Simone to appear at Annenberg Center

March 16, 2012

Rita Charleston

The Philadelphia Tribune

The only child of jazz great Nina Simone makes her appearance at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts March 17. Known only as Simone, the Broadway star will prove she is indeed her mother’s daughter.

A highly-praised performer in her own right, Simone’s impressive resume includes starring roles on Broadway in such acclaimed musicals as “Aida,” for which she received the National Broadway Theater Award for Best Actress in a Musical, and “Rent,” which garnered her nominations for both Helen Hayes and Jefferson Awards.

But success took awhile to come her way because, bowing to her mother’s wishes, Simone enlisted in the Armed Forces instead of following her musical dreams.

“Because my mother was one of the most powerful symbols of the Civil Rights Movement in the ’60s and suffered for her outspoken songs and deeds, she had a very difficult time living and working in the U.S.,” Simone recalls. “She eventually left this country and went on to live out the rest of her life in France.”

And so because of Nina Simone’s negative experiences and all the hard times she was forced to endure, she tried to spare her daughter all the pain, heartache and disappointment she feared would come her way.

Always the dutiful daughter, Simone put her dreams aside and enlisted in the Air Force. She served her country for eleven years in that capacity, even becoming a veteran of the Gulf War.

But she couldn’t stifle her musical dreams forever. So she eventually left the Air Force and began her career in the music industry. Over the years, she has developed an exciting and diverse repertoire of pop, soul, jazz, rock and funk, expressed in the shows she’s done throughout the world. Today, she says some of the favorite venues where she’s played include the Sydney Opera House, the Montreaux Jazz Festival, New York’s Lincoln Center and the Hollywood Bowl.

“Growing up I listened to everything and the radio was very prevalent in my home,” she explains. ”I guess you could call me the radio-listening queen. I could sing along with hundreds of songs, and in my repertoire I continue to do the same thing.”

In 2008, Simone produced her one and only CD to date titled “Simone on Simone,” a big band tribute to her mother. “It’s my way to give a glimpse of my life over the decades, and a chance for me to do the songs I love the most the way I first heard them,” she says.

But, she adds, there are many exciting projects still waiting for development. These include re-release of her first CD with bonus track, a European and U.S. Tour, what she calls the sophomore CD, a Broadway play on the life and times of Nina Simone, and the re-release of her mother’s autobiography.

Most recently she was heard on the movie trailer, closing credits and the movie soundtrack of Tyler Perry’s film, “For Colored Girls,” singing a new version of her mother’s original classic “Four Women.”

Since her mother’s passing in 2003, Simone has taken on other projects, which include managing her mother’s extensive estate, as well as being an avid supporter for Breast Cancer Awareness (the disease which claimed her mother’s life).

Today, she announces, her commitment is “to keep singing, keep writing, keep performing, and keep spreading the word of healing and love.”

For times and ticket information, call (215) 898-3900.

The Philadelphia Tribune