American Idol's Syesha Mercado is a Dreamgirl

With Dreamgirls, Syesha Mercado is the latest American Idol contestant to score a spotlight on the stage
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American Idol’s Syesha Mercado is a Dreamgirl

With Dreamgirls, Syesha Mercado is the latest American Idol contestant to score a spotlight on the stage

-Amy Levin-Epstein

Syesha Mercado
Toky Photography

Fantasia Barrino in The Color Purple. Diana Degarmo in Hairspray. Constantine Maroulis in Rock of Ages. All three are former American Idol standouts who have stolen the show — the show being some of Broadway’s hottest musicals. And Syesha Mercado, the second runner-up of Idol’s seventh season, will join this group when she makes her debut in the new production of Dreamgirls, opening at New York’s famed Apollo Theatre on November 7.

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Syesha plays Deena Jones, a singer with the Dreams, an all-girl group seeking fame in the 1960s. It’s the role Beyonce brought to life on the big screen (alongside Oscar-winning American Idol alum Jennifer Hudson). So, is she worried about comparisons to Ms. Knowles, or to the original Broadway production (which ran from 1981 to 1985?) Not at all. “I can’t portray it as the same as [the original Broadway star] Sheryl Lee Ralph or Beyonce. Everyone is going to interpret a character in a different way,” says Syesha, 22. “I thought I knew who Deena was when I watched the movie, but reading the script and taking it apart, and figuring out the subtext… I’ve learned so much about her in the past three weeks,” she adds. And no doubt she’ll continue to learn — the production continues on a 14-city tour following its Harlem debut. For tour stops, go to dreamgirlsonstage.com.

Dreamgirls
Joan Marcus

What was the hardest part of transitioning from Idol to the stage?
Every day we have rehearsal from 10 to 6. It is extremely intense. I’m just getting into the rhythm and enjoying the process. I’m definitely busy, but it’s a different kind of busy. On Idol you pick your songs and rehearse them. At max, there are 30 songs. With Broadway there is more material and it’s just completely different. I’m dancing and singing at the same time and learning blocking and lines.

Have you gotten any advice from other Idols who transitioned to Broadway?
Actually, I am looking forward to a phone call with Fantasia, who did The Color Purple. I’m going to talk to her about her experience, just get a feel of what it’s like.


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