If Zonya Love had only known how to sight-read music, her life would have taken several different turns than it did.
Zonya Love grew up singing in the church. At home she'd also sing commercial jingles, and bothered her siblings by being able to recall most lines from any movie. By high school she was performing skits, part of a group warning middle schoolers about the dangers of drugs and violence.
When she went to college, she was going to major in music. But that was a non-starter when her adviser discovered Love didn't know how to read music. "I'll just major in theater and learn to come out of my shell," she says she declared.
And she did, going on to perform in The Color Purple on Broadway and now playing Effie in Dreamgirls, now coming to Houston thanks to Theatre Under the Stars.
Dreamgirls starts with a trio of singers, members of a Chicago girl group discovered at an amateur talent show by the man who becomes their manager. As they negotiate their attempt to rise to the top, conflicts ensue, and one group member is replaced while the others go on to stardom.
The Broadway version of Dreamgirls with music by Henry Krieger and lyrics and book by Tom Eyen. went on to win six Tony awards and two Grammys (before being made into a movie and earning Jennifer Hudson an Academy Award).
Love plays the left-behind Effie, who she describes as “a fun, sassy, spunky young lady who’s misunderstood. She’s a product of her environment as far as learning how to accept herself instead of what society tells you what’s acceptable.
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"I wanted the opportunity to get my hands on Effie and sing her material."
Love, who gets to deliver the show-stopper “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” says the musical has continued to draw in crowds because of its music, storyline and dancing, and because of nostalgia about a bygone time. “I think people miss the Motown era. This gives them kind of a chance to live during that time,” she says.
"I think we all, whether we admit it or not, want to play dress up, want to be seen as a star, as valuable, as worthy."
Performances are scheduled for April 4-16 at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at the Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For information call 713-558-8887 or visit tuts.com. $46.50-$135.