Prelude to a Kiss

Singers James Rich, from left, and Leina Deboer, along with pianist Morrissey Dunn of Halifax will be the headliners of Prelude to a Kiss, which stops in Pictou this month.

The legendary music of Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole will be featured in the Prelude to a Kiss concert tour that will stop in Pictou as part of a 10-stop tour in Nova Scotia this month.

Leina Deboer from British Columbia and James Rich of New York City will show off their singing talent in this show under the creative direction of the National Stage Company of Canada, based in B.C.

Joining them on stage are Nova Scotia musicians Morrissey Dunn on the piano, Michael Arbou on drums and Cailun Campbell on bass.

The concert will feature jazz hits such as Summertime, The Man That Got Away, Blue Skys and I Wish You Love.

This is the second leg of the concert tour, which includes stops at 10 locations in Nova Scotia from May 12-23. Audiences can see the performance at the deCoste Performing Arts Centre on May 18.

The first leg of the tour occurred in B.C. throughout January and February of this year, with just Deboer being featured with Dunn, who is from Halifax. Rich had been doing his own Nat King Cole Christmas tour just prior to Deboer joining him on the road.

Anthony James, the managing artistic director-producer and founder of the National Stage Company, said the show is not necessarily a tribute to Fitzgerald and Cole, but more of a showcase of the two leading singers and the music of the era.

“That whole era to me, personally, I can resonate with. I like the way the music was written, I like the message, I like the vibe of the whole scene,” he said in an interview with LighthouseNOW, one of Advocate’s sister publications. “The show’s about sharing the music with a certain demographic that’s nostalgic for (the music) but also introducing this music and keeping (Fitzgerald’s and Cole’s) legacy going with a younger demographic.”

It’s also about “James and Leina bringing that music and interpreting it as artists themselves. It pays homage to Nat and Ella, but the music has a bit more oomph to it, but still (is) just as meaningful.”

He described both leading singers as “stellar” artists.

Speaking from his home in New York, Rich said he is “very excited” to be coming to Nova Scotia for the first time.

He admits to being a “Nat King Cole superfan” and said his interest started when several people thought he looked like the superstar, and he has been mistaken for being part of the family.

“As time went on, I started doing more research on him and the more I learned, the more infatuated I became, to the point that I wrote a Broadway-style musical about his life,” he said, adding that this is an opportunity to further expose more people to Cole’s music.

Rich said during these shows he is not trying to be like Cole, but rather do his own take and “just honour his music legacy.”

He said Cole managed to “bring a divided world together with love songs,” at a time when people who looked like him weren’t afforded the same opportunity.

Originally from Hawaii, Deboer has shared the stage with groups such as All-4-One, KJ-52 and Micha Tyler. She is also an actress and was part of the Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat production directed by Anthony James.

“She walked into the casting room, she opened her mouth and started to sing and I said, ‘Wow!’ this is someone I want to work with,” said James.

Rich is a singer, actor, playwright and costume designer. He has toured with Harry Belafonte, worked on Saturday Night Fever on Broadway and has appeared in national television commercials and television shows such as Everybody Loves Raymond and As the World Turns.

He is currently writing and developing a two-act story about the life of Nat King Cole.

James has performed as a model, actor, dancer and vocalist and has worked in film and television.

He said the idea of starting the National Stage Company of Canada came when he was touring around the world. Seeing actors and singers perform, he thought to himself, “these guys are really talented, but it feels like they’re stuck in the non-professional realm.’” It occurred to him that he could “do more to introduce them to the professional world.”

“This company acts as that middle ground, where I’m going to pluck you out of that realm, then put you into projects with professionals so you can learn from them,” he said.

The company has nine creative divisions including live theatre, dance, fashion, education and concert production.

After two stagnant years because of the pandemic, James says things are starting to get busy with 14 projects on the go including concerts and theatre performances booked from Hawaii to London, England.

Enter here for your chance to win a pair of tickets to the show. Contest closes May 16, 2022.