Rolling Out

Melvin Childs tells the backstory of ‘Love Jones The Musical’

Photo Courtesy: Melvin Childs
Photo courtesy of Melvin Childs

Love Jones, the 1997 romantic comedy about Black, love has been adapted for the stage. This musical features music artists Chrisette Michele (who plays Nina Mosley), Raheem DeVaughn, Marsha Ambrosius, MC Lyte, Dave Hollister, Musiq Soulchild, and actor Tony Grant (who plays Darius Lovehall).

The creative mind behind it all, Melvin Childs, sat down with rolling out to tell us where he gained his inspiration to put on such a dynamic show.

How did you come up with the idea to create Love Jones The Musical?
I’ve been in the play business for a long time. I started working in the business back in ’96 so I kind of know it like the back of my hand. I was thinking about new projects and what I wanted to embark upon and one of the top movies of all time, as far as Black people, was Love Jones. I had a list of a few of them and I went down the list and thought which one would actually show up best on stage at least in my opinion after looking at all of them; Love Jones just kind of stuck out. So I started reaching out, as it relates to the intellectual property and that kind of thing. We were able to come up with an agreement then we were able to cast it, and then it began to snowball from there. To be honest with you, beyond my wildest dreams I didn’t think it would turn out the way it did; I didn’t know. I had a list of actors in my head that I wanted to cast originally. I got one singer then I got two singers then three singers then the next thing you know, I got six singers. Then I had to see if they would able to act in the roles and that kind of stuff. That was quickly squashed and they actually came together and got with my director on the show and it all worked out so I’m excited about it.

So you knew which artists you wanted to be involved?
Well, I had a list of several different people for different roles and as it started to evolve and I started to talk to people about the schedules, you know that’s the biggest thing. You start talking about a tour that’s three months long and being able to carve out that kind of time in people’s schedules that they have already have commitments is really difficult. So as I started talking to certain people, some things would work and some things wouldn’t work because of the scheduling and those kinds of things. So we started looking at other options. Like I said, I originally started with a bunch of actors, to be honest with you. Obviously, it’s a musical so I needed some singing in it so I’m like, “OK wait a minute now, what if I just change this up a little bit?” So then I went after Chrisette, Musiq Soulchild and Marsha. These all are favorites of mine and they all said yes; go figure. Once they said yes, they shared the vision with me as we all worked this thing together and it all worked out.

Has it met or exceeded your expectations? How are you feeling about the project?
That’s a tough question. In some areas yes I met and exceeded my expectations and some areas it hasn’t. It’s a very difficult thing to do. Black theater is a very difficult process. You typically don’t have the budget that the Broadway shows have so we have to be creative in our crews as it relates to manpower and sets and all kinds of different things to be able to give that same kind of quality in the show. This show is huge. I have 63 people traveling with this show, which is unheard of in Black theater traveling across the country. It took us a while to be able to work out some of the kinks unless we would have rehearsed for a year; we didn’t have that kind of opportunity. I had to put some things together as we go and I think the show has gotten ten times as better than when we first started simply because we were changing things as we were moving at the same time; that’s very, very difficult to do. Unfortunately, that’s just kind of how it turned out. You have these big notions of how these things would look on stage, but you really never know until you actually do it. Then we actually do it then we’re like, “oh, we need to fix that, oh we need to change that. Let’s cut this here, let’s do that here. They love this so let’s do this”; it’s been evolving. I’m really excited about what where we are today.

You wrote a book in 2012 titled Never Would Have Made It. Have you had the same relationship with Tyler Perry since the book came out?
You know, that’s pretty interesting. I guess our relationship is the same. I haven’t done anything different and I’m sure he hasn’t either. We just kind of do what we do. I don’t have a problem with Tyler like I stated back when I had the book. I don’t think Tyler and I are fighting. If we’re fighting, I don’t know anything about it. I think the book was not necessarily meant to be a tell-all. I think in some cases, the media tried to portray it as that, but I’ve never heard from him that there was a problem as it relates to that or anything like that because it wasn’t that. It was really the story of myself, another person by the name of Nia Hill and Tyler with all the trials and tribulations we had to go through to build that brand. It’s really that story. Now if it’s a tell-all telling what happened, then it’s a tell-all; I don’t know, but I thought the story itself was very powerful and I thought it was extremely educational for those that are trying to get in that business that don’t know how.

Is there anything else you would like to add in regard to the tour and musical?
The tour goes through Dec. 4. We want everyone to come out and check us out. I believe we have created a musical totally different than you have ever seen on stage before as it related to Black theater. We’ve infused the concert world with the theatrical world and even added the movie world into it too. I think you guys may be in for a pleasant surprise as it relates to the talent. We pulled no punches on this one coming out. We think that we’ve come up with something really exciting as it relates to African American theater in the country.

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