Allee Willis’ Soul O’ The Day – The Color Purple at the Celebration Theatre

Before I co-wrote The Color Purple musical I had little interest in theatre. I had no desire to see people break out into song, oftentimes seemingly for no reason, and sing in that shrill kind of Broadway singing way, and leave not understanding or enjoying what I saw anyway. But I jumped at the chance to collaborate on TCP because it was such an incredible piece of literature, the most soulful on the planet.

After depriving myself of the genre for a lifetime, once I got the gig I spent a year in every regional theater, dinner theater, high school auditorium, every and any place I could bone up on musicals. Writing The Color Purple, though easily one of the hardest and most intense things I’ve ever undertaken, was also most pleasurable. And in the mere act of writing it I really understood that the theatre was not the stagnant-leftover-from-the-old-century medium I thought it was but, rather, a daredevil medium where you never know what’s going to happen as one actor coughs and it can turn the whole show.

Another thing I learned, as evidenced by the show as it’s currently being performed  at The Celebration Theatre in LA, is that this is a medium in which work can change drastically depending on who stages it. And I saw just exactly why I put up with five years of tears, laughter, compromise, bending so far over backwards I thought my body would split, epiphanies, road blocks and more, I.E. a microcosm of life stuffed into five years of  round-the-clock days, rewrites, and did I mention rewrites?

When the show opened in New York in 2005, we had a cast of 31 actors in the second largest theater on Broadway. On tour, the cast shrunk by a few actors but the stages were/are just as big, the auditoriums even bigger, and the staging was just a slightly skimmed down version from what it was on Broadway. But at the Celebration Theatre I got to see 19 actors stuffed into a 99 seat house, something I couldn’t have imagined working, but it was MINDBLOWING! Not only did everyone do their thing and then some, the intimacy of seeing the show staged for a tiny room with audiences on three sides of the stage worked so well for the piece I can’t tell you!

If you’ve never seen the musical you might think that this is a heavy, depressing couple of hours but ha ha, it’s a comedy, and an incredibly inspiring and uplifting adventure of someone who goes from less than nothing to the other end of the rainbow. If you live in LA I encourage you to see it. It’s here until the end of May.

Here are some photos from opening night at The Celebration Theatre a few weeks ago:

With my TCP collaborator, Stephen Bray:

With LaToya London, Shug Avery in the current production and Nettie in the second National Tour:

With Stephen and Michael A. Shepperd, a fiiiiine Mister indeed!

With Niketa Calame, an hysterical Squeak.

With Kelly Jenrette, a fantastic Nettie:

With Sixx Leah-Patrice Carter, Church soloist, and Lorie Moore, one of the hysterical Church Ladies:

With Harpo a.k.a. Terrance Spencer, and ensemble players Jonathan JT Thompkins and Akula Lyman.

With TCP director Michael Matthews, mo Church Ladies, and Kat Kramer.

With Na’Kia Bell Smith and Janet Washington, excellent young Nettie and Celie.

The opening was star-studded.  Here I am with my ol’ pal, Dana Delany.

I love Wendy Malick!

So excited that Robert Forster was there:

And Sharon Lawrence too!:

With Dana Delany and her Body Of Proof co-star, Nicholas Bishop

Director Michael Matthews, Artistic Director of the Celebration Theatre, JohnMichael Beck and the cast:

Go see The Color Purple and make Allee very happy!

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Categories: Art, Hollywood, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Lyrics, Music, Party, People, Songwriting, The Color Purple, Theater

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – FINALLY: Soup To Nutty!

I meant to start posting my thoughts about my Soup To Nuts Party Mix show, my first live performance in 37 years at the El Portal Theater last Tuesday night, the day after the show but I could barely pick up a stylus to write let alone move my mouth in any detectible syllabic pattern because I was so tired and overwhelmed. I’m racing to get photos up, a fun yet gruesome task as there are literally thousands of them to go through. Hopefully by tomorrow I’ll have them organized enough to post. In the meantime, let me tell you about this cruise on the Love Boat that mutated into the Titanic yet somehow still ended up at Fantasy Island…

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Categories: Allee Willis' Soup To Nuts live show, Art, bad art, Boogie Wonderland, Celebrity, Creative process, Creativity, Disco, Earth Wind & Fire, Friends theme, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Lyrics, Music, Neutron Dance, Self expression, September, Songwriting, Soup To Nuts Party Mix live show

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Allee Willis Marches on Detroit! Part 14, THE VIDEO

As I’ve been blabbing about for weeks now, I had the extreme pleasure of conducting my high school marching band playing a medley of some of my greatest hits in the lobby of the theater I grew up in in Detroit with the cast of the musical I co-wrote, The Color Purple, singing along. I meant to post video of our performance as soon as I got home but to my horror, one of the three cameramen only shot the students from the back and the other both forgot to turn his camera on for parts of songs and babbled over the footage like he was the subject of a documentary. So it took quite a lot of editing to get something where you could even begin to see the  warm, wonderful and uplifting-higher-than-the-sky feeling that permeated the theater that day.

