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Arts and Entertainment

The life and times before ‘Super Freak’
Rick James’ rise and fall goes on stage in Charlotte
 
Published Thursday, April 26, 2012 8:17 am
by Ryanne Persinger

The story of R&B/funk legend Rick James is coming to stage on Mother’s Day weekend.

PHOTO/RON SLENZAK
Funk legend Rick James' life story is the subject of the stage play "The Life Story of Rick James," which debuts May 12 in Charlotte.


“The Life Story of Rick James,” starring Gary “Lil G” Jenkins from the R&B group Silk will play James in the production. The tour debuts in Charlotte May 12-13 at Ovens Auditorium, 2700 E. Independence Blvd. Tickets start at $28.


Nolbert Brown Jr. of Atlanta wrote the play. The show also includes Garfield Bright from Shai as Smokey Robinson, Nia Angelene as Teena Marie, Keisha Jackson as Jo-Jo from the Mary Jane Girls and Glenn Jones.


The Post asked Brown, the playwright and director, some questions about the stage performance.

What made you decide to write the play?


My history is life stories. I wrote the life story of Jackie Wilson, Marvin Gaye and Mahalia Jackson. This time I wanted to write a story about James. People often wonder who is James. So Ty James, the daughter of Rick James, and I sat down around three years ago and created the story.


How much of Rick James’ life is addressed?


It goes back to James before the braids, the leather and “Superfreak.” It goes all the way up until his death.

What made you decide to cast Lil G from Silk as Rick James?


I had a choice in Lil G and another artist that I wanted to use and both of them performed for me. I thought Lil G was more of James.


Did you get the blessing from Rick James’ family before writing the play?


I actually sat down with them and got their blessing and they wanted me to be able to tell the story. In the play you will see his successful parts and also his downs. Not only the drugs, but other things he went through and how he wanted to stay on top. Teena Marie and  James made some legendary songs together and it shows their coming together. It made them legends.


What can audiences expect from the show?


The house where he lived, the mansion, the concert scenes, and ‘Soul Train’ –  just different things about his life. They get to see that James wasn’t only the King of Funk and the guy that sang “Super Freak.” He was a motivator and a very smart businesses man.


Have there been any reactions so far leading up to opening night?


People are very excited and anxious to see the show. People are talking about it all over the world. People are just wondering what they’re going to see Mother’s Day weekend. We picked Charlotte because it’s a growing city and getting bigger. We believe that Charlotte is a place to launch something big like this.


Any other artists you would like to feature in upcoming shows?


Right now I’m talking about Phyllis Hyman and maybe one on Johnny Taylor, my uncle.


On the Net:
Ovens Auditorium - www.ovensauditorium.com
Nobert Brown Jr.  - http://nolbertbrownjr.com

 

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