Jennifer Holliday won a Tony Award for her acting and two Grammy Awards for her music. You may have seen her perform several weeks ago on television’s most popular show, “American Idol,” with finalist Jessica Sanchez. You may even own a copy of the soundtrack from “Dreamgirls,” the Broadway musical that made her a star.
Jennifer Holliday won a Tony Award for her acting and two Grammy Awards for her music.
You may have seen her perform several weeks ago on television’s most popular show, “American Idol,” with finalist Jessica Sanchez. You may even own a copy of the soundtrack from “Dreamgirls,” the Broadway musical that made her a star.
And, yes, she schedules her own interviews and forwards recent publicity photos of herself using what appears to be a personal email account.
She will soon beginning a weeklong stint in St. Louis playing the role that made her famous: the doomed Effie in “Dreamgirls.” And after that? She plans to wait and see what happens next.
“I’m on a great journey,” she said during a telephone interview from Atlanta, where she lives. “This is the happiest I’ve been in my entire career — and that is without knowing what is happening in the fall.”
While on a singing tour, Holliday performs “An Evening with Jennifer Holliday,” her favorite concert format because it includes something from each aspect of her career — her Broadway work (which includes “Dreamgirls,” “Chicago” and “Grease”); songs she likes by Etta James; and her own R&B and dance music hits, such as “I Am Love.”
“I do prefer ‘An Evening with Jennifer Holliday’ rather than doing a character. When you’re doing a character, you are limited in terms of your character. You have other actors and actresses. There is a storyline. With ‘An Evening with Jennifer Holliday,’ you get to feel the audience. You get to share yourself with them, talking or through the songs that you choose.”
‘The character element’
“Dreamgirls” changed Holliday’s life. The show opened in late 1981 and became a sensation — in part because of her performance of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.” In the story, Effie is fired by her former lover from a 1960s pop music trio — but Effie makes one last stand with her insistence that “you’re gonna love me.”
“And I Am Telling You” hit No. 22 on the Billboard pop chart in 1982. On the R&B and dance music charts, Holliday found more success through the turn of the millennium with “I Am Love,” “No Frills Love,” “Hard Times for Lovers” and “Think It Over.”
Besides a Tony Award, Holliday won a Grammy for “And I Am Telling You” (best female R&B performance) and another in 1985 for “Come Sunday” (best inspirational performance).
More recently, Holliday sang “And I Am Telling You” on “Idol” while mentoring Sanchez.
Holliday said she “erred” in her “Idol” performance because she performed the song as if she were trying to emote to the back of a theater. On TV, her facial expressions appeared exaggerated, leading the blogosphere and anonymous commentators to attack her. (She addressed the insults on Facebook.com/IAmJenniferHolliday: “Yes, I can sing a song without making ‘facial expressions,’ and though the jokes hurt me, I smile because I know God loves me.”)
Page 2 of 2 - Holliday said that when she performs “And I Am Telling You,” she never forgets that the song came from a play, and that it’s trying to tell Effie’s story.
“I was always going for the character element of it,” she said. “That’s the only way to make it new each night. If I sang it as a hit love song, I would have gotten tired of it ... but the fact that I leave myself out of the equation and it is strictly for them (the audience) and for Effie, that is how it stays new.”
Holliday says it’s too early to tell whether singing on the nation’s top-rated show will lead to more work, but she said she would like to do more TV (she had a recurring character on “Ally McBeal”). She continues giving concerts, sometimes with symphony orchestras, and she’d like to record an album of standard love songs. She also enjoys social media (her Twitter handle is @Jennifersspot) and credits YouTube with introducing her to a new generation of fans.
But Holliday says it’s OK that she doesn’t have much specific on the horizon.
“I just sing and am grateful to God I can still sing well, and I’m open and ready to whatever life has to offer me. I hope they (the audience) will leave hopeful and inspired and that they will have a good evening. That is my job; that is what I love to do.”