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Jennifer Holliday

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junglered
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Jennifer Holliday#0
Posted: 7/5/04 at 11:16am
Who saw Jennifer Holliday sing at Boston's Independence Day celebration last night with Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops at the Esplenade? I turned over to this show after watching "A Capital Fourth" and was excited to hear that Jennifer Holliday was going to be performing soon. I am a huge fan of hers and got to see Jennifer perform in the tour revival of Dreamgirls a few years back.

Jennifer looked great last night. I think she has taken off a lot of weight and she was just radiant. She chose a favorite song of mine, "This is The Moment" from Jeckyl and Hyde to perform for the audience. And da**, if she didn't oversing it. Ms. Holliday is known to be "over the top", and this is an emotional song... but pu-lease! I guess, Jennifer felt like she had to project her already powerful voice even further outdoors, but I really think she overdid it.

For those of you that caught her last night, what did you think of her performance?
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re: Jennifer Holliday#1
Posted: 7/5/04 at 11:30am
I love all of her crazy faces and mannerisms, plus she has the voice to back it up. I wouldn't say she overdid it...she just sang it the way she sings everything (although she is quite capable of singing a song delicately). But I thought what she did with "This is the Moment" was really entertaining, right down to her trademark "Ho!" at her final cut-off.
"Gif me the cobra jool!"
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re: Jennifer Holliday#2
Posted: 7/5/04 at 11:51am
Magruder- I love the faces and mannerisms, too. They are so Jennifer! - But, I think she had the song nailed and then went a little overboard. But...Ms. Holliday is so talented that she can get away with it...and many of her fans will scream for more. I'm not looking for 'delicate' from her by any means, but better judgment on knowing when to ease off and let the melody of the song shine through.

I think many young up and comers (like some of these American Idol wannabees) emulate people like Jennifer Holliday ,Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston. Some have good voices, but so many folks tend to blow and bluster and whoa-whoa all over the place, rather than just sing the song. I think it's an unfortunate trend.
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re: Jennifer Holliday#3
Posted: 7/5/04 at 12:13pm
I saw Jennifer at a San Diego event years ago. She is wonderful. She was, of course, obliged to do her signature song ("and I'm telling you...") but she did some Ella tribute songs and she has a surprisingly nice, mellow jazz voice.
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re: Jennifer Holliday#4
Posted: 7/5/04 at 1:48pm
I love J-Ho like it's my job. God the voice on that woman! re: Jennifer Holliday

That is all.
"You're every gay man's wet dream!" ~ MA

If in Heaven you don't excel, you can always party down in hell...

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re: Jennifer Holliday#5
Posted: 7/6/04 at 12:30am
So.... what about the rumours that she's got drug problems, which is why she hasn't worked much in 20 years?
'The Devil be hitting me!'--Whitney Houston
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re: Jennifer Holliday#6
Posted: 7/6/04 at 12:33am
She been clean for a long time
Not working?!
Honey, there was Allie McBeal on TV, Chicago on Broadway and a regional production of Dreamgirls
She also recorded/wrote a soundtrack for an indie movie she starred in
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re: Jennifer Holliday#7
Posted: 7/6/04 at 12:45am
I saw her musical on Bessie Smith 5 years ago and she almost blew the roof of the theater when she sang! What a talent
'The Devil be hitting me!'--Whitney Houston
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re: Jennifer Holliday#8
Posted: 7/6/04 at 12:48am
I saw her in the regional production of Dreamgirls I was talking about. She is one of my idols. I grew up listening to that recording. It was honest to God a dream come true to see her play Effie. I'll never forget it.
Updated On: 7/6/04 at 12:48 AM
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re: Jennifer Holliday#9
Posted: 7/6/04 at 1:17am
I met her a few years ago when she was playing Mama in Chicago. What a sweet, talented and personable woman. I had a lovely chat with her and we took a few pictures... she's really amazing :)
"You're every gay man's wet dream!" ~ MA

If in Heaven you don't excel, you can always party down in hell...

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re: Jennifer Holliday#10
Posted: 7/6/04 at 1:42am
Remember, she has told us "I'm not going." And aren't we lucky for it. (for those who are not well versed in the DREAMGIRLS repetoire, that qoute is from a song). Go girl.
"They're eating her and then they're going to eat me. OH MY GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!!!!" -Troll 2
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re: Jennifer Holliday#11
Posted: 7/6/04 at 2:19am
She an INCREDIBLY talented woman!
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re: Jennifer Holliday#12
Posted: 7/6/04 at 2:20am
Amen to that
"They're eating her and then they're going to eat me. OH MY GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!!!!" -Troll 2
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re: Jennifer Holliday#13
Posted: 7/6/04 at 4:55am
I could write a post about Jennifer Holliday that would literally take up several pages of this thread if I were so inclined. There is no performer I've seen more often, have more admiration for, but have been so vexed and frustrated by.

