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Steven Jamail and Cedric Neal. You should get to know them.

April 18, 2012

I am blessed to know a lot of incredibly talented people in NYC. Monday night, I was able to see two of these friends in action and my mind is still blown by it all. First up: Steven Jamail.

I first met Steven a little over a year ago when I was asked by super producer/rockstar Nikole Valins, to perform in one of his concerts. I remember being struck by how nice he was and how smart, funny and diverse his material was. We stayed in touch via Facebook and when I was invited to join him and some fabulous young performers at the Rosie’s Theatre Kids “Passing it on” Benefit I jumped at the chance to work with him again. I was performing a Harold Arlen medley with two young women – Kirra and Autumn – who are truly stars in the making. Not only did the arrangement showcase the incredible musicianship of Kirra and Autumn (because that arrangement had some seriously complex harmonies and rhythms), but it also told a story that literally had me in tears the first time the three of us rehearsed. That’s the kind of thoughtful composer/orchestrator/vocal arranger Steven is. And you know how you can tell a lot about a person by the people they surround themselves with? Everyone I’ve met that is connected to Steven is incredible. I mean, seriously – these are great people. So – fast forward to Monday’s concert. Steven’s music was featured in the “Broadway’s Future” concert series at the Lincoln Center Library. No big deal, right? 😉 I was singing backup for a fun piece about high school and video games called “Save the Princess”. Britt Bonney did a phenomenal arrangement for the three princesses – myself, Katie Rose Clark and Haviland Stillwell. It was so smart – and really brought back some good memories of playing Nintendo back in the day. Broadway Spotted posted our song – with lead vocals by Tim Dolan. You can watch it here: http://www.broadwayspotted.com/broadways-future/
There was such a variety to the songs presented – and they were all performed brilliantly. One of my favorite songs “Diva President” was performed by Nikki Kimbrough – and she sang her face off. I was cracking up during Steven’s description of the character because that was pretty much me in high school when I ran for (and won) the office of class president. The song conveyed the unique struggle of a black girl trying to figure out how to present herself during the campaign at a predominately white school. It was like Steven went to Downingtown Senior High School and followed me around for 2 consecutive successful presidential campaigns. I loved it – and I’m totally adding it to my repertoire. You could feel the love and respect the participants had for Steven – it was truly a special night that I was honored to be a part of. I am so excited to see what the future holds for him!

After Steven’s concert, I walked a few blocks uptown to The Triad, where my friend Cedric Neal was making his NYC cabaret debut in Lee Summers’ Just a Piano series. Cedric and I met almost 2 years ago at the Dallas Theater Center. I was playing Lois Lane and Cedric was playing one of the villains named Cadabra in “It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman”. He was so warm and friendly – and we shared our excitement over such historic casting. *Lois Lane has never been played by a black actress in any Superman project – ever – and I was honored to be the first to portray such an amazing character.* We immediately bonded and I knew I could count him as a brother and friend for life. Toward the end of the run, I remember talking to Cedric about making the move to NYC. I was thrilled when he contacted me later on to tell me he had been cast in “The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess” and would be making his Broadway debut. I knew he was talented, but I only had a glimpse into what Cedric brought to the table as a performer. I was blown away by his cabaret. Oh. My. Goodness. He put his heart and soul out on the stage and invited us to get to know who he is. It wasn’t a traditional cabaret in the sense of wanting to do one so you’ll get an agent. This was Ced from Texas doing his thing. He shared deeply personal struggles and triumphs – got the crowd involved – had us laughing one minute and crying the next. The band and backup singers were on point and matched the level of talent, passion and skill Cedric brought to the stage. To say I was proud of him would be an understatement. You need to add him to your list of people to watch. Seriously. Here’s just a taste of what he does. Just a sample. You’re welcome. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKcwwGzd7gs

And the fact that I witnessed this after Steven’s concert made it that much better. I’m glad to introduce them to you if you didn’t already know them. Monday was just a day of artistic fulfillment – and it reminded me how proud I am to be a part of the artistic community in NYC.

About Zakiya Young

Musings on life as a single, Christian Broadway actress... :-)