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Interview: Ayana George Talks Making Her Broadway Debut in MJ: THE MUSICAL

BroadwayWorld spoke with Ayana about making her Broadway debut at 50, her favorite part about working with the cast of MJ, and much more. 

MJ the Musical

Ayana George has sung for some of the biggest artists in the world today, including John Legend, Jennifer Lopez, Chaka Khan, Jazmine Sullivan, and many more. Now Ayana is taking center stage as Katherine Jackson in MJ: The Musical on Broadway!

BroadwayWorld spoke with Ayana about making her Broadway debut at 50, her favorite part about working with the cast of MJ, and much more.

Stay in tune with Ayana George by following her on Instagram: @ayana_is.

You have sung for some of the world's biggest superstars, including John Legend, Jennifer Lopez, and more. Can you give me a little background on your career? How did you end up on the career path of singing in general, and singing for these major stars in the music industry?

Well, it started in the Gospel industry, I did a lot of background on that end. And going on to the R&B side, my first experience touring was with Jazmine Sullivan. I had some recording experience from years ago with Mary J. Blige, Celine Dion, but actual touring and doing it on a more regular basis started with Jazmine. A lot of this industry, we know, is word of mouth, so I would have to say that's really how a lot of my path went. I would sing for someone, and they would recommend me for something else. And in 2017, though, that changed, then I actually auditioned for John Legend, I went to an open call that he had and got the gig!

How did the opportunity to join the cast of MJ on Broadway come to you?

I actually got called in to audition. And it was extremely new for me, something I had never really done before, so of course, my first reaction was, "Okay, maybe not" [laughs]. But, I've just gotten to a place in my life where I run toward the things that scare me as opposed to away from them. And that was something that immediately scared the crap out of me [laughs]. I said, "You know what? I'm scared, I'm doing it. I'm going to do it afraid."

I went into the audition, which in itself was a hilarious experience, because I walked in, super nervous, there were like, ten people behind the table, and I went in and shook everybody's hands individually [laughs]. I was like, "I don't even know if I'm supposed to be doing this, I'm sorry if this is awkward, but 'hi, hi, hi'." And then I sang the part of I'll Be There that I had to sing, and there was a short monologue. Did that, left, and actually didn't leave my headshot, which I had just gotten printed that same day of the audition. So I went through all this trouble, and left without leaving the headshot. I ended up emailing it to them later on, but that just goes to show you how nervous and scatterbrained I was in the moment. But even with that nervousness and that fear, I guess I did something right because here I am! In the show. And I'm so grateful.

MJ the MusicalWas Broadway just something you never thought you would do? Did it ever cross your mind?

It absolutely crossed my mind. As a little girl it was something that I envisioned myself doing, but I didn't take myself seriously enough to actively pursue it. Again, I just let fear dictate so many of my decisions in my lifetime, and just got to a point where I was like, "Okay, if I'm afraid, I'm going for it." And this was something that was so big and so out of the norm for me, and I wanted to do it. I was like, "What's the worst than can happen? It's that I won't get the job, and guess what? I don't have it right now, so why not just go for it!" A lot of times we think, "What can go wrong?" but what if it goes right? There is that 50% chance. And thankfully I took it, I took the chance, and came out on the best end, because this is truly a blessing and a dream come true.

And age is truly just a number, but how does it feel to be making your Broadway debut at 50? It's awesome!

You know what? I feel like I am right on time. I don't think that this has happened a minute too late or a moment too soon. I believe that everything I've experienced in my life and in my career as a singer has prepared me for this moment. And I'm just so thankful, I feel so blessed. Right on schedule. I feel like this is actually just the beginning for me.

MJ the MusicalHow has it been working with the company of MJ?

Amazing! They are my family now. That is my extended family. I am literally in awe every day at the caliber of talent and gifting I'm surrounded by. Everyone is phenomenal with what they do. From the cast to the crew to the lighting designer-everyone is top tier. And to be a part of that company it makes me go, "Well, maybe I'm a little bit top-tier too!" It's so exciting. And not only are they amazing artists, they're also just amazing people. We've created such a beautiful family dynamic within the cast and company and crew. It's amazing, I love them.

Sort of on the same note, but what has been your favorite part so far about starring in MJ on Broadway?

Ooh, there are so many! The fact that I'm actually starring in MJ is a favorite. Playing opposite Myles Frost is amazing. Sharing the stage with him, and again, with the cast, it is definitely a favorite. And then there are moments, we have these really cool little moments backstage as the show is going on. And I have to say, this is hands down one of my favorites, while the music is playing we have little dances and choreo that we make up. And it's our little bonding moment as the show is going on. If you see the show you'll understand there is a lot going on, so for us to have that joy and the energy to do even more behind the stage while we're interacting with each other is a miracle. But that's one of my favorites too. Just being with the cast and doing what I love. And what I've loved all my life. Seeing the audience and hearing the response and exchanging that energy with them is a favorite as well. There are so many, I really could go on.

So, do you think working in musical theatre is something you will continue to do in the future?

I would like to! Right now I'm so focused on MJ I haven't even thought about it, but I'm here for whatever comes my way. I think I will. I'm more so looking to transition into film and commercials, but I am definitely here to do more Broadway if I can, we'll see what happens!

Do you have any final thoughts you'd like to share? Or say to people who are seeing MJ?

See the show, come with an open heart and an open mind. In addition, I just want to say to anyone that is 50-plus, it's never too late to live. Go after your dreams, go after the things that set your soul on fire. There's a quote that continues to keep me inspired. It said, "If something burns your soul with purpose and desire, it's your duty to be reduced to ashes by it." And when you come to MJ you are literally watching a cast of people being reduced to ashes by their purpose and their desire. This is what we have lived for, this is what we've prayed for, this is what we dreamed of, and we get to live it out in front of an audience full of people and hope that you leave with something you didn't know you needed.

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