Thursday, May 23, 2024

Aretha Franklin Visits, Sings Along to “Baby It’s You” on Broadway


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 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.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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