It may seem an unorthodox choice, so to speak, but Mary Wilson, former member of the Supremes pop singing group, will join the cast of the Off Broadway show Grandma Sylvia's Funeral for six weeks starting Aug. 22.
In the interactive comedy, members of the audience take part in what purports to be a real New York Jewish funeral, complete with wacky family members, food, dancing and luxuriant weeping.
Wilson will replace Sheri Goldner in the role of super yenta, Aunt Marlena. Wilson will be the first African-American Aunt Marlena. Aunt Marlena is vying to become the family's new matriarch in the post-Grandma Sylvia era.
In a statement describing the choice, spokesman Beck Lee wrote that director Glenn Wein "who has encountered several black Jewish audience members at his show, decided he would experiment with the [role of the] family interloper.
The story of the Supremes was the basis for the musical Dreamgirls. Wilson, who will make her New York stage debut with the role, wrote about her experiences as a Supreme in the 1986 book Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme. In 1986, she accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. She appeared previously on stage in the Los Angeles production of Beehive. Grandma Sylvia's Funeral is playing at the Soho Playhouse in Manhattan. For tickets or information: (212) 691-1555.
-- By Robert Viagas