Arts and Entertainment
|Northwest School of the Arts grad lands ‘the dream gig’ in ‘Purple’|
|Mekhai Lee is Grady in 'The Color Purple'|
|Published Friday, July 6, 2018 10:30 am|
|PHOTO | MATTHEW MURPHY|
|The national tour of “The Color Purple” comes to Charlotte July 10-15 at Belk Theater.|
Things keep falling into place for Mekhai Lee.
A Northwest School of the Arts alumnus, Lee returns home July 10-15 at Belk Theater as Grady in the national tour of the Tony Award-winning production of “The Color Purple.”
“It is the dream gig,” Lee said. “The cast is super welcoming. They’ve been teaching me a lot about my first job. It’s been really a blessing.”
Lee graduated University of North Carolina School of the Arts and landed his first professional role since winning Best Actor at the Blumey Awards in 2014 for his performance as Shrek in “Shrek, the Musical.”
“Literally two days after he graduated college, he’s out on the road with ‘The Color Purple,’” 2015 Theatre Education Tony winner and NWSA instructor Corey Mitchell said at this year’s Blumeys. “I love that I am a step in the right direction and not just the penultimate of what their experiences are. That’s a fantastic feeling.”
Lee’s performance in an April New York showcase led to director John Doyle, who directed the Broadway rendition of “The Color Purple,” which earned Doyle a 2016 Tony nomination for Best Direction of a Musical. Lee stepped in as an immediate replacement for Jared Dickson in the role of Grady.
“I’m walking into the room like, ‘I am definitely not getting this,’ but it was crazy,” Lee said. “When the stars align, what’s meant for you is meant for you. The next thing I know, I’m being whisked off to San Francisco, because it was literally an immediate replacement.”
Finding a job after college is a challenge in general. Landing a role on stage is another matter entirely.
“It was overwhelming at first, but I’m definitely getting used to it now,” Lee said. “I couldn’t believe it, because the nature of this industry when you’re new, it takes a while to get your feet wet. It just happened so quickly with such an amazing show that it still kind of blows my mind.”
Lee and his mom, Karla Flora, moved to Charlotte from Flushing, New York when he was 12 years old. While Lee performed in productions at his elementary school, P.S. 165, his path to the stage really took off at NWSA.
“When I went to Northwest, the floodgates opened with show after show after show,” he said. “I realized this is exactly how I wanted to spend the rest of my life. There was just a magic in that school. It’s a tangible feeling. We all feel that heart, grit and love for the arts. I wanted to keep that up for the rest of my life. Sealing the deal was winning the Blumey Award, and the Mary Doctor Performing Arts Scholarship Award, and having the funds to go to University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Things kept falling into place, and I was like, ‘why fight it? This is the right move for me.’ It’s continued to happen, because now I’m on tour with a Tony-winning musical.”
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