ultimately earning Bachelors and Masters degrees in theater. As she performed in workshops playing CeCe Winans for the stage play Born For This, Winans caught the eye of a woman in the audience who would guide her towards God’s purpose for her life — and her own heart’s desire.

“I was at a point of asking God whether acting was what He really wanted me to do,” Winans recalled. “Oprah Winfrey came to one of my workshops, and a couple of months later she reached out to Uncle BeBe, who co-wrote Born For This. Oprah told him she was interested in me for the role of “Charity” on Greenleaf, and asked him to help her contact me.” Continue reading

LAWTF Accepting Online Submissions for 2017 Festival

1424288432-womansfest_solo_but_not_alone_scream_tickets_MAIN

*The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival, now in its 23rd year, is currently accepting submissions for its 2017 Annual Festival; which honors the achievements of women in theatre.

1. Application and supporting materials must be submitted prior to deadline of August 31, 2016. Continue reading

BeBe Winans Shapes Own Narrative with Born For This

BFT_640x640

*Historically, African American men haven’t had a chance to control their own narratives. A story like music legend BeBe Winans’, which has taken him from a working-class home in Detroit to the top of the world’s music charts, could have easily wound up as a subpar cable movie.

In typical fashion, the six-time Grammy-winning songwriter and artist decided to pen his life story himself, and the result is the breathtaking Born For This: The BeBe Winans Story, co-written and directed by Charles Randolph-Wright. The show is playing at the Arena Stage in Washington DC through August 28.

Any presentation of Winans’ life would be incomplete without music, as he’s one of nine siblings in a gospel music dynasty that has influenced generations of musicians. But Born For This is much more than a musical: it’s a riveting account of a man who decided early on to take the proverbial high road.

“I’ve always understood that with everything I faced — including racism and bigotry — there is a choice,” Winans reflected by phone. “I chose laughter instead of anger. I chose love instead of hate. I chose to understand instead of misunderstand.”

“People who have come to see Born For This have left with inspiration to reach for those dreams again,” Winans continued. “They’ve told me that the show reminded them that they have a purpose, that it’s not over, no matter what age or what’s happened in life.” Continue reading

Jody Watley & Shalamar Reloaded Sub For Chaka, Shut It Down!

Jody-Watley-Shalamar

*What does a woman do when she gets a last-minute call to sub for a recovering Chaka Khan at the California State Fair?

If you’re the legendary Jody Watley, you do what legends do: you take the stage and shut it down…in a black catsuit, no less!

Watley started with a declaration wrapped in one of the original Shalamar’s earliest hits: “I Can Make You Feel Good.” She and her new bandmates Nate Allen Smith and Rosero McCoy, who formed Shalamar Reloaded last year, more than kept that promise with a first set that included a few other late 70s anthems including “In The Socket,” “Take That To The Bank,” and the group’s first smash, “The Second Time Around.”

Watley paused for a moment to offer a “prayer for healing” for Khan, who had to cancel her scheduled performance at the fair as she battles substance addiction. Afterward, Watley and Shalamar Reloaded eased into a subdued, sultry version of the classic “Full Of Fire” before treating the crowd to two original tunes, “Slow Dance” and “O.R.I.G.In.A.L.,” both of which hold up to anything that Watley or any incarnation of Shalamar has ever done. Continue reading

Moya Angela, Dreamgirls’ ‘Effie’ Says Jennifer Holliday ‘Passed the Torch’ to Her!

Jennifer Holliday and Moya Angela
Jennifer Holliday (the original Effie) and Moya Angela

In part 1 of the EURweb exclusive interview with dynamic performer Moya Angela, who just knocked the part of character “Effie White” out of the park with a stunning performance, in the Valley Performing Arts Center production of “Dreamgirls, the performer spoke of her growth in the role; and described that growth as “Act I Effie” and “Act II Effie.”

The production ended on May 8, as part of a special 4-performance-only contract, but audiences are probably still talking about it.

When EURweb senior editor and resident theater critic, DeBorah B. Pryor, spoke with Angela during a telephone interview, she asked her about her approach to the role and character that audiences worldwide have come to have great expectations for. She especially wanted to know how she prepared for what Pryor referenced as “the song” — the one that has become the signature of the production.

MA: When I first played the role I had my heart broken. I was young…and still making really ridiculous decisions in relationships and I was just always angry and now, I’m just like, I’ve experienced more. I’ve been through a lot more. I’m more patient with myself and people and with my artistry in general. And I’m more confident.

