Stevie Wonders' life is one that carries a story of redemption, says John-Mark McGaha. "His life is one that carries a story of redemption; it carries the story of how to stare whatever adversity you may have in the face and never yielding what it is you've been placed on this Earth to do."
And then, of course, there is the music. "He's just a musical genius." As McGaha puts it, with songs like "Isn't She Lovely," "My Cherie Amor," "For Once in My Life," "Superstition"and "I Just Called to Say I Love You," "who doesn't like Steve's Wonder's music?"
All of which are the reasons that McGaha will be performing "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" as part of A.D. Players presentation of its Artists Lounge Live concert series. He will also be relaying parts of the famous performer's life and how Wonder's life and music influenced McGaha's own life as part of the Live Concert Series put on by A.D. Players.
Growing up, the son of a public school music teacher, McGaha says he always knew he was a musician. But voice was not his first outlet. "I spent my formative years as a classical pianist and then later jazz. I did not know I would be a singer." He was considered a child prodigy — just like Wonder — for his piano skills. He toured internationally as a teen and also played the organ, saxophone and guitar.
Other than singing in choir when he was young, McGaha didn't further develop his singing until he was in high school and got involved in theater group. "That's when I started singing other people."
He got a conservancy education at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy Conservancy in New York City, which is where he also met Jake Speck who eventually became the executive director of A.D. Players. It was Speck who connected McGaha to Michael Ingersoll, the producer/performer who along with his wife Angela created Artists Live Lounge.
"We have currently 18 shows on the books for Houston. The George has a seating capacity of 500 but we’re capping that at 130 people," McGaha said. Artists Lounge Live and A.D. Players have been working together — with doctors' advice — on developing safety protocols not only for the audience but for performers and crew as well.
McGaha who currently serves as Director of Contemporary Worship and Arts at Trinity United Methodist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, says "There is no one artist on this earth that I have more respect and admiration for than Stevie Wonder.
"It was the easiest and hardest 'yes' ever. Easiest because there's no one else I would rather pay tribute to not just for their work as an artist and musical genius but also as a humanitarian. But also the 'no' comes because of what an incredible mantle to carry because I would never not want to give him his story the respect that it's due."
Performances are scheduled for October 13-31 at 7:30 p.m. with limited seating at the George Theater. Face coverings will be required and all seating will be socially distanced. For information, visit adplayers.org or [email protected] $75.