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Categories: Boogie Wonderland, Detroit, Discography, Earth Wind & Fire, Friends theme, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Mumford high school, Music, Musical Instruments, Neutron Dance, Party, School, Self expression, September, Songwriting, The Color Purple, video

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Allee Willis Marches on Detroit! Part 7, Fox News and Marching Band Rehearsal

Tues., April 5, started at 7 am. (Kill me now; that’s the middle of the night for me.) Thank God there was a Yum Yum (my dictation software just typed that as Young Dumb) Donuts open in Southfield, the suburb of Detroit where Fox News is located. So I hit Young Dumb for a quick sugar infusion and rolled up the street to Fox in time to be on the morning news. Thank God the Green Room, one of the few actually painted green I’ve been in, had a nice, squishy couch. The donuts hadn’t quite kicked in yet.

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Categories: Detroit, Mumford high school, Music, Musical Instruments, School, TV/Radio

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Allee Willis Marches on Detroit! Part 3, The House

I know… I promised that Part 3 was going to be about finally getting into the house I grew up in on Sorrento Ave. in Detroit after trying for the last 46 years. But, as someone who’s conscious of her evolution and creative process every waking moment, this finally-going-home experience was BIG for me. Also, it’s not like I can go posting detailed photos of someone else’s stuff, which is inevitable if one is photographing a room. So this isn’t so much about documenting the actual house as it is about what I felt like being back in it.

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Categories: Afro, Architecture, Creative process, Detroit, Families, House, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Music, People, Songwriting, The Color Purple

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Oops, I thought I’d be back in action….

My intentions were good. I was gonna wake up and spring back into action as I haven’t blogged regularly in over a week but my body still feels like it’s broken into 13 million pieces and I need a recuperation day from one of the greatest weeks in my life in Detroit that included giving a speech about the rejuvenation of the city, conducting my beloved Mumford high school marching band playing a medley of some of my greatest hits and, for the first time since my musical, The Color Purple, opened five years ago, conducting part of the show. My spirits are HIGH, like being powered by a hemi engine, but I need time to decompress, not to mention unpack my seven suitcases, go through the thousands of photos that were taken, begin transferring the close to 75 videotapes that were amassed, and somehow attempt to get back to my everyday life of music and mayhem in Los Angeles. So give me 24 and I hope to be back with something soon…

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Categories: Afro, Creativity, Detroit, Discography, empowerment, Forgot to Categorize, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Mumford high school, Music, School, Self expression, Songwriting, The Color Purple

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I’m off to Detroit today!

Here’s where I’ll be this coming weekend conducting the bows music to my musical, The Color Purple, and then on Saturday morning from 11-12:30 sharp conducting my high school marching band playing a medley of my greatest hits in the GORRRRRGEOUS lobby of the historic Fox Theatre with the cast of The Color Purple singing along.  I don’t read music (despite writing all we’re playing), and just imagine what the 60 piece Mumford marching band, 20 member pom pom squad, 25 member Color Purple cast, me and 250 attendees singing along will sound like in here… To kitsch!

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Categories: Creativity, Detroit, Families, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Music, School, Self expression, Songwriting, The Color Purple, Travel

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Allee Willis Marches on Detroit! – A Benefit for Mumford High School

Next week I’m going back to my home town, Detroit, to conduct my high school marching band playing a medley of my greatest hits in the lobby of the theater I grew up in before a performance of my musical, The Color Purple, with the cast leading a sing-along.  It’s a fundraiser to buy new uniforms for the Mumford marching band because with over 40 kids in the band, some of them are still marching around in threads from when I were there.  Although I never made marching band as I never learned to play an instrument. I never learned how to read music either which should make my conducting this event most interesting to say the least!

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Categories: Detroit, empowerment, Financial, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Mumford high school, School, Self expression, The Color Purple

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My Song Sung to Oprah on The Kennedy Center Honors TONIGHT, Tues., Dec. 28!

Sorry this is so last-minute (not as sorry as I am for that crazy smile on my face) but if you have a chance to catch or TiVo The Kennedy Center Honors tonight, Jennifer Hudson is singing my song, “I’m Here”, to Oprah when she gets her honor. The Kennedy Center Honors are on CBS, I think at 9 pm. I’m told it’s toward the beginning of the show but with this said, you never know how things are going to be edited and whether the song is going to be there or not. But I have a lot of friends who were there and said it’s fantastic. Of course, it’s a great honor to know that “I’m Here” is part of such an honor for Oprah!

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Categories: Afro, Awards, Celebrity, Creativity, empowerment, Film, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Lyrics, Music, People, Songwriting, The Color Purple, TV/Radio

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Kitschlicious Riverside, CA.

Last weekend I drove to Riverside to see a performance of The Color Purple, the musical I co-wrote. I tend to pick and choose the performances of the show I see based on how good the thrifts shops and vintage architecture is in the cities it’s playing in.

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Categories: Food, Forgot to Categorize, Furniture and Housewares, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Place, Sign, Transportation, Travel

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