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Tony Winner Goldsberry to Perform With QCSO

Renee Elise Goldsberry’s outdoor concert Saturday, May 15 at Davenport’s LeClaire Park won’t just be special for that audience.

The popular 50-year-old California native - best known for originating the role of Angelica Schuyler in the Broadway show “Hamilton” – is thrilled to be making her post-Covid live performance debut in the 7:30 p.m. concert, for a long-awaited evening of Broadway, pop, and soul favorites, backed by the Quad City Symphony Orchestra.

“I did many of them before Covid, so this is my very first one back. I’m really excited, because I can’t believe this exists, this opportunity. This is my first one back.”

First announced in February of last year, the pops program was originally scheduled for the Adler Theatre, but was moved outside to the longtime home of the QCSO’s Riverfront Pops concerts.

Under the direction of QCSO music director and conductor Mark Russell Smith, the May 15 event will feature Goldsberry’s band, three female backup singers, and selections from Broadway hits including “Hamilton,” “Rent,” and “The Lion King,” plus songs by Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Bob Dylan, and more. Goldsberry started appearing with symphony orchestras around the country in 2018, and performed with the Des Moines Symphony in 2019.

“I've definitely gotten to do them and there's nothing in the world better in the summer than being outdoors in a pops concert with the symphony. It's just been a really long time. It's been too long.”

Also in her first live concert since last summer’s release of the “Hamilton” film on Disney+, Goldsberry says she recreates her Schuyler sisters’ numbers from the much acclaimed show. Among “Hamilton”’s 11 Tony Awards in 2016, she won for Best Featured Actress.

For the symphony concerts, she performs classic songs in the first half and Broadway selections in the second.

accepting her Tony Award for Hamilton

“I’m a big footprint. I come with a band, so in front of your amazing orchestra you'll see my band. There's a guitar player, piano player, a drummer and a bass player, and then I have three of the most amazing women singers in the entire world on stage with me. So we just have a party and we can sing anything. So yeah, there's plenty of Schuyler sisters. I have plenty of support.”

The film version of Lin Manuel-Miranda’s Pulitzer-winning re-imagining of the Founding Fathers, recorded in 2016, caught the groundbreaking musical from many angles. During the isolation of Covid the past year, Goldsberry says there was nothing more important than providing theater in our homes, and “Hamilton” filled a need.

“You couldn’t move your seat to all the places you get to go with the camera. It's a pretty spectacular feat. Our director, Tommy Kail, he's unique in that he directs theater and he directs film and television really beautifully. And so he was able to take the best of both of those mediums to tell us this amazing story.”

She won the Tony, Grammy, Drama Desk, and Lucille Lortel awards for her performance off and on Broadway in the musical phenomenon “Hamilton.” Angelica Schuyler (1756-1814) was the eldest daughter of Continental Army General Philip Schuyler, a sister of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton and sister- in-law of Alexander Hamilton, the nation’s first Treasury Secretary. Based on Ron Chernow’s “Hamilton” biography, which inspired Miranda to write his hip-hop version, featuring actors of color, Goldsberry says the musical is a story we should have all known.

“For some reason, we didn't know this life of the man is amazing. The source material, that book from Ron Chernow is pretty brilliant. And then you have Lin-Manuel Miranda and his genius. He's a theater geek and he's a hip-hop geek, and he loves history and he's just a genius storyteller. And through his crazy imagination and his amazing musical talent, he found this really special way to tell this greatest story of all time that we didn't know."

“There’s a lot of things we can look back and say, wow, you got this great director, this genius choreographer and lighting designer, and music director, and then this great cast got together, but I think sometimes lightning strikes. All the elements aligned to give us a real gift in the world. I just really can only thank God for the gift that ‘Hamilton’ has been in my life and so many people's lives.”

Before that lightning struck, the actress already had an impressive resume of theater and television work. Prior to Hamilton, Goldsberry’s appearances included her Outer Critics Circle Award-nominated performance opposite Frances McDormand in the play "Good People," as well as the original stage version of "The Color Purple." She made her Broadway debut in "The Lion King" and was the last “Mimi” in Rent. Her off-Broadway appearances include several Shakespeare productions for the New York Shakespeare Festival, where Hamilton originated.

Also a TV veteran, in 2017, she played the title role in HBO’s “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” and on May 6, co-stars in the new musical comedy series, “Girls5eva,” on the Peacock streaming service.

At the 2016 Tonys, Goldsberry was among four African-Americans who swept the major musical performance awards, which was also special.

“It's not an anomaly and it's not here’s the Tonys doing the right thing. These are all just amazingly talented people that will continue I think to just light the world on fire with the things that they choose to do. And so the fact that I was standing there with them in that minute, it was just a really special opportunity and I hope only the beginning.”

Tickets for the May 15 LeClaire Park concert are available at qcso.org.

A native of Detroit, Herb Trix began his radio career as a country-western disc jockey in Roswell, New Mexico (“KRSY, your superkicker in the Pecos Valley”), in 1978. After a stint at an oldies station in Topeka, Kansas (imagine getting paid to play “Louie Louie” and “Great Balls of Fire”), he wormed his way into news, first in Topeka, and then in Freeport Illinois.