And the song?

I even sing it differently now. Before, it was harder for me to sing because I was just trying to be superwoman and get everything perfect. But now its like, I realize I don’t have to sing everything ‘triple forte’ and I can color the notes differently because of what I’ve been through and make better choices because I’m older.

You can’t act Effie, you have to play Effie. And I learned that too. Like, you have actors who are acting onstage, and then you have actors who are actually the characters onstage…It’s not the kind of character you can just act. I can’t go through the motions and make you guys think that I’m going there. I have to ‘go there’ or else it doesn’t work.

And now, in part 2 of the interview, Angela continues the conversation and even shares what went down when she finally got to meet the “original Effie”…Jennifer Hudson!
Continue reading

BeBe Winans Thrilling Autobiographical Play Is A Family Affair

bebe winans (1)

*Gospel music legend BeBe Winans’ autobiographical play, Born For This, is enjoying it’s red carpet premiere this weekend in Atlanta at the Alliance Theatre.

“When you’re a teenager you don’t think your life is being recorded for others to learn from, or be healed by, or better yet to find strength through your fears and failures,” shared BeBe Winans. “Now I know that these were God’s plans for my life. We’re all born for a purpose. This musical celebrates the journey of finding it.”

For the uninitiated, BeBe is one of the Winans family, a gospel music dynasty from my home town of Detroit. Four of his older brothers formed the groundbreaking group The Winans, after which he and his sister Priscilla took the world by storm as a duo. You may know them as BeBe & CeCe.

In Born for This, BeBe and CeCe Winans experience the ultimate in culture shocks when invited to join Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s Praise The Lord Network. The Winans teenagers become not only television celebrities as they were welcomed into the Bakkers’ family, helping to integrate TV evangelism. As BeBe and CeCe encounter fame, fortune, and even a young Whitney Houston, BeBe must learn to balance his desire for success with his true calling. Continue reading

Kirk Franklin Cut Up & Shut It Down Last Weekend

Photo by Kyle Gustafson / The Washington Post
Photo by Kyle Gustafson / The Washington Post

*Kirk Franklin closed his 20 Years In One Night Tour in the Bay Area, and the 3,000+ who packed Oakland’s Paramount Theatre were treated to a show the likes of which I haven’t seen since…

well, now that I think about it, I may have never seen anything like Franklin’s show. I’ve been blessed to see many of the great live performers of my lifetime. Franklin’s Saturday night performance may well have been the best concert — of ANY genre — I’ve ever seen.

I’ve been a fan of Franklin’s since the beginning of his career, but I’d never seen the artist live, and wasn’t sure about what to expect from a live Franklin show, as he’s as much preacher as singer.

I needn’t have worried. Kirk sang Saturday night. Let me be clear: Kirk SAAAAANG.   Kirk also danced, giving David a run for his money during several parts of the show and appearing at times as a sanctified Michael Jackson. The show was less concert and more experience, with Franklin serving as a praise and worship leader who worked the stage and our hearts like the love child of James Brown and Mahalia Jackson. He covered all of his classics, like “Why We Sing”, “Silver & Gold”, and “Stomp”, while leaving plenty of time for “Wanna Be Happy” and other favorites from his current, Grammy-winning Losing My Religion album. Continue reading

World Premier: ‘Billie Holiday — Front and Center’ — Opens at Fremont Center Theatre, May 27

Billie-Holiday-Front-and-Center-at-Fremont-Centre-Theatre

*(Los Angeles) Billie Holiday (1915-1959)  was a trail-blazing musical artist, known as perhaps the first female vocalist to use her voice in the style of jazz improvisation. Recording first with Benny Goodman, she became the first Black female vocalist to front a white band, that of Artie Shaw. She also performed with Count Basie and Duke Ellington. She had long professional associations with saxophonist Lester Young (who named her Lady Day; she called him Prez) and pianist Teddy Wilson.

Born to poverty in Philadelphia, she was a victim of sexual assault while still a child and sentenced by the court to a Catholic correctional institution. It was only her first experience with the court, however. She was convicted at age 13 (along with her mother) of prostitution. Subsequent arrests involved possession of narcotics and substance abuse.

Despite a turbulent life, abusive relationships, and racism, she prevailed to become one of the greatest jazz and blues artists of her time, before her untimely demise at age 42 from cirrhosis of the liver. In addition to multiple hit recordings, she sold out Carnegie Hall three times. Continue reading