Photo credit: Montez Miller/TheMontezGroup.com
Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Raheem DeVaughn, known for albums such as The Love Experience and Love Sex Passion and songs like “Woman” and “Customer” is now hitting the stage in a new and major way. The singing sensation is now hitting high notes in the theatrical musical, Love Jones, a romantic comedy which debuted in 1997 that has now been adapted for the stage.
DeVaughn shared his insight on the play and how it has made a major impact on his career.
Tell us about Love Jones The Musical and how you became a part of it.
The play is phenomenal and I’m definitely an artist who’s happy to be a part of it. Let them tell it, I was hand-picked for it. They reached out and expressed their interest that they wanted me to be a part of this experience and I agreed to do it. When they told me all the people involved, me being a fan of many of the artist, being friends and associates with a lot of them, I couldn’t help but be a part of it. I play Hollywood who was originally played by Bill Bellamy in the movie.
Some people say you should leave classics alone. Did you have any reservations about the classic movie being turned into a stage play?
I never have any reservations. I’m the type of person who takes risks and sees what’s involved. If I feel like it’s not for me, that’s one thing once I’ve done my research and find out. I feel like at the end of the day if he had [done] Love Jones just like the movie, it would be no reason to come to the play.
What is the creative process like to give this play its own identity?
First and foremost, most plays and musicals take a couple of weeks of rehearsals. We had to cram like five weeks of rehearsals into fourteen days based upon everyone’s schedules. The fact that there were nearly twenty-eight songs starting out is a lot of music. Some of the stuff we had to scale back on, but it’s a lot of performances, a lot of wonderful artists, a lot of surprises, but it’s a lot of professionalism as well. We share the stage as singers and as performers, we share the stage with some very seasoned actors and actresses that are not only a part of the theater world but also in television and film. It’s definitely great. I’m learning so much being a part of the experience and a part of the process. I’ve learned that whatever it is you’re doing, there’s a process and you have to respect and what you put into it is what you usually get out of it.
You being a legend, how do you choose your projects?
I go with my gut feeling and like I said, the only way you will really know is if you try something and you out yourself through the process of doing it. In a lot of cases, I’m my own guinea pig. This wasn’t something I felt would hurt my brand. I turned down probably every reality show that’s been out. Although this is a surprise having my fans see me do this, it’s a pleasant surprise. They’ve been extremely supportive and the feedback has been great. When they start calling you by your character name, you know you’re doing a pretty good job.
What do you think this project does to set itself apart from any other project that’s hit the stage?
As far a black theater is concerned, this play is not your conventional, cliche, church bible play. There’s nothing wrong with that. Event the most God-fearing individuals go through transitions and things in life — they fall in love and deal with things six days a week outside of the church house. It’s very raw. It’s very real. We talk about the storyline of Love Jones in the original movie and this musical. We talk about black love and its challenges on all different types of levels for a lot of different types of reasons. You’ll see something in this musical that’s going to have you laugh, you cry, you may be able to identify with a character. I believe everyone comes to musicals and find themselves in one of the characters. For me and other artists who’ve talked about it, we have those nights where we’re like OK moment. When you’re on stage with Chrisette, MC Lyte, Raheem Devaughn, Musiq Soulchild, Marsha Ambrosius in one scene; these are great artists. I remember going to see Musiq Soulchild perform for the first time and no one knew who Raheem Devaughn was. We’re talking about over three decades of timeless music and wonderful artist all on stage for one night only depending on where we’re at. So to capture that moment, I don’t think you’ll ever see anything like this again like how it’s being presented. What’s also very important that people need to know is we’re creating a new platform. This is the birth of a new era. In the past, you had R&B music or you had what is now known as “Black Hollywood” and black theater is alive and well. We’ll see that in this play. It’s creating a platform for other actors, singers, writers, and producers to be able to express themselves above and beyond what has been the cliche of the culture and the art and to be able to touch on other topic matters.