The role of R & B star, Petey in the “Bold & the Sanctified II” came at the right time for “American Idol” season-two winner Ruben Studdard.
“I was looking to getting back into acting. It’s a Christian-based play with a great message and that works because I’m Christian,” explained Studdard, 38, who was born in Frankfurt, Germany but raised in Birmingham, Ala. “The character is based loosely on who I really am. Petey is an R & B star who is close friends to the pastor. I think I can draw on a lot of my personal experiences to bring this character to life.”
The Velvet Teddy Bear—a name given to him by superstar Gladys Knight during his “American Idol” run, has acted in several roles including episodes of “8 Simple Rules,” “All of Us” and “Eve.” He also made a cameo appearance in the film, “Scooby Doo2: Monsters Unleashed.” He also headlined the revival tour of “Ain’t Misbeavin’ “alongside Idol alums Frenchie Davis and Trenyce.
“I had so much being involved with the 30th anniversary revival of ‘Ain’t Misbehavin.’ We got a Grammy nomination for the soundtrack. For me it was an opportunity for me to not be totally responsible for the success of a production,” Studdard said. “People don’t know how much pressure it is to be in charge and entertain and be the only solely responsible to pack houses all the time so for me this a break from doing what I normally do every day.”
“The Bold & the Sanctified II” will play at the Byham Theater on Saturday, Sept 24, for two shows—one at 3 p.m. (tickets are still available for this performance by visiting trustarts,org and a sold-out 7:30 p.m. performance). It tells the story of two—one Black and one White—that are forced to come together for financial reasons.
“Even though America is a great big melting pot, we do go to segregated churches,” Studdard said. “The vast majority of people in America attend the church their parents or grandparents attended. People are creatures of habit. It’s not that Blacks are saying, ‘I don’t want to go to church with White people’ that’s absurd. I don’t think people are racist it’s just a part of tradition. Church also becomes your extended family. This play shows that love can conquer anything.”
“The Bold & the Sanctified,” which was written and produced by Pittsburgh native Sherri Johnson, takes an honest and often hilarious look at life in the church.
“Church life is the life I grew up with,” explained Johnson who once worked for WGBN and currently produces and co-hosts a syndicated radio show in Harrisburg. “My grandfather was the pastor of a church on the North Side for 50 years and my grandmother was a playwright and producer in Pittsburgh. That’s the life I knew and that’s the background that I come from. It’s like Italian kids who grow up watching their parents make pizza and they grow up making Pizza. I’ve been writing plays since I was 12.”
“The Bold & the Sanctified” started out as a hit radio soap opera heard in over 30 radio markets nationwide. It was performed at the Byham in 2011 to rave reviews. Johnson knew she had to create another chapter in the saga and is happy to bring “The Bold & the Sanctified II” to her hometown.
“I feel like a lot of people who write about church haven’t grown up in church it’s either skewed—it’s beautiful and lovely like the Hallmark Channel or the characters are evil and sadistic,” Johnson said. “Church life is neither of those thing. It’s filled with people who are grateful to have a savior and sometimes that gets messy.”
In addition to Studdard, the show features some of Pittsburgh’s best and bright acting talent: Corey Lankford as Bishop Reynolds, Angelique Strothers as Ebony, Sara Cacone as First Lady Laura, Lorin L. Mann, II as Skippy, and Adam Brock as Pastor Messing.
Once Studdard completes his role in “The Bold & the Sanctified,” he is set to release a new R & B album this fall and a new single is set to drop in a few weeks.
“The new album is just R & B,” Studdard said. “My last album was produced by David Foster and we had a lot of success with that. I’m still signed to Verve Records and this is the first album that’s all me I’m producing and doing all the music myself. I’m looking forward to showing people how talented I am on both sides of the spectrum.”
(For tickets to the 3 p.m. performance of “The Bold & the Sanctified II” visit http://www.trustarts.org.)
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