I saw her when she was 19 in her Broadway debut, the revival of "Your Arms Too Short To Box With God" on Broadway back in '79 and thought she had the greatest voice I'd ever heard. I saw her "Dreamgirls" in '82 and it changed my life -- this 21 year old girl was clearly capable of stopping a show every time she opened her mouth, doing things vocally I had never heard before and have never heard since. The standing ovation started halfway through "And I Am Telling You" and a near riot ensued by the Act I curtain -- several people rushed the stage, some stood up on seats, screamed, hollered and carried on like it was a revival meeting (and these are the white people in the audience I'm talking about) -- in 30+ years of theatre-going and nearly 1000 Broadway shows, I've never seen anything close to that reaction from an audience.

I became obsessed with her. I've seen at least a dozen of her solo concerts. I have all of her albums and dance singles. I saw her on the road in the mid-80's in Maurice Hines "Harlem Suite" (a tribute to the great performers of Harlem) in whch she portrayed Bessie Smith ("Gimme A Pigfoot," "St. Louis Blues"), Billie Holiday ("Them There Eyes," "Lady Sings The Blues," "T'aint Nobody's Business") and Aretha Franklin ("Since You've Been Gone," a definitive "Dr. Feelgood," and a frightening "Ain't No Way"). She and Maurice got into an argument about billing -- he was producer, star and director, yet she insisted on top billing. Perhaps, she deserved it since her sections were the only ones that worked and got standing ovations in the show, but the clash of egos resulted in her being fired, Melba Moore being brought in to replace her, and the show stalling on the road and never making it to Broadway.

I saw her in her next venture on the road, "Sing, Mahalia Sing," a musical biography of Mahalia Jackson, directed by George Faison (Tony-winning choreographer of "The Wiz") with Jennifer in the lead. The show featured a clunky book (worse, even than "Boy From Oz"), a phenomenal cast of gospel singers (Glenn Jones, Lynette Hawkins) and was basically a two-and-a-half hour excuse to have Jennifer sing Mahalia's greatest gospel hits. Have you ever had goosebumps for 2-1/2 hours? Jennifer sang something like 16 numbers over the course of the show and rewrote everything I thought I knew about what the human voice was capable of doing.

There was a moment in the second act where Mahalia's good-for-nothing husband presents her with an ultimatum -- either stop being a gospel star on the road for most of the year or he's leaving. Mahalia sends him on his way saying God put her on the earth to sing and spread the gospel and if he wants a stay-at-home wife, he better go out and find somebody else. He leaves and Mahalia, alone in her kitchen sings a song called "I've Got Something (That The World Can't Take Away From Me)" -- one of a handful of songs written by the gospel singer/songwriter Richard Smallwood which were not actually associated with Jackson. Holliday's performance of the song is, to date, the single greatest musical performance I've ever seen in my life -- it far surpasses anything she did in "And I Am Telling You..." She stood there alone, singing verse after verse of intense and raptously beautiful music, clutching onto the back of a kitchen chair. When she got to the climax of the song, she did this absolutely impossible nearly three octave glissando (or as they say in R&B circles, a "slide") that began at the absolute bottom of the alto range and ascended up the scale, growing in power to soprano's high A or B (I can't remember), which she held and contorted into the raw growl/scream that she somehow sustained for another measure or two. As she did this, she slowing began raising that kitchen chair off of the ground and at the song's climax, violently tossed the chair across the stage. The audience lept to it's feet, in a frenzy, and a despondent Mahalia slowly walked, head down, off the stage. Nothing else I've ever seen in a musical even remotely compares to that performance.

But, there's no recording of it -- Jennifer left the show shortly afterwards. Michael Bennett came to see the show around that time and told her, rightly, that she was extraordinary, but the show itself was beneath her and not a worthy vehicle for her to make her return to Broadway (which, frankly was true). I've heard from friends who knew the situation at the time that Bennett told her to leave the show, which she did, and that he would find or create a vehicle for her worthy of her talents. I seem to remember that Patti Labelle was brought in to replace her, but, again the show never made it to Broadway. Unfortunately for Jennifer, and the American musical theatre, Bennett died of AIDS later that year.

