Monday, May 7, 2007

Tamyra Gray Bound for Broadway

Not all Idol finalists have great success in the pop music field, but a surprising number of them have done well on the Great White Way. Previous and current Idol finalists on Broadway and Off-Broadway include Diana DeGarmo, Constantine Maroulis, Fantasia Barrino, Anthony Fedorov, Frenchie Davis and Josh Strickland. The latest to try to make it in Manhattan's theater district, according to Broadway World, is first-season finalist Tamyra Gray who joins the cast of "Rent" in the role of Mimi Marquez (through November 25) on May 29. (This is Gray's second foray on Broadway. In 2004, she was cast for a 12-week limited engagement in the role of Priya in Broadway's struggling "Bombay Dreams," but due to continued poor grosses, the show closed early on Jan. 1, 2005).

After "American Idol," Gray landed a recurring role on the TV series "Boston Public," as well as guest spots on shows such as "What I Like About You," "Half and Half," "Tru Calling" and "All of Us." She penned the songs "I Believe" the Idol coronation song for Season 2 winner Fantasia Barrino and "You Thought Wrong" for first season champion Kelly Clarkson. Gray also appeared in the film "The Gospel."

Rent plays at the Nederlander Theatre, 208 West 41 Street, between Seventh and Eighth avenues, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm & 8pm, and Sunday at 2pm & 7pm. Tickets, priced $45-$100, can be purchased by calling TicketMaster at 212-307-4100. A limited number of $20 tickets are available day of performance at the box office.


Late last week Internet rumors were furiously flying that Sony-BMG Clive Davis so disliked Kelly Clarkson's new CD that he ordered it scrapped, with the British tabloid the Daily Star saying, "A source at the record company tells the paper, 'It was an extraordinary presentation [the SBMG International meetings in Las Vegas]. Clive was absolutely merciless in his criticism of Kelly. She's one of the biggest priorities on the label and her new songs were savaged.' "

The American Idol winner had been working on the follow up to her best-selling album Breakaway for 18 months.

Clarkson's reps refused to address the issue on Friday, but according to the Star-Telegram, her reps issued a rebuttal on Saturday, reading:

"Despite rumor-mongering from the U.K. Daily Star and other online sources, there is no dispute between Kelly Clarkson and the RCA Music Group. These rumors began after the SBMG International meetings in Las Vegas a couple of weeks back and were based on an inaccurate report about Clive Davis' presentation of Kelly's new LP at the confab. Sources who were there insist the chatter is not true. In fact, Davis specifically stated that Kelly is 'one of the top four artists at Sony BMG' and wanted to ensure that she is treated as such. There are absolutely no plans to scrap the LP. Meanwhile, Richard Palmese's promo team is working round the clock to deliver Kelly's first single, 'Never Again,' to trigger the release of what all are convinced is a chart-topping album."


Season 1: Tamyra Gray

Well, a look at the top item tells you that Tamyra is still working in the business, making a second go on Broadway, this time in "Rent," beginning on May 29. Like Season 5 fourth-place finisher Chris Daughtry, many thought Gray was robbed when Nikki McKibbin survived and she was eliminated.

In 2006, Gray was on an episode of "The Tyra Banks Show" with other previous Idol finalists. She also guest starred as a waitress on an episode of NBC's "Las Vegas," ending the show singing "Respect." She contributed to "If You Were Mine" (and sang back up) and "The Lover in Me" on Jessica Simpson's CD "A Public Affair."

On September 2, 2006, Gray married singer Sam Watters (Color Me Badd) in Italy. She is currently recording a new album that she calls more club-friendly than her debut CD.

Season 2: Josh Gracin

After Idol, the ex-Marine signed with Lyric Street Records, releasing his debut CD in 2004. It sold 645,000 copies and was certified gold. Gracin has had three country singles in the Top 5, including "Nothin' to Lose," which went to No. 1 on the country chart.

In 2005, Gracin sang "Working for the Weekend" on the "Herbie: Fully Loaded" soundtrack, and "When I See an Elephant Fly" on the Jim Brickman album "The Disney Songbook." He released the single "Favorite State of Mind" in March 2006. Also in 2006, he guest starred on "The Young and the Restless," sang "God Bless America" during the 7th inning of Game 2 of the World Series and sang the national anthem before the start of the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals game on ESPN Monday Night Football.

