Tony Award winner Jennifer Holliday has penned several songs for a new movie that will be screened in New York this fall. Holliday co-stars in the film as well.
"The Rising Place" by writer Tom Rice will be previewed at a New York theatre-to-be-announced on Nov. 1. The film — starring Frances Sternhagen, Laurel Holloman, Elise Neal, Mark Webber, Liam Aiken, Billy Campbell, Gary Cole, Alice Drummond, Frances Fisher, Mason Gamble, Beth Grant, Tess Harper, S. Epatha Merkerson and Scott Openshaw — will then make its West Coast premiere at L.A.'s Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills on Nov. 8.
Currently available on the film's official website (www.therisingplace.com) is a CD featuring 24 tracks from the film, including four from Holliday. Three of Holliday's tunes are actually heard in the film, including "You've Got To Rise Up," "We Are All One" and "No More Sorrow." Holliday stars in the movie as a "jook"-joint owner and will sing one of the tunes on screen.
Tom Rice, who wrote and directed the film, told Playbill On-Line that the movie is based on an unpublished short story by David Armstrong. "It's a 'Fried Green Tomatoes' type of movie," Rice explained, "[about] a friendship between two girls, a black girl and a white girl in the South in the 1940's." Rice, who began his career as a Broadway usher and later was a personal assistant for director/choreographer Jeff Calhoun, says his next project is a film set in a Broadway lobby. His previous credits include "Chasing Rainbows," which received a starry New York reading with Marcia Lewis, Harry Groener, Davis Gaines and Ann Reinking.
A native of Houston, Texas, Jennifer Holliday made her professional New York theatre debut in 1980 in the revival of Your Arms Too Short to Box With God. That role led to her Tony-winning performance in Dreamgirls, and her rendition of that show's "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" earned the singer-actress her first Grammy Award. She has also appeared on Broadway in the revivals of Grease! and Chicago, and her television credits include "Ellen," "Touched By an Angel" and a recurring role on "Ally McBeal." Holliday earned another Grammy Award for her recording of Duke Ellington's "Come Sunday." —By Andrew Gans