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NUNN ON ONE: THEATER Cartreze Tucker talks 'Motown'
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times

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Motown the Musical is returning to Chicago to tell the story of Berry Gordy's journey from boxer to music mogul. Expect popular songs like "My Girl and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," among many others, to be a part of the show.

Cartreze Tucker is an out and proud performer in Motown with a background of touring in productions such as Hair; he has also appeared in Rent, Hairspray and Sister Act.

Windy City Times: Where in the world are you?

Cartreze Tucker: I'm in New York. We are in rehearsal right now. This is day two of week two. There is lots of sweating happening and high notes being sung!

WCT: What is your role in Motown?

CT: I play many parts in the show. Stevie Wonder is the most notable part.

WCT: He has some good tunes…

CT: I sing "Happy Birthday," "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" and "I Wish."

WCT: Is it fun to imitate him?

CT: Absolutely. I have the glasses, the wig—everything! It is Stevie Wonder in the '80s so it's a long dread-beaded wig. It is the full regalia.

WCT: Is it hard not to camp it up too much?

CT: Yes, you don't want to make him a caricature. It is paying homage to him and not make him a cartoon.

WCT: Do you have a favorite song in the show?

CT: At the moment it would have to be "Dancing in the Street." It is a good group number. One of the singers Nya Trysha is unbelievable. We are basically her backup dancers. She is Beyonce and we are all Michelle!

WCT: That is a real crowd-pleaser, right?

CT: Yes. Everyone knows it and it gets everyone up on their feet. They all clap and cheer while we dance for our lives.

WCT: This is a jukebox musical. What do you do if your neighbor in the seat next to you sings in your ear?

CT: That is the best part. We want people to sing. These are all notable songs. These songs are not obscure to people so people will know them. The more people that sing along the better.

WCT: Hopefully, you are surrounded by good singers.

CT: They will sing to their best abilities, God help them!

WCT: Diana Ross is the big deal of the show?

CT: Her and Berry Gordy. It tells about the romance they had for a brief period.

WCT: Have you been to Chicago before?

CT: No, but apparently this is the perfect time of year to come.

WCT: Where are you from?

CT: Originally from Atlanta. I have been in New York City for seven years. I moved here when I was 19 years old, straight out of high school. My mother was distraught. I am an only child so her baby was moving away.

She is pumped about Motown. I told her who I was playing and she said, "Are you going to be blind?" I said, "Obviously, mother!"

WCT: Is she coming to the show?

CT: Yes. We are going to Georgia in March. She will come with my family to cheer me on.

She's been to other shows, but this is the one she is excited about.

WCT: Did you study theater in school?

CT: Yes. I went to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City.

WCT: How did you land Motown?

CT: I auditioned. I went through at least four callbacks over four months. Then I was put on hold and asked to come again. After that I had to send in a video singing two extra songs. I auditioned in March and didn't find out I got the job until June.

WCT: You toured in a show before?

CT: Yes, in the musical Hair for the recent revival. That was what I did before this. It is a completely different show but set in the same time period. It is a different perspective. It was during the '60s and '70s era. Hair was about hippies, and Motown is about civil rights.

WCT: Do you have a favorite musical?

CT: Dreamgirls is one of my all-time favorites. I also love an obscure Stephen Sondheim musical called Passion. It is known as a flop, but it is one of my favorites.

WCT: Maybe they could bring it back.

CT: [Laughs] That is doubtful, but I would love it and live for it! Sondheim revolutionized theater, but Passion is not popular. I adore it, though.

WCT: Are there other gay cast members on the Motown tour?

CT: There are. It is a musical, so the odds are there will be many.

WCT: How is the cast, in general?

CT: We are like a family. We get along so well. Everyone is immensely talented. I can't even fathom it. The voices in particular are out of this world.

WCT: I remember the Michael Jackson part in the past tour here in Chicago.

CT: It is little Michael Jackson so they are children. They are really adorable and super smart. They were just rehearsing with the actor who plays Berry Gordy. The song is called "Hey Joe." It where they realize Joe Lewis is Black like them and overcame things.

WCT: Hopefully, you have some down time while in Chicago.

CT: I hope so. I really want to go to the Girl and the Goat. That is at the top of my list.

WCT: Call now for a reservation because it is busy.

CT: I will heed your warning, so I can go gorge myself!

"They're dancin' down in Chicago" on Oct. 3-8 at the Cadillac Theatre, 151 W. Randolph, for Motown the Musical.

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