Jennifer's is one of the saddest stories in theatre and music of the last 25 years. She has one of the greatest voices ever. Period. But, she has an ego to match her talents. She's been fired from several shows and gigs through the years, because of ego clashes. She had a reputation for being very difficult, which had resulted in her losing countless jobs to other performers who, though less talented, are much easier to deal with. She has a reputation for being unreliable because she missed so many performances of "Dreamgirls" -- which to be fair is not a role that can truly be sung 8 times a week (every Effie has blown out their voice at one point or another and missed performances -- another singer should have been cast to sing her matinees, as Nancy Opel did for Lupone during the original run of "Evita"). Her Besse Smith show, "Downhearted Blues" which she did off-Broadway a few years ago seemed promising (she sounded terrific), but nothing has come of it, so far.

Holliday had two terrible marriages to men who only wanted her for her fame and money -- she had to declare bankruptcy and was forced to sell her home and possessions because of the last one.

She has a great voice that the pop and R&B field has never quite known what to do with -- too huge and brassy to be commercial enough for the mainstream audience -- and her weight problems (which have only come under control in the last few years) haven't helped that situation. She's had comeback after comeback and has been dropped by all of her labels and doesn't currently have a record contract.

Her principal fame has been on Broadway, but her "Dreamgirls" attendance record have made producers hesitant to entrust her with the lead of another show and the nature of her talent makes her difficult to cast ideally -- there aren't a lot of shows suited for a 40-something black belter, non-traditional casting aside (featured roles, perhaps, but not starring roles). Heck, look at Lillias White's career (her former Effie understudy, with none of the ego or attendance negatives) -- some good featured roles through the years, but no one has ever written a starring part for her on Broadway ("Dinah Was" was Off-).

Jennifer's in a career purgatory/limbo,partly of her own making with seemingly few prospects in sight. For years, a good chunk of her annual income has come from singing "And I Am Telling You, I'm Not Going" around the country at wealthy gay mens' birthday parties and weddings (I'm not exaggerating). Her voice, while still quite an impressive instrument, is not anywhere near what it once was -- years of vocal abuse and simply getting older have clearly taken a toll. At one time she had octaves of range, astounding breath control and an unparalleled palette of vocal hues, colors and timbres under her effortless control -- there's a dryness of tone there now and every note seems to require a great deal of effort for her to produce. Plus, her vocal mannerisms have been known to get out of control, and at times she looks like a parody of herself on stage.

She's become the character that gave her fame, Effie White -- enormously talented, but spoiled and difficult and desperate for a comeback. Where can she go? "Caroline, or Change"? (it won't run long enough for Tonya Pinkins to need a replacement). "Hairspray" and Motormouth Mabel? (she'd kill "I Know Where I've Been"). "The Wiz" revival (she was born to do Evilene or even Aunt Em).

I really feel sorry for anyone who didn't see her in her prime -- for many of us who did, it was a life-changing experience. I still hold out hope that she'll one day return to Broadway in triumph -- her talent, while diminished, remains truly formidable.
"What a story........ everything but the bloodhounds snappin' at her rear end." -- Birdie [http://margochanning.broadwayworld.com/] "The Devil Be Hittin' Me" -- Whitney
Updated On: 7/6/04 at 04:55 AM
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re: Jennifer Holliday#14
Posted: 7/6/04 at 9:18am
Thank you, Margo. As usual, you are so reasonably spot-on as to almost be frightening. As one of those people who was literally standing in their seat during DREAMGIRLS, I concur with everything you just said - even the unfortunate reality aspects. Now, if I was one of those gay men with money, I'd probably pay to have her sing at a fete of mine - if only to close my eyes and relive for a moment one of the most exciting and exhilerating experiences of my life.
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re: Jennifer Holliday#15
Posted: 7/6/04 at 9:21am
It's not that jennifer hasn't worked much in 20 years, the problem is she hasn't been in Wicked yet so, we don't hear very much about her.

Say what you want about her mannerisms and style being overdone but, there is no denying that woman has a voice. That's more than you can honestly say about half the little lipsyncing pop tarts out there.

To understand Jennifer's style, you have to listen to the voices that influenced her like Dinah Washington, Mahalia Jackson, Etta James and Billie Holiday, to name a few. These are the old Gospel and Blues singers that used their life experiences, all their pains and heartaches, in everything they sang. When they sang it came from the soul, hence the latter term of Soul music that developed from it.

When I heard Jennifer sing This Is The Moment, it was the first time that I have ever appreciated what could be portrayed in that song. It was strong, it was soulful and she seemed to capture a meaning and a feeling in it that I haven't heard from anyone else who has done it before.
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