A woman of many talents, Tony Award winner Anika Noni Rose will be showcasing her gorgeous singing voice on Monday, April 27 at Carnegie Hall when she performs as part of the New York Pops 26th Birthday Gala, alongside Brian d’Arcy James, Michael Feinstein, Cheyenne Jackson, Idina Menzel, and Ashford & Simpson. TheaterMania.com recently spoke to Rose about taking part in this historic event, as well as her hit HBO series The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, working for Disney, and her future theatrical plans.
THEATERMANIA: You and Idina Menzel will be premiering a new piece called American River Suite by Stephen Flaherty and William Schermerhorn. How did this job come about?
ANIKA NONI ROSE: Bill called me to be part of it, and I’ve worked with him and Stephen before, so told him I would definitely be there if I could. Stephen’s music is so beautiful, and it’s nice to do something brand new like this where you can put in your own flavor. Plus, I just love singing with an orchestra like the Pops. It’s not so much about you standing in front of them, because you can literally the feel music coming through your body.
TM: What does it mean to you to be performing in Carnegie Hall?
ANR: Carnegie Hall is so joyous for a performer because it has the best acoustics in the world. Sometimes, even in theaters, it feels like you’re singing in your closet. So to be in a room where people really thought about sound is special.
TM: In November, you’ll be seen as the lead character, Princess Tiana, in Disney’s animated film The Princess and The Frog. Is this a dream come true for you?
ANR: Absolutely. First, it’s thrilling to be part of something that little kids and families can see and enjoy, since some of what I’ve done is purely for grown-ups. But Disney is so much a part of our culture that to have my chance to make a deposit in that bank is amazing enough. And to be the first African-American lead and a princess is indescribable. I love Disney so much that I’d play a blade of grass for them. They are going to have to kick me out of their studios.
TM: What do you think about the controversy that your prince (voiced by Bruno Campos) isn’t African-American?
ANR: His nationality isn’t specified nor is it relevant. It’s about love. Plus, this is 2009 and we’re a mixed country — so any of this shouldn’t matter. That’s all I have to say.
TM: I know your fans would love to see you take part in the City Center Encores upcoming production of The Wiz in any capacity. What are your thoughts?
ANR: I grew up listening to The Wiz. My mother had the record, and it’s in my bones. There’s not a song I can’t sing, including the tornado part. I can do it right now if you want. But if I am going to be in it, I’m going to be Dorothy. We’ll see. I’m not the producer.
TM: So after a break of over a year, are you ready to go back to theater?
ANR: Definitely. I feel so blessed to go back and forth among all the different media. But theater is my heart and home; it keeps me strong and vital. I’m just looking for something good. Someone spoke to me recently about doing Ophelia, and I was sorry I didn’t have time to do it, because I had so many ideas. But Rosalind would be good too. Really, there are so many great roles I’d want to try.