Amber Knicole, lead singer of neo-funk band MojoFlo, has always wanted to return to her musical theater roots. Her first production was at age 14, but since her career in the music industry began, there simply hasn’t been time – until now.
“I feel like I’ve gotten back to myself,” said Knicole, who is currently starring as Effie White in “Dreamgirls” at the Short North Stage. Her last musical, “Edwin Drood,” was in January of 2008 at Capital University, just a few months before MojoFlo began.
“Dreamgirls,” a production featuring a fictional ‘60s girl band called The Dreamettes, is about trying to make it in the music world. According to Knicole, the show’s narrative is true to the real-life industry. After The Dreamettes are convinced by its manager to become a pop band, image concerns trigger a replacement of the lead singer (Effie) by a vocalist with a more mainstream sound.
A common 1960s theme emerges when The Dreamettes struggle to break racial barriers in its rise to the top, and music manager Curtis Taylor (Xzantiny Grant) convinces R&B singer Jimmy Early (Earley Dean) to play in white nightclubs with The Dreamettes as backup vocalists.
Nearly half a century later, Knicole and MojoFlo have experienced prejudice in the form of microaggressions, as it has been an interracial band since the beginning. However, Knicole is thankful for the overall positive interactions that her band has had; the “beautiful people” they’ve on tour have taken her by surprise, making sure that MojoFlo always has food to eat and a place to stay.
MojoFlo has played almost every kind of venue. Between playing weddings, suburbs and nightclubs, the band’s demographic encompasses nearly everyone.
“It’s interesting to remember and appreciate that it used to not be this easy,” said Knicole. “I’m walking the steps of black artists who opened doors for me.”
But the production is anything but heavy. There are no weak links in the talented cast, which is full of kind and funny actors who keep Knicole joyful both on and offstage during the fast-paced show.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Knicole. “The hardest part is not laughing onstage with Earley [Dean].”
“Dreamgirls” runs until November 26 at The Short North Stage. Shows are at 8:00 pm Thursday, 8:00 pm Friday, 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm Saturday, and 3:00 pm Sunday. Tickets range from $30-44, and more information can be found at shortnorthstage.org.
Originally published on In The Record Store on November 11, 2017.