He is currently on tour.

Season 3: LaToya London

After Idol, London guest hosted on "Access Hollywood," and performed the national anthem for numerous National Football League games. She has shared the stage with such stars as Elton John, Whoopi Goldberg, Barry Manilow, Gladys Knight, Nancy Wilson, Chaka Khan, Rachelle Ferrell, Goapele, and Burt Bacharach.

In November, 2004, she signed with an imprint of Concord Records. Her first single, "Appreciate," was released in July, and she also made a video. Her debut CD, "Love and Life," was released on Sept. 20, 2005.

In February 2006, London landed a lead role in the touring company of "Issues: We All Have 'Em," also starring Angie Stone, Dave Hollister, and Kim Fields. She also sang "Hark! Hear the Bells" on the VH1 Soul Train Christmas special, and sang the same song on a special edition of the 40th Anniversary "A Charlie Brown Christmas" CD.

In 2006, she made her professional stage debut with a starring role in the retro musical "Beehive" in North Hollywood. The cast was nominated for Best Ensemble Performance by the 2006 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards.

London is currently writing songs for her second CD and shopping for a new recording label. She is also appearing as Nettie in the Chicago company of the musical "The Color Purple."

Season 4: Anthony Fedorov

After Idol, Fedorov kept busy making appearances locally and nationally. He graduated college and remains very good friends with Carrie Underwood.

In June 2006, he came in second place as a contestant on NBC's "Fear Factor" along with American Idol season 2 finalist Carmen Rasmusen. He was also in four episodes of MTV’s "Little Talent Show -- Triple Threat."

After his brother's death in September 2006, Fedorov was named the national spokesperson for the Sarcoma Foundation of America. He will perform at SFA’s Annual Gala on May 21st, 2007 in at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Manhattan.

He is working on his first CD, performed for U.S. Air Force troops in Europe in April and recently began starring as "Matt" in the Off-Broadway production of "The Fantasticks."

Season 5: Chris Daughtry

The most successful nonwinner of "Idol," Daughtry has far surpassed Taylor Hicks, Katharine McPhee and Elliott Yamin -- who placed first, second and third -- in fame and record sales.

Since Idol, Daughtry signed with 19 Entertainment and RCA Records. He debut CD, with his band Daughtry, was released on November 21, 2006. Today, it is still in the Top 5 of the Billboard charts and sold over a million copirs after only 5 weeks, becoming the fastest selling debut rock CD in Soundscan history. Daughtry's first single "It's Not Over," hit No. 1 on the Billboard Charts after nine weeks.

The single "Home" is used as the elimination song for the Season 6 contestants, replacing Daniel Powter's "Bad Day" from last year. Daughtry is currently on tour.


Once again, Entertainment Weekly had former three former Idol finalists Ace Young (Season 5), Anthony Fedorov (Season 4) and Amy Adams (Season 3) rate the opinions of Idol's judges for Bon Jovi week. Here's what they had to say.

Randy gave Blake [Lewis] the award for the most original version of a song ever on Idol. So does original equal good?

Ace Young: Original equals good and original equals gutsy. When you change up the song too much, you have to totally sell that song to everyone as a brand new song. When you already know something as one way, it’s hard to hear it another. He played the whole song like a techno, pop-R&B beatbox vibe. It was totally different.

Anthony Fedorov: Equals 'great'. I was blown away by Blake’s performance. This kid’s got something special. He’s very unique, and that will go a long way. It’ll just be interesting to see how he takes his uniqueness, and whoever he ends up [working] with, how they’re going to use it [in an album], because if you do it right, I think he has a chance of being very, very successful.

Amy Adams: I think in this case, yes. When Bon Jovi was talking about him not singing for 30 seconds at least of a song, I was frightened at first. And then as it happened, I was like, “That was totally bitchin’.” I think he’s going to fare well in the industry. Hopefully he’ll be able to have a bit more creative freedom. Some artists just don’t feel those [creative instincts]; they 'want' to be forced or contrived. He’ll be really successful, but he does need to stay original.

