WANDA RAY WILLIS A NEW STAR WITH FIRE!
Her beginning effort can easily be seen as a basis for a film story in itself. Wanda from the island of Bermuda, quickly informs one that she was exposed to the arts at a very early age performing in church, concerts, live bands as well as competing in various competitions. “It was quite a learning advantage as well when given the opportunity to open for many international artists scheduled on the scene. Being selected or signed for many theater events and singing gigs in high school; even performing the piano at various hotel shows and restaurants, all of it added so much to my feeling comfortable before many types of different audiences wherever they were.”
Wanda’s first public appearance other than the church choir was at an event that featured her cousin’s band “Burning Ice”. “I was 9 or 10,” she offered. “My cousin urged me to just go on and sing, take the Mic and I did. It was Minnie Riperton’s Loving You and when I finished, there was thunderous applause and even cheers! I remember it being quite a moment.”
Wanda quickly noted that she admired performers such as Billie Holiday, Diana Ross, Natalie Cole, Melba Moore, Phyllis Hyman, Debbie Allen, Martha Graham, Eartha Kitt and Bermudian actress Ruth Thomas who simply told her, “Wanda, you just go out there and do it!”
At Morgan State University, Wanda auditioned and performed in many campus shows, plays as well as those produced off-campus, receiving extremely positive press reviews. “This and the faculty, especially at Jersey City theater & Music Dept. Greatly influenced me to do more and more In the arts. I even sang the National Anthem at the graduation ceremony. Being selected for so many artistic opportunities, further enhanced my belief that I should seriously consider what I might offer as an artist.”
Our new young star quickly informs the further her career moves forward, she understands how important her preparation was for all the creative challenges expected to handle. When she made deal to star in a One Woman Show based on the life of iconic star DOROTHY DANDRIDGE, she quickly understood everything she learned as a singer, dancer, actor and even the business aspect ie., bookings, sets, breakdowns, customs, makeup, all of it in transforming herself into Dandridge served invaluably.
Currently, Wanda is steep in concentrating on her next challenge, a Pre-Broadway play with music I FEEL SIN COMIN’ ON. She is portraying an abused woman with children whom she is determined they are subject to opportunities she never had as a woman of color. Film notable, LEON ISAAC KENNEDY (of Penitentiary films fame (MGM), is signed to play the abusive husband. Their scenes, together, promise to light up the stage or screen; there is a move to film the work as well for a major Hollywood studio. Her song: I GOTTA BE STRONG” says it all! The Pre-Broadway offering is scheduled for July 12-26, in Atlanta, Rialto Theater Center. Executive producer, LEVI MILLER.
Michael St. John