BWW Interview: UNCOVERED's Michelle Bouey on her Lifelong Connection to Stevie Wonder's Music and Prince's Star Quality
Michelle Bouey might be a fairly new name in Toronto's performing arts scene, but the rising singer has already made an impact in the city. With a 2018-19 Banks Prize under her belt, Bouey returns to The Musical Stage Company for her second edition of UNCOVERED. The thirteenth show in the concert series focuses on the music of Stevie Wonder and Prince, and Bouey gave us the ins and outs of how a show like UNCOVERED comes together behind the scenes in an exclusive Q+A.
How did you get involved in this year's Uncovered?
I was fortunate enough to be one of two recipients of the Banks Prize in the 2018/19 season. Because of that, I got the opportunity to be in last year's show and the chance to be immersed in the wonderful world of the Musical Stage company, which then led me to this year!
How familiar were you with Prince and Stevie Wonder when you came onboard?
I'd say I'm very familiar with Stevie and not as much with Prince. I've known Stevie's catalogue for as long as I can remember. I recall having heard "Overjoyed" for the first time when I was 13 years old and just sobbing. I didn't realize a song could sound that way, the melodies, the pure euphoric sound.
In terms of Prince - I knew his big hits and was always wowed by his star quality, but never quite dove into his music in the same way. I'm so excited to have the chance to go more deeply into Stevie's universe, and be introduced and bewitched by Prince's sparkle.
Have you discovered anything about either artist through re-imagining their music with Reza Jacobs and the cast?
I think the biggest discovery for me was in listening to the harmonies and the lyrics in a new way, as an adult. I was a kid when I came across both artists, so even though I felt connected to them and loved their music, it's different going back and getting to know their material with some life experience under my belt.
How has the rehearsal and arrangement process been for you so far?
It's been absolutely incredible. I'm singing backup vocals this year and have loved every minute of it and supporting this strong and dynamic group of artists. Our wonderful music director, Reza Jacobs, really creates an inspiring rehearsal space. He guides us through all of the material (with some pretty mind-blowing arrangements), all while letting us put in our two cents. It's a creatively fulfilling process.
You have a background in pop music - has that affected or helped you with Uncovered in any way? Going off of that, you also participated in Uncovered: Joni Mitchell and Carole King last year. Did you find that experience helped prepare you for this year's entry in the series?
Definitely! I've have been singing pop for my whole life, but I think it also lends to the fact that I grew up singing in a choir and harmonizing with my family.
Performing at Koerner Hall was a dream come true. I was so nervous last year because well... I guess my dream was seriously happening. That is to say - I feel like I'll be comfortable up there, coming back for a second time!
Are you able to talk about what you're performing? Any highlights from your performance, or anything else on the setlist you can disclose ahead of opening night?
I don't want to give away any of the solos, but I will say that I think people will be very happy with the setlist and the new take on these amazing songs.
Is there anything you'd like the audience to know about the production, or anything that I might not think to ask about?
Everyone should see this show! Not only is it a chance for Prince and Stevie fans to come together, but it's also an opportunity to hear the magic of Reza (Music Director), Mitchell (Musical Stage Company Artistic Director) and Elenna Mosoff (Staging). It's been a real team effort all round. I'm honoured and so thankful to be a part of this experience.
You can see Michelle Bouey and the entire cast of UNCOVERED: Stevie Wonder AND PRINCE through November 7 at Koerner Hall, 273 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON and November 8-9 at Meridian Arts Centre, 5040 Yonge St, North York, ON.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit https://musicalstagecompany.com/production/uncovered2019/
Photo courtesy of Michelle Bouey