Renee Elise Goldsberry may go by names like Angelica Schuyler or Mimi on Broadway, but at the Wharton Center on March 26, she is finally able to perform under her own name and tell her unique and personal story.
Taking a break from starring in critically-acclaimed musicals and TV shows, Goldsberry will be singing through the biggest successes and inspirations in her career, finally tapping into herself instead of a character, something she was unfamiliar with when she started performing concerts.
“When I first started doing concerts, it took me a minute to understand how large groups of people would show up just to see me," Goldsberry said. "I wasn’t promoting an album. Hamilton didn’t necessarily need any promotion from me. I spent so much time doing plays or musicals or something where you were showing up to see a story being told.”
When she acclimated to an audience focusing on her instead of a company of performers, she always strived for a personal connection with the crowd. She described the feeling as spending two hours in her living room with her instead of perpetuating an audience and performer disconnect.
“What’s important to me is the opportunity to share some really spectacular opportunities that I had,” Goldsberry explained about her love of self-storytelling.
Goldsberry was inspired by Henry Winkler, who would share the most exciting stories of his career with any of his fans who would listen, being able to engage anyone with his journey through fame and the entertainment industry. Goldsberry looked up to him and his strategy, integrating his style into her concert series.
“I felt empowered in that moment to say any great thing that happens to me," Goldsberry said. "I want to tell as many people as possible, so what I enjoy doing when I’m singing the songs is really sharing as much of my experience as possible: the moments that were the most challenging … the most humbling … the most victorious, and the funny things that happened.”
However, this is not only a turning point in her career, but also the location of her career. Carrying her stories with her on tour, she made it a priority to perform in her home state of Michigan, and at her father's alma mater: Michigan State University. Goldsberry has been wearing green and white her whole life, yet this is her first time visiting the campus.
“I think there's something really special about coming home," Goldsberry said. "It feels like a full circle moment. It feels like family."
When asked about her favorite part of performing, Goldsberry said that the answer has become a lot simpler since the pandemic. She is thrilled to just be back in the theater and see people become more comfortable to come back to large concert halls. She wants to see her fans enjoy live entertainment, finally sitting closer together and singing along to music as a crowd, bringing the musical theater community closer together once again.
“We’re just so grateful to do the things we used to take for granted," Goldsberry said. "I just love coming into a room full of people that are there for the simple joy of loving good music. I have the best band and group of singers and we literally have a party on stage. It feels good to share it.”
Of course, Goldsberry is best known for being in the "Room Where It Happens," originating a Schuyler sister in the Original Broadway cast of the phenomenon known as Hamilton, spearheading a new movement of Broadway fans. While Goldsberry first fell in love with musical theater by performing in a production of Guys and Dolls when she was eight, she can appreciate that her musical may have started a revolution of love for the art form.
“One of the greatest things is [Hamilton] connects me with people who love music and love music theater," Goldsberry said. "We have ... given birth to more music theater babies.”
Growing up in Detroit, Goldsberry knew what it was like to fall in love with theater over Broadway recordings instead of the live performances. She expressed that the Broadway recording of Hamilton is a full circle moment for her, being able to sing in a recording that introduces the power, beauty and joy of theater to new generations of fans.
Theater to her is not just the music or the production, or even the live audience, but the ability to discover something new about life in every part that she plays, and learning how to own the show as she performs it.
“One of my favorite things about being in the theater is that moment when a company feels like they have the ownership of the show … when you have done it so many times that you feel like you own it," Goldsberry said. "It doesn’t matter if someone played the part before you or how long you’re going to be playing it … it belongs to you.”
Goldsberry also does not pick favorites when it comes to her parts, finding something she loves about every character, dedicating herself to embody every role.
“There’s something to learn from Mimi in Rent, there's something to learn from Angelica Schuyler in Hamilton, there’s something to learn from Celia in As You Like It…every role I have played has given me the privilege of celebrating something that is resilient and beautiful about so many types of women," Goldsberry said. "It makes me a better person.”
Goldsberry also described what she loved most about theater in four concepts: hope in every story, silliness and joy while creating a brand new show, second chances in performing a show every night to perfect it, and discipline to find your character in every part. Goldsberry also explained that she is a theater fan first above all, making her that much more passionate about her job.
Goldsberry's concert mixes all of the elements of theater that she is dedicated to and passionate about, making her show personal, but also an experience for her fans who she is overjoyed to sing with at every show.
“I love when the audience starts singing with me," Goldsberry said. "There are just some songs that most people that come have heard so many times, and I think they come for a sing-a-long. At some point we’re all singing together in a beautiful concert hall to a song that probably changed my life and hopefully meant a lot to everyone in the room.”
Goldsberry wants to perform a show like no other that encapsulates her success, passion, and life lessons that she has earned from a prosperous and inspirational career on Broadway, sharing stories that she hopes connects with every person in the audience.
“I’m excited to sing some of the songs that I feel are the most inspirational to me, and some of the songs that have been the most successful for me, and tell some of the stories that go with them,” Goldsberry said.
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