Jennifer Holliday at the Sydney Cabaret Festival

Tony and Grammy Award winning Broadway icon, Jennifer Holliday, makes her Australian Debut. With two Grammy Awards, With nine studio albums, and five Top 10 singles on the R&B and Dance Charts to her credit, Jennifer will dazzle with her powerhouse vocals in an electrifying evening of Broadway, jazz standards, originals, and soulful pop.

Carly spoke with Jennifer about what brought this Broadway star to Sydney for the first time, and shares a bit of advice with emerging artists looking to develop their career. Read the full interview below

Jennifer Holliday

After an incredibly illustrious career that includes winning Tony and Grammy Awards and having multiple singles on the Top 10 charts, you are making your Australian debut with the Sydney Cabaret Festival. Why did you want to come and perform in Australia and where else remains on your performer’s bucket list as venues or destinations you would love to perform in? 


Well,I’ve always wanted to come and perform in Sydney because I have many fans who’ve supported me especially within the lgbtq community... As far as other places on my  bucket-list,My first place would be to visit and perform would be Egypt then my second place would be in the Philippines.


For other musical fans such as myself, audiences may be most familiar with your ground breaking performance of ‘And I Am Telling You, I’m Not Going’ in the original production of Dreamgirls. Can you tell us a bit about the first time you heard that song and then your first time performing it and what you remember those moments to feel like. Do you still sing the song today and has it held the same meaning for you throughout your career or has your understanding of or relationship to the song changed at all through the years? 


Fortunately for me, I never get tired of singing my signature song from Dreamgirls— “And I Am Telling You,I’m Not Going” because I still have to sing “THAT SONG” after 38 years at mostly every concert or personal appearance... When I first heard “And I’m Telling You” it was not yet in it’s final completed stage as the version that the world has come to know and as I evolved in the creation of my character “Effie White” that song also evolved with me... My relationship with the song has changed throughout my career because I was a young lady who had just turned 21 yrs. old when “Dreamgirls” first opened on Broadway so as I grew as a woman the song began to take on a different meaning for me depending upon what phase I was in and what was going on at the time... At this time in my life,I’m happy to say the “And I’m Telling You,I’m Not Going” is no longer a love song of rejection but that song is now my anthem of survival.


I was lucky a few years ago to see you perform in the recent Broadway-revival of The Color Purple. Was that a role that had been on your dream list and what other roles have you played that have fulfilled your wildest dreams, and what role remains at the top of your wish list? 


Portraying “Shug Avery” in the Broadway revival production of “The Color Purple” was an amazing experience for me as an actress... I also played “Teen Angel” in “Grease” and I loved playing “Mama Morton” in Chicago both on Broadway... My greatest desire is to be in a new musical created especially with me in mind... Unfortunately,I don’t think that will be a dream realized anytime soon but I’m in show business where anything can happen almost overnight when you least expect it and you get that call from a director or a producer.


What can Australian audiences expect from your show at the Sydney Cabaret Festival? What can they look forward to and what do you hope they walk out of the theatre talking or still thinking about? 


I’m very excited about my debut performances in Australia as one of the star entertainers at the Sydney Cabaret Festival... My sincere hope is that my fans and Australians who will be hearing me sing for the first time will leave feeling inspired and uplifted... My show will of course include my songs from “Dreamgirls” but also some classic jazz standards as well as some of my favourite songs.


Finally, after your immense success, no doubt you are asking this often, but what is firstly the best piece of advice that you were ever given, and secondly, what is the best piece of advice you have to give emerging artists? 


The best advice that I’ve ever received when I started my singing career was to protect my voice and to never smoke or drink alcohol or recreational drugs... My advice to young artist who want to pursue a professional career as an entertainer is to always “BE READY”—It’s when preparation meets opportunity that a star is born... Work on your gift/talent and develop your own style of singing or method acting or whatever field in entertainment that you dream of working... But most importantly,I encourage you to BELIEVE IN YOURSELF!

If you truly believe in yourself and that your talent should be shared with the world then you must BE READY,BE DETERMINED AND DON’T EVER GIVE UP ON YOURSELF!



Favourite production you have ever seen? 

Porgy -N- Bess

You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go? 

Bali, Indonesia


Dream role to perform? 

Mama Rose in “Gypsy”


Plays or musicals? 



A hobby you have beyond the theatre? 

Playing Golf


What’s next for you after this show? 

Recording a new studio album of love songs and jazz standards

Jennifer Holliday: The Original Dreamgirl opens at the Sydney Cabaret Festival on July 8 2019. You can get your tickets here.


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