Her name will always be synonymous with “Dreamgirls.” Now, Jennifer Holliday is hoping to relive the magic of the Tony Award-winning musical with an on-screen cast reunion.
The iconic Broadway show opened in December 1981, and starred Holliday along with Sheryl Lee Ralph and Loretta Devine. With the 40th anniversary approaching, Holliday said she would love to see the original cast reteam on new “Dreamgirls” project.
“Since a lot of us weren’t able to be in the movie, it would be great if they did something where either we were the parents of some of the children or they could write a new story,” Holliday told us via Zoom.
She’s looking to Sheryl Lee Ralph to lead the way.
“She knows how to put stuff like that together. So I’m hoping that she has something fabulous planned for us right now,” Holliday said. “She’s our organizer. I trust her, and the rest of us, we just show up.”
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In the meantime, Holliday’s 60th birthday is Monday, Oct. 19.
To mark the occasion, the Tony and two-time Grammy Award winner is performing a virtual concert that will stream live online. The concert is presented by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the Black Leadership AIDS Crisis Coalition. Tickets start at $20, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Healthy Housing Foundation, which helps provide housing for unsheltered families.
Over the years, LGBTQ fans have remained loyal to Holliday. She said growing up in Houston in the 1960s, the gay community wasn’t something her family discussed.
“My mother never talked about it. She just used to say, ‘Well, I think they got a little sugar in their tank,’” she recalled with a laugh.
With her virtual concert set to raise money for AIDS charities, Holliday explained how she became a lifelong supporter of the gay community.
“It was ‘Dreamgirls’ that started this love affair that I have with the LGBTQ community,” she said. “’Dreamgirls’ was so fascinating and fabulous that they love to impersonate not only me, but the other Dreamgirls as well. Unfortunately, it was also the beginning of the AIDS crisis.”
HIV/AIDS claimed the lives of several members of the “Dreamgirls” cast and creative team, including producer-director Michael Bennett, choreographer Michael Peters, and lyricist Tom Eyen.
“It was a devastating, devastating time, because many of those people, their families rejected them, even in their death and their dying time,” Holliday noted.
The singer recalled seeing a gay couple in public for the first time after she moved to New York City at age 19. By 21, the AIDS epidemic had reached her inner circle.
“I knew enough from just how I was raised, you have to have compassion and love for people, and then try to understand what’s going on later,” she said. “There was just a bond there through sadness that lasted so many, many years.”
With more than 200,000 lives lost to COVID-19 this year, Holliday wasn’t sure if she should publicly mark her birthday.
“At first, I wasn’t going to celebrate because of everything that we’re going through,” she said, “but then I thought about it, and I said, ‘Well, I need to affirm life. And I need to still have a determination for my own self to live and survive. The best thing that I know how to do is to sing.'”
Holliday will perform hits from the ’80s and ’90s, as well as classics from Aretha Franklin and Etta James, and some of her own songs. She’ll be accompanied by a six-piece band.
And, of course, the concert will feature music from “Dreamgirls,” including her signature song “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.”
The Jennifer Holliday 60th Birthday Concert takes place on Monday, Oct. 19 at 8 p.m. ET. Tickets are available at stellartickets.com.