Randy judged Chris' [Richardson] "R&B twists and turns" -- i.e. his vocal runs -- the right recipe for Bon Jovi.

Ace: I think [Chris] definitely pulled it off. It was a big song for him. The vocal runs actually make it original. It doesn’t have to be R&B—there are runs in pop music. I’m sure that he could’ve moved quite a bit more but he sang it pretty straight. So I think he made it his own, [but] the funny thing is, he actually sounded a lot like Bon Jovi.

Anthony: Chris has got a specific kind of voice, and rock is not his thing. I heard that in his voice. I felt like the song didn’t really suit him.

Amy: He actually sounded really good this week. I was happier for him that he went out being able to sing a song like this rather than something that was not so good for him. It’s not about being the worst singing, it’s just about it being your time to go.

Paula proclaimed Phil's "Blaze of Glory" the best opening performance they've had all season.

Ace: I thought Phil was really, really comfortable. He was a lot more comfortable than I expected, being the very first one out of the box, so yeah, I think he did a great job.

Anthony: I would agree with that. He just came out firing, blazing all guns, you know. The problem with Phil is, unfortunately, he started to come into his own a little bit too late, which is kinda the same thing I did when I was on the show.

Amy: Um, yeah, I guess. I don’t really quite remember [the other opening performances], so I’ll say yeah too! It was a good rendition on his own right, but stylistically he’ll still be maturing. He’ll still need to find himself in order to give himself a style. I think that’s what he needs and I think that’s what America thinks that’s what he needs.

Paula told Kiki (LaKisha Jones) that her low, bottom tones are "money in your pocket." Wuzzah?

Ace: That means the lower voice, the lower timbre, is what she really enjoys. Everybody has a rich part of their voice, and LaKisha has that bottom tone, and Jordin has that ping. If she records [an album], she would definitely be recognized as LaKisha instead of, Oh, you sound like somebody else.

Anthony: The meat of LaKisha’s voice is in the bottom portion of her register. She’s got beautiful high notes, but she just has this solid middle. Take Cher, for example. She’s had a successful career with a bottom voice. I’m not comparing LaKisha to Cher; [they’re] different singers. Most singers just have a strong top, but LaKisha has a good range from bottom to top.

Amy: [Chuckles] I guess it could be, if people like low singing and want to give dollars. But I think every singer should have that part of their voice that melts people, whether it’s their passion or their low tones. I think she knew she sounded good, and that always makes for a better performance.

Simon hated Jordin's "Livin' on a Prayer" -- the look, the vocals, everything. His only caveat: She was at a disadvantage singing male rocker music. Should that matter?

Ace: Not at all, I thought she did a really good job for singing a rock song. As far as the hair and everything, she pulled out the Tina Turner hair and rocked it out. What Simon said as far as it being a harder song to sing, I think Jordin's already conquered some harder songs as far as vocal range this season. I think she could've taken "Livin' on a Prayer" and made it even higher.

Anthony: Not necessarily. Jordin didn't do the best performance she could do. She hasn't really performed very well over the past couple of weeks. We forget that she's only 17; maybe the pressure of the show is getting to her. Maybe she's trying too hard.

Amy: No, it shouldn’t. It’s about pulling it off, whether it’s a man or a woman [singing]. [Bon Jovi] has a million songs, and if that one didn’t fit as well, choose another one! I like her, but she was not so good.

By contrast, Simon adored Melinda's Tina Turner-like growly, "Have a Nice Day"; vocally, he thinks she's in a different league. Should we just call it for Melinda now?

Ace: Normally Jordin's very good at stepping up her game every week. But I think this week it was "eh." She wasn't great, but she's beautiful. She is talented, and thank God that we know that, because we wouldn't want to base it off of this performance only.

Anthony: Like I've said, if she doesn't win, it ain't fair. She will do a great job, I believe that. It's up to America to make sure that they get it right.

Amy: We should if the judges were calling the competition, but the hype of American Idol is she should win and she probably won't or just might not. Melinda — and Blake, really — are on their own, really, and they can be on their own and be successful on their own.

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