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A ‘stellar’ performance: Broadway diva Heather Headley returns to close ASO pops season

Broadway diva Heather Headley returns to close ASO pops season by Eric E. Harrison | May 11, 2023 at 1:31 a.m.
Tony- and Grammy Award-winning singer, actress and Broadway star Heather Headley joins the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra this weekend for season-ending pops concerts at Little Rocks Robinson Center Performance Hall. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)

Tony- and Grammy Award-winning singer and actress and Broadway star Heather Headley returns to the stage of Little Rock's Robinson Center Performance Hall, 426 W. Markham St. at Broadway, and her own conductor, Ron Colvard, is coming with her..

They're joining the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra for the final concert of the orchestra's 2022-23 First Orion Pops season, 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday.

Also joining the party, as they did the last time Headley was in town (October 2019) for an ASO pops concert: the Parkview High School Lab Singers. In 2019 they performed Tina Turner's "River Deep, Mountain High," which is on the program again this time.

Other echoes from Headley's 2019 appearance include "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from "The Wizard of Oz" and "For Good" from Stephen Schwartz's "Wicked."

The program also includes "She Used to Be Mine" from the musical "Waitress"; "No One Is Alone"/"Children Will Listen" from Stephen Sondheim's "Into the Woods"; "My House" from Tim Manchin's score for "Matlilda the Musical"; a mashup of "Lost in the Stars" from the musical of the same name (music by Kurt Weill, book and lyrics by Maxwell Anderson) and

"Hold On" from "The Secret Garden" (music by Lucy Simon, lyrics by Marsha Norman).

After intermission, Headley will sing Elton John's "Your Song"; "When She Loved Me," written by Randy Newman for the animated film "Toy Story 2"; Ashford and Simpson's "Reach Out and Touch"; her own "I Wish"; and two numbers with "When You Believe" from "The Prince of Egypt" (more Stephen Schwartz music and lyrics).

On Broadway, Headley originated the role of Nala in "The Lion King" in 1997 and the title role in Elton John and Tim Rice's "Aida" (which, by the way, earned her a 2000 Tony Award for best actress in a musical). She returned to Broadway in 2016, playing Shug Avery in "The Color Purple." In 2018, she had a recurring role as Gwen Garrett on NBC's "Chicago Med" and is currently a regular on the Netflix series "Sweet Magnolias."

Headley received Grammy nominations for best new artist and best female R&B vocal performance for her 2002 album "This Is Who I Am." In 2006, "In My Mind" became her first No. 1 hit, topping the Dance and R&B charts. Her 2009 album "Audience of One" won a Grammy for best contemporary R&B gospel album.

In a 2019 pre-concert interview, Headley explained that she was "trying on" some of the songs for that program, like dresses.

"There are so many songs from my time on Broadway that I don't have the opportunity to sing, as well as try them on and see what they would sound like in my voice," she said in an accent that bore echoes of her native Trinidad, where she spent most of her childhood. Her family moved to the United States in the '90s.

"It's just like a dress," she says. "I just want to try the dress on. I just want to sing the song. I don't necessarily want to do the whole show. All these are 'dresses' that I've always wanted to try on.

"In essence, I get to go into people's closets and try their dresses on. Some dresses don't fit. Some I have to hem a little bit. Some dresses are like, 'Don't ever put us on again.' And some dresses fit."

  photo  Heather Headley sings pop songs and musical numbers from stage and screen with the Arkansas Symphony this weekend. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)
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