It's been almost 20 years since she last performed on a Broadway stage — and a little more than that since recording pop music — but Tony and Grammy Award-winning powerhouse Jennifer Holliday is getting back into the swing of things.
This month, the Dreamgirls legend releases her long-awaited new music opus, "The Song Is You," on the heels of performing a string of sold-out shows at 54 Below, which has fastly become New York City's most in-demand hotspot for Broadway royalty.
"I feel that that was a really great experience," Holliday reflected on her 54 Below performances, which saw her bringing down the house twice a night with a demand so high that patrons were put on a waiting list to get in. "To get so much mad, crazy love from New Yorkers, it was a like a homecoming of sorts.
"I thought [performing there] would be a good fit for this album, since it's really jazz and love songs," she continued. "The album lends itself to a supper club environment like those great ladies did back in the day — they weren't playing arenas or anything like that."
"The Song Is You," scheduled for commercial release Jan. 21, marks a grand return to the pop music spectrum, after a 23-year sabbatical, for the songstress famed for her rendition of "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going." Though she recorded acclaimed gospel music projects in the interim, Holliday performs R&B, jazz and pop standards on the self-produced album. "The music industry kept changing and there wasn't an opportunity to record," she explained, rationalizing her lengthy absence.
The Houston native was also overcoming major health challenges. Over the last decade Holliday, 53, became an ambassador for mental illness (admittedly battling clinical depression for years); she also suffers from multiple sclerosis (MS), which she revealed was diagnosed 17 years ago.
"I've been blinded and paralyzed and after the last episode of blindness in 2007, I said 'Okay, I need to change my environment and how I do my work and live my life.'"
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