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BWW Interview: Jelani Remy Talks Broadway's Comeback, His Special Christmas Show, and More


The Broadway star discusses getting back on stage and why live theater is so important

BWW Interview: Jelani Remy Talks Broadway's Comeback, His Special Christmas Show, and More

Jelani Remy is known for his incredible singing and dancing talents in Broadway's Ain't Too Proud, but this superstar has even more in store this season.

I caught up with Jelani to chat about the reopening of Broadway, his award-winning song, and the new Christmas special taking place this month.

What's it like to return to Broadway? I'm very excited so I can only imagine how it feels for you.

Oh my gosh. It beyond. It's the ultimate family reunion again, getting our art back out there, especially with an audience that has been craving human connection, and craving the magic of live theater. For a show like, Ain't Too Proud, which is pretty amazing on its own with music, but then you have the story of The Temptations going through social injustices that we all went through together as a world makes it that much more monumental and that much more necessary. We're coming back bigger and better.

It must be exciting to be back together again with your fellow cast members.

We got to rebuild our brotherhood all over again. With the five of us back in a rehearsal room with everything stripped away, it's just about us and how we've healed together and how we've grown. It really radiates onstage: the relationships and the time that we took to mend our wounds of what we have been through over the past year. It's important that we took the time to do that together, to collectively breathe.

Are there any shows you're looking forward to seeing?

I saw almost every show that's running in rehearsal. I always love to see shows and no show failed to show me why I love this business and why I love what we do.

It must have been really hard to be away from live theater for so long.

We did have some really great at-home content that we did, including videos for "I Wish It Would Rain" or "The Way You Do The Things You Do" and also the Rockefeller tree lighting. But it wasn't really keeping the show together. It was little glimpses of what we miss and what we want. I myself got to do some great content with Broadway Cares. I did a lot of online content, directed shows, and put together virtual entertainment. I fell in love with that. It was my outlet until I was ready to sing virtually. Then I went to a socially distant concert which I've been doing as well. I took baby steps to get back into shape.

Are you still doing online concerts?

Yeah, of course. That's the beauty of now. We are back into our shows and we've also created a life virtually, and have to maintain that as well. It's the safest, and it gets you out to people around the world, which is really cool too.

I do love the virtual events and I've had so much fun making it as creative as I can, visually pleasing and also from the heart, but there's nothing like being on stage live. There's nothing like sitting in that seat and the curtain going up and being in the moment.

Your song "Gone Forgotten Year" has been selected for the Cannes World Film Festival for Best Music Video / Best Original Song and Best Singer of the Year. What does this song mean to you and what was the inspiration behind it.

That was another pandemic baby with my friends Justin Long and Joanna Burns who I went to college with who I've known forever. We started laying down the song over Zoom and coming up with ideas for lyrics and keys and what we wanted it to be. That's how the team was created. The song was literally about how I was feeling about missing my someone and knowing that there's an end date to the madness and we can all be together safely and just love.

That song and the meaning behind it is personal but also something many can relate to. What did it feel like to have it so highly recognized at the festival?

Thank you. it's not a win for me. It's a win for the team. It's a win for just us as artists never wanting to plateau, to keep putting yourself out there in ways that you might not have thought about because you never know where it could go. Art is so important to me. I've always loved songwriting and song singing. I realized with the time off, how much I miss it, how much I love it, and how nothing is really promised. It's up to me now to really do it and I'm so happy I did because look what's happening now. I'm really fortunate.

You also have a new holiday show Jelani Remy's 'Tis de Season with Jelani! happening on December 13th.

That was also the birth of doing these online contests and cabarets and stuff. I feel like I'm ready to do another one live and this is going to be so special because it involves my Caribbean roots. At the Lortel Theatre, they are doing this global around the world extravaganza Tinsel celebration. My parents are from Barbados and Trinidad so I wanted to do something that hits home for me. It's gonna be something with high energy and be fun, and something that my parents will love. I'm doing it for them really because home is where the heart and we spent a lot of time together.

And you also have some special guests that will accompany you on stage.

I sure do. I have Jewels Blackman from Hadestown and Saint Aubyn (Ain't Too Proud). They're also islanders like myself, so we're all excited to do our thing. I do have an authentic steel pan that's going to be there and we're working on remixes to some of my favorite holiday songs to really give it that Caribbean vibe and special Island flavor.

What can you tell the audience members who are hesitant to come back to the theatre during this ongoing pandemic?

I want to say I understand your hesitation. I understand it and we are doing our best to make sure that you're safe and you have the best experience at our show.

Now that people come to shows I see repeat people because they want to come back again and again. And we love that. We are such a strong community right now. We are all excited to be back doing our thing. You can feel it and that's really special.

Photo courtesy of Karyzma Agency

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