*This Sunday, June 24, Broadway star Chester Gregory (“Hairspray,” “Tarzan,” and “Dreamgirls”) will bring the legendary singer Jackie Wilson to life on the stage at the popular nightclub The Sorting Room. The event is part of the Summer Sessions at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills.
In the 1950s, ’60s and early 70s, Wilson topped the music charts with the hits “To Be Loved,” “Lonely Teardrops” “Night,” “Baby Workout,” and “Higher and Higher.” “Mr. Excitement’s” brand of heartfelt lyrics sung with untold emotion earned him audiences from around the world.
Gregory has performed and produced the traveling “The Eve of Jackie: A Tribute to Jackie Wilson” since 2013 and knows the audience will appreciate what he is throwing down.
“It’s an intimate look at the final days of Jackie Wilson’s career,” Gregory told the EUR in a recent phone interview. “The show actually takes place in September of 1975 at the tail end of his comeback tour. It’s based off real events even though the night (of my show) is fictional.”
What is true is that Wilson collapsed onstage (conflicting reports cite a heart attack or stroke) on September 29, 1975 while performing at a nightclub in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. He went into a coma and never recovered. Eight years later, on January 21, 1984, Wilson died at the age of 49. With his show, Gregory wanted to reimagine what could have happened before the night Wilson collapsed onstage.
“What sort of gave me the idea a while back when performing was a woman came up to me and said, ‘Don’t go to Cherry Hill,” Gregory recounted. “That was kind of eerie and stayed with me for years. If someone had warned him not to do that final concert, maybe things would have gone differently. So, that gave me the idea to say let’s go back to the night before he died and see how he is in that point in his career.”
Gregory added that, “Jackie Wilson deserves just as much recognition as Elvis Presley. Elvis stole a lot of elements from Jackie. A lot of people don’t know how his legacy still doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.”
The Gary, Indiana native kicked off playing Jackie Wilson shortly after graduating from college. He nabbed the lead role in the Chicago’s Black Ensemble Theatre production about the legendary singer. After a great reception, he was on his way to sold out shows and rave reviews. One of his most exciting performances was in 2003 when he rocked Wilson at a hometown event for another Gary native – Michael Jackson. Gregory knew right away, what he would not perform.
“I didn’t want to perform a Michael Jackson song for Michael Jackson,” said Gregory. “So, I just sang ‘Lonely Teardrops.’ I said, ‘Just like how Jackie inspired you, you inspired me.’ He loved it and gave me a standing ovation.”
Also playing at The Sorting Room this weekend, (Friday, June 22nd), is singer/songwriter Kandace Lindsey, known for haunting vocals coupled with the soul of Latin rhythms. Here is what audiences can expect from her.
“They can expect an exciting show of eclectic music,“ said Lindsey also in an EUR phone interview. “I call it world Brazilian soul because most of my band is Brazilian. Also, I sing in English, Portuguese, and Spanish. They can expect to dance. It’s feel good music.”
Born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, Lindsey listened to the likes of Aretha Franklin and Al Green at home. With the absence of black artists on the radio, she gravitated toward Mexican and Cuban music. Her appreciation for different types of music led her to tour with Marc Anthony (1999-2008) and his then wife Jennifer Lopez (2004-2008). Working on both shows offered up two very different experiences for Lindsey.
“For Marc’s show, it’s based solely on the music,” Lindsey said. “There are more musicians. Huge percussion and horn sections. I was singing and dancing with him. It was more focused on the band. With Jennifer, the focus is on her and she has separate dancers and a separate band. She had videos and pyrotechnics. They were two very different shows.”
Touring all over the world with two powerhouse artists for Lindsey, “Was a huge commitment. You work with amazing artists, musicians from all over – Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. I got do what I loved to do.”
Recording over a decade, Lindsey has three albums along with a compilation release under her belt. In 2016, her single, “When I Open My Eyes” found its way on the finale of the popular television series “Pretty Little Liars.” Lindsey, who is working on a new album, continues to write music for television and will be featured on the upcoming Netflix cartoon “Motown Magic.”
To recap, Kandace Lindsey will play at The Sorting Room on Friday, June 22. Chester Gregory as Jackie Wilson will play there on Sunday, June 24. Additionally, Kosine will be in the house on Wednesday, July 18th. The multi-platinum producer/songwriter, who is half of the LA-based production duo Da Internz, will introduce emerging songwriters at the ASCAP Urban Department presentation of “A Songwriters Showcase.”