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James Heckert

James Heckert

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Heather Headley began singing in public when she was just two years old and hasn't stopped since. The West Indian beauty, who nabbed the coveted leads in two of Broadway's most eagerly anticipated musicals--"The Lion King" and "Aida"--before she was 24 years old actually had no formal voice training until college.Born in Trinidad to church pastors, Headley made her singing debut during a children's talent show on the radio when she was a toddler. Hooked on performing live--and encouraged by her parents who believed her voice was a gift from God--Headley spent most of her childhood perfecting her technique by singing in the church choir and spending hours each day trying to imitate the singing styles of Whitney Houston and Anita Baker. By the time she was a young teenager, she was teaching singing and leading both the children's and adults' church choirs.Headley was introduced to American musical theater when her family moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1990. After three years as the featured soloist of the school's show choir--and the lead in two of the school's musicals ("Man of La Mancha" and "Funny Girl")--Headley graduated from Northrop High School and went on to study communications and musical...

Heather Headley began singing in public when she was just two years old and hasn't stopped since. The West Indian beauty, who nabbed the coveted leads in two of Broadway's most eagerly anticipated musicals--"The Lion King" and "Aida"--before she was 24 years old actually had no formal voice training until college.

Born in Trinidad to church pastors, Headley made her singing debut during a children's talent show on the radio when she was a toddler. Hooked on performing live--and encouraged by her parents who believed her voice was a gift from God--Headley spent most of her childhood perfecting her technique by singing in the church choir and spending hours each day trying to imitate the singing styles of Whitney Houston and Anita Baker. By the time she was a young teenager, she was teaching singing and leading both the children's and adults' church choirs.

Headley was introduced to American musical theater when her family moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1990. After three years as the featured soloist of the school's show choir--and the lead in two of the school's musicals ("Man of La Mancha" and "Funny Girl")--Headley graduated from Northrop High School and went on to study communications and musical theater at Northwestern University. While she was there, she starred in most of the university's main stage productions and performed at the Marriott Lincolnshire Theater, one of Chicago's foremost regional theaters.

Close to the end of her third year of school, Headley caught the attention of casting agents. Her full voice and arresting poise earned her the opportunity to join the pre-Broadway cast of "Ragtime" in Toronto. Just six months after Headley decided to quit school so she could understudy Audra McDonald in the role of Sarah in "Ragtime," Disney offered her the chance to play the feisty lioness Nala in its Broadway production of "The Lion King"--a show that went on to become one of the most successful in Broadway history. During her run in "The Lion King," Disney approached Headley again, this time to request that she audition for their new musical "Elaborate Lives: The Legend of Aida," written by Tim Rice and Elton John, the musical geniuses behind "The Lion King." The producers offered Headley the title role in 1998 and she earned rave reviews and standing ovations even though critics blasted the show during its troