Get ready, ‘cause here they come! Broadway.com is taking a deep dive into some of the musical icons who grace the stage in Motown: The Musical, which charts the life of Motown mogul Berry Gordy. Our Legends of Motown series continues with N’Kenge, who gives vibrant voice to "My Guy" singer Mary Wells. The barrier-breaking Wells was one of the first Motown superstars, helping to define the style and tone of the label and bring the Motown sound to mainstream America. Read on for N'Kenge's tribute to the "Queen of Motown"!
Hometown: New York (Bronx and Brooklyn)
Role: Mary Wells
First/fondest memory of your icon: The Beatles naming Mary Wells their FAVORITE American singer!
Favorite song sung by your icon: “My Guy.”
What does it mean to you to be playing your icon? Unreal, to be honest. Mary Wells broke so many barriers as an artist and as I learned about her journey, I realized how our lives are parallel. My biggest disappointment is that she is not alive to experience Motown on Broadway and see firsthand her legacy being continued.
Most surprising fact you learned about your icon: I was surprised to find out she came to Berry Gordy's attention as a songwriter. Not only was she an amazing singer and performer, she was the writer of her first solo song released on the Motown label. AMAZING!
Hardest thing about playing your icon: Finding the truth behind every action she made. I only have access to stories about her. I would have LOVED to meet and talk to her first hand about her journey.
Easiest thing about playing your icon: Bringing life to her songs as a performer. Thank goodness for YouTube. I was able to watch videos of her live performance and incorporate the energy she brought on stage and how she related to her audience to the Motown stage on Broadway.
Which of your icon’s songs do you sing in the show? I sing a medley of “Bye Bye Baby” and “Two Lovers,” then I also sing her iconic hit song “My Guy.”
If you could meet your icon, what would you say to him/her? I would thank Mary Wells for sharing her amazing talents to the world and being one of the first to help create the Motown sound that we all love. I would also say that although I am proud to know “My Guy” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, I look forward to the day when Mary Wells is inducted into the Hall of Fame. It will be well deserved and LONG overdue.
One word to describe your icon: LEGENDARY.
Click here for more Legends of Motown profiles!