What a night for the cast of Broadway’s “Baby, It’s You”! The one and only Queen of Soul, Miss Aretha Franklin, arrived a couple of minutes late at the Broadhurst Theater and had to wait –with her guests–at the top of the aisle until the first scene was over. Then Aretha and her gang of 8 (including boyfriend Willie Wilkerson and singer Fonzie Thornton) quickly took their seats in the fourth row, center, and settled in to enjoy the proceedings. During much of the show about the Shirelles and Scepter Records founder Florence Greenberg, Aretha could be heard singing along to the hit songs or reminiscing about various acts highlighted in the terrific musical including pals like Dionne Warwick and Chuck Jackson.
It didn’t take too long before not a few of the audience members realized who in their midst and began whispering about their good fortune. Indeed, after the show, Franklin and co. got stuck in front of the Broadhurst waiting for her car–the driver had edged up West 44th St. towards the show “Memphis” which was just getting out. Suddenly a huge group of people five deep encircled Franklin and friends, with people cheering and shouting, “We love you!” Franklin was moved and waved to one and all.
By the way, she’s lost a good amount of weight and looks great. Contrary to reports of her imminent death in the National Enquirer, Franklin is in town for a bit this month to take classical piano lessons and enjoy New York. She performs July 27th at Jones Beach. Her album, “A Woman Falling Out of Love,” has been a huge hit for Walmart.com and Wal Mart stores.
Oh yes, she told me she loved “Baby It’s You,” especially the choreography. “I didn’t know Florence Greenberg,” she said, “or her story. But I certainly know Chuck and Dionne.” When one of the actresses came forward to sing “I Say A Little Prayer” during the encore, the girl looked like she was going to faint when she spotted Aretha in the audience. Franklin, of course, had a big hit with that song with a much different arrangement than the Dionne Warwick version back in the early 70s.