A Family Affair

Arts & Culture

Pictured: Matelyn Alicia (left) and Naarai will be the featured vocalists for Grace: The Spirit of Aretha, a collaboration of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe and Key Chorale. Photo courtesy of WBTT.

“Growing up, all my babysitters were actors. I was always at rehearsal because there was no one there to watch me when my parents were at work,” says Naarai Jacobs. “And so naturally, I wanted to be a part of it. I was tired of sitting in the dressing room, I wanted to be on stage.”

It wasn’t long before Naarai, the daughter of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe founder and artistic director Nate Jacobs, got her chance. “I came up through the company when we were struggling,” says Naarai with a laugh. “The experience was very different and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It challenged our discipline, our creativity and taught me a great deal of commitment. My first show I ever did was Black Nativity, in 2002 or 2003, and after that I started taking piano lessons and finding roles and different ways that I could be a part of the theater.”

Naarai has parlayed an upbringing in the arts into a career as a professional singer–after graduating from Howard University in 2015, Naarai moved west to Los Angeles, where she’s provided background vocals for artists such as Beyonce, Tori Kelly, Mariah Carey, and Kanye West.

Now, Naarai is coming home to take part in a special collaboration between the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe and Key Chorale titled Grace: The Spirit of Aretha. The concert, which will take place at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall on Monday, May 8th, is a tribute to Aretha Franklin and will feature performances by Naarai, WBTT vocalist Matelyn Alicia and the 100 singers of Key Chorale.

“My dad and I started talking about the show in 2022. It’s basically just a culmination of Aretha’s music, the first half focusing on her gospel records, and then the second half is more so just her love songs and more notable pop radio hits. It’s a really great show,” says Naarai. “To be able to come home and perform is a huge blessing. I grew up as a little girl seeing concerts at the Van Wezel, so to be able to sing music there with other incredibly talented singers is really special.”

Key Chorale Box Office: 941-552-8768, Monday, May 8, 2023 at 7:30 p.m,Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall , 777 N. Tamiami Tr. Sarasota.

Pictured: Matelyn Alicia (left) and Naarai will be the featured vocalists for Grace: The Spirit of Aretha, a collaboration of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe and Key Chorale. Photo courtesy of WBTT.

For more information or to purchase tickets click here.

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