Speaking with Michelle Johnson, the town’s ‘First Girl of Jazz’

Michelle Johnson is thought for her love of jazz, clear from her nickname, “Las Vegas’ First Girl of Jazz.” However she is digging deep into her musical theater roots for her present “Residence! A Return to Broadway,” set for six p.m. Sunday at Myron’s at The Smith Heart for the Performing Arts.

The present marks Johnson’s first headlining look within the room previously referred to as Myron’s Cabaret Jazz since February 2020.

Johnson’s present consists of choices from such Broadway trailblazers as Andrew Lloyd Webber, Stephen Sondheim, George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein, and Rogers and Hammerstein. Her music director is Mark Hartman (“Avenue Q,” “The Fantasticks,” and performances at Carnegie Corridor and Jazz at Lincoln Heart), with Vegas visitor stars Jimmy Lockett, Brent Barrett, Robin Vincent, Anne Martinez, Lisa Marie Smith and Lannie Counts.

“Residence” options plenty of materials, and Johnson has rather a lot to say. The highlights of our current back-and-forth:

Johnny Kats: What was your introduction to musical theater?

Michelle Johnson: My mother was a instructor the place I went to highschool, and she or he put collectively a expertise present. We needed to choose songs from Broadway exhibits. I picked a track from “Jesus Christ Celebrity” referred to as “I Don’t Know Tips on how to Love Him.” It was the primary solo I ever did, and no person knew I may sing. My mother was like, “Nicely, why don’t you simply see what occurs?” I did it, and I obtained hooked.

You’ve been singing round city as the town has reopened, at some actually cool locations like The Area, The Vegas Room and the Italian American Membership. Are you able to discuss what it feels wish to be again at Myron’s?

The explanation the present known as “Residence” is as a result of I like plenty of venues, all of them have a novel character, however The Smith Heart is the primary place the place I carried out my authentic tasks. The best way I used to be embraced by (Smith Heart President) Myron Martin and (Smith Heart Vice President and COO) Glen Meades has turn into a particular relationship. I can’t actually clarify past that what I really feel once I stroll by that door. It’s simply the simplest place for me to really feel myself.

Are you able to discuss how essential the smaller-capacity venues are to the town’s leisure group?

To begin with, that’s my jam. I’ve performed arenas, I’ve performed massive, massive theaters with different acts on tour. I’ve completed all that, and it’s nice. But when your exhibits are crafted to have a relationship with somebody past simply the music, like a connection, there’s nothing like a small venue. I imply, you technically could make anybody really feel something in any house, nevertheless it’s rather a lot simpler and much more enjoyable in the event you’re in an area that appears like your lounge.

These smaller golf equipment actually add texture to our metropolis, that’s one factor that’s come about within the pandemic. A number of have opened as much as fill that want.

It creates a way of group. It provides us a break from the Strip, and it’s a part of what it means to be in an actual metropolis. Take into consideration a spot like New York. When you solely had Broadway theaters and large levels for you company occasions, you wouldn’t have all these little tiny rooms in all places. You’re strolling down the road and also you look down the steps, you go beneath the road and there’s some music being performed. We’d like that right here, and we’ve got a plethora of expertise and leisure choices.

You already know so many singers and musicians in Las Vegas. You set collectively the massive choir for Barbra Streisand’s present on the MGM Grand a couple of years in the past — all Vegas singers. What was that like?

I had the singers, and Invoice Fayne (Clint Holmes’ longtime music director) was conducting us. She does this factor on the finish of a quantity the place she turns round and she or he says “Thanks” to whoever the choir director is in that metropolis. She seemed proper up at me, and she or he’s my idol, and says, “Thanks.” And I’m like, “You’re welcome, Barbara!” I used to be so excited. … She was so pretty. I don’t care what anybody says, I really feel like these ladies have these reputations, however when you’re round them in any capability, you discover out they’re simply good at what they do. They know precisely what they need.

In your autobiographical present, you sing about a tremendous second onstage with Paul McCartney on the Hollywood Bowl.

It was the Earth Day live performance in 1993 — like the fashionable equal can be Life is Lovely — act after act after act. Paul McCartney was the anchor act, and the band I used to be in, P.M. Daybreak, was on at like 2 or 3 within the afternoon. We had Don Henley, 10,000 Maniacs, Natalie Service provider, Kenny Loggins, okay.d. lang on this present. On the finish, Paul pulled us all onstage for “Hey Jude.” I obtained pushed up with this mob, and I’m standing between Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, singing, “Na-na-na-na!”

And Ringo had some dental factor occurring, proper?

He had some dental surgical procedure and didn’t wish to sing. He’s telling me this through the track! Paul tries at hand him the mic and he’s nodding no, he gained’t sing. Then Paul goes to the piano and leaves the microphone in entrance of me open. And I did the Michelle Johnson shuffle, I went to it, I sang on it and had this entire duet with him all through the remainder of the track. He gave me a thumbs-up. Positive, yeah, it was wonderful, however you by no means know when you’re going to get these alternatives. Generally they simply occur, in the event you’re in the fitting place, the fitting time.

John Katsilometes’ column runs each day within the A piece. His “PodKats!” podcast may be discovered at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at [email protected] Comply with @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

Previous post NFTs might mark a resurgence in artwork galleries
Next post 300 Leisure’s Kevin Liles Leads $4 Million Fund for Canadian Hashish Model Burb’s Enlargement (EXCLUSIVE)