'Warrior' woman who puts her all into work – Henley Standard

‘Warrior’ woman who puts her all into work – Henley Standard

EVERGREEN singer Patti Boulaye believes in the old adage that “the show must go on”. She has unshakeable faith, an unstoppable work ethic and a good sense of humour. The 67-year-old performer ascribes her strength to her mother’s nurturing of her as a child in Nigeria and her ancestry — she is descended from a long line of warrior women. “My mother was wonderful,” says Patti, who will be appearing at the Kenton Theatre in Henley next week. “She would say, ‘Whatever your experience, leave it in God’s hands’.” Born Patricia Ngozi Ebigwei when her mother went into labour in a taxi, she was one of nine children and raised in a strict Catholic household. As a teenager, she lived through the Biafran war in the late Sixties and she and her family witnessed atrocities. Patti says: “My mother said, ‘Tomorrow is what you look to, yesterday is dead and gone. You’re living this moment now. You should be grateful for just being alive, for breathing, and then you look forward to tomorrow’. “She just took away the past — she had to because she knew we had witnessed things that children wouldn’t normally witness, so she was brilliant like that. “Mentally, I am a warrior and my ancestors, the Igbo women, went to war instead of the men and I think that runs a lot in me.” Patti came to the UK aged 16 and her showbiz career began when she joined the wrong queue in a London street. Expecting to go into Madame Tussauds, she found that she had inadvertently joined an audition for the West End musical Hair — and was cast in the show. She attributes this to a higher being: “The way my career has gone, there’s no way I have done it. There’s a god that has conducted the entire thing for me.” After Hair, she featured in The Two Gentlemen of Verona and starred as Yum Yum in The Black Mikado under her birth name. She played the title role in Carmen Jones at London’s Old Vic Theatre and starred in Jesus Christ Superstar. In 1978, she won TV’s New Faces as the only contestant in the series to be awarded maximum points by the judges. Since then she has made numerous television appearances, including her own show on Channel 4, and released seven albums. At the same time, she has had two children with her husband Stephen Komlosy, an entrepreneur, and now has two grandchildren. Now she is back on stage in Aretha & Me in which she pays tribute to the “Queen of Soul” with stories and songs. It’s am upbeat, light-hearted show in which Patti compares and contrasts her own life with the legendary singer. She says: “I say to the [audience], ‘Let me start by just telling you the difference between the great Aretha Franklin and myself before I start thinking of similarities’. “I say to them, ‘She sold more than 12 million No 1 hits. I have managed No 3. I have a good reason for that — she was born in her family home and I was born in a taxi’. Patti says her audiences “go mad” for Natural Woman, Say A Little Prayer and Chain of Fools and the show also includes I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You), Think, Son of a Preacher Man, Rock Steady, Harlem and, of course, Respect. She also throws in a Nessun Dorma. “I make it quite funny — I give them the idea that I can’t sing it,” says Patti. “But when I finish, it usually gets a standing ovation. “If you don’t laugh, you’re finished. Seriously, if you don’t laugh – the things I have seen in my life…. “I work so hard on stage to entertain people, we are all public servants. When I started in showbusiness 50-odd years ago — yes, I was young — I was taught the show must go on.” • Aretha & Me is at the Kenton Theatre on Saturday, March 5 at 7.30pm. Tickets cost from £22 to £30. The show has a running time of 115 minutes with a 20-minute interval. For more information and to book tickets, call the box office on (01491) 525050 or visit www.kentontheatre.co.uk
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