by Melissa Griegel . . .
Jelani Remy (The Lion King, Ain’t Too Proud— the Life and Times of the Temptations) got a chance to warm up his vocal cords at his solo show at Feinstein’s/54 Below on July 27th in preparation for his return to Broadway this fall. He will be rejoining the Tony-award-winning cast of Ain’t Too Proud in the role of Eddie Kendricks.
The Jekyll and Hyde song “This is the Moment” was transformed into a song about him, life right now, and 54 Below, with revised lyrics that brought laughs from the audience. Jelani was accompanied by a three-piece-band that included Music Director Matt Lowy along with Joshua Roberts and John Convertino.
Jelani, who played Simba in the Lion King, still enjoys singing Disney and definitely has a penchant for Alan Menken songs. In addition to Menken’s “Proud of Your Boy” from Aladdin, “Somewhere That’s Green” from Little Shop of Horrors, and “Beauty and the Beast” from Beauty and the Beast, Jelani sang a Disney medley. The lovely Jessica Vosk (Wicked, Fiddler on the Roof, Finding Neverland) joined Remy on stage to sing the duet “Beauty and the Beast.” His friend Lou Weiss, who attended the show, suggested he sing “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” by Journey because it was a “beautiful message for this time,” resulting in Matt Lowy joining Jelani on vocals.
Jelani told the audience stories about growing up with three brothers and one sister and having to tell his dad that he would rather sing than play sports. “Not My Father’s Son” from Kinky Boots was a perfect song to follow these shared memories. He had lots of fans in the audience including mom Jacqueline Remy and his childhood teacher Jennifer (Jessen) Foose, whom he credits with pushing him into a career on Broadway. “I was his choir teacher and I knew he was something special,” she said. “I have really been enjoying following his career.”
Although the pandemic has been difficult, it has also given Jelani a chance to take a more active role in BroadwayCares and “be the change.” He was able to create content, direct, and cast people who are “beautifully unique.” He also got to be part of a Broadway version of The Masked Singer where people judged you on “not what you looked like, but what you sounded like.”
He likes a wide range of music including reggae, Soca, and girl groups such as The Spice Girls and Little Mix. “Sometimes you have to hide who you are,” he lamented, “It’s a struggle to find love and be loved.” He certainly is loved judging by the packed audience that came to hear him sing. The room quieted to listen to every note of “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables. Talking about his musical tastes, he said, “I like to mix it up. I bring in pop, soul, musical theater, and love to add a Caribbean flare sometimes for my parents.”
Two light-hearted moments were a parody of “Roxie” from Chicago called “Jelani” and a mash-up of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” and “Rainbow Connection” replete with Kermit the Frog’s voice singing part of the song.
Just when we thought the evening would go by without a song from the Temptations, Jelani ended with a rousing “Just My Imagination” after the audience chanted “One more! One more!”
Don’t miss the opportunity to see Jelani Remy at his next Feinstein’s/54 Below performance on Friday, August 27th at 9:45 pm.
Photos by Melissa Griegel Photography