In times like these people need a way to relieve the tension of everyday hardships. So you might say that Chester Gregory and fellow cast members of “Sister Act: The Musical” aren’t just singing and dancing up there – they’re doing a public service.
Inspired by “Sister Act”, the 1992 film starring Whoopi Goldberg, the musical tells the story of Deloris Van Cartier, a disco diva who hides out in a convent when a former lover puts a hit out on her. Nominated for five Tony Awards, the show comes on the heels of critically acclaimed “Fela!” and “Memphis,” suggesting increasingly firm ground for black ensemble musicals. This is great news for Gregory, a musician with a thing for the stage.
In January, after wrapping up his role as James “Early” Thunder, the coke-fueled R&B lothario in the national tour of “Dreamgirls”, Gregory began rehearsals for “Sister Act.” It was a star turn. His role as Eddie, the love-gushing police chief and arch nemesis to Deloris’ (played lovingly by Patina Miller) former beau Curtis Shank, won Gregory the “Best Actor” award from Broadway World and raves from the New York Post’s “Best Actor This Year” honors. Many critics described his presence as under-utilized, a good thing in theatre. Recently nominated for “Outstanding Featured Actor” by the Outer Critics Circle, the showman is still hungry, if not a little off his rocker.
“I have a disease called workaholic-ism. I’m addicted to my work, so I just want to crank out as much as I can so I can try to inspire. That’s my goal. That’s my mission as an artist,” Gregory said. That’s why he’s currently in the studio, tinkering on the follow-up to his debut, “In Search of High Love.”
“Outside of doing eight shows a week, when I leave from doing the show, I often go to the studio late at night around 11 ‘o clock, 12 ‘o clock, to like lunch time, ” he said. “I just work and song-write and put stuff together. I’m really excited about it. I’m with great people — Dot Da Genius, who did “Day ‘n’ Nite” with Kid Cudi, a new band called Wizard, 88-Keys, who did work with Mos Def and various other people too.”
A huge J Dilla fan, Gregory’s debut was a homage to all of his influences. On his latest, still-untitled effort, he aims for a more unique sound with world-weary emphasis, as opposed to his slow-burning, baby-making start. “No, it’s not going to be an album of showtunes!,” Gregory said. “We’re going more modern-day Stax recordings. It’s not necessarily doing a throwback album, but I want the authenticity of what those records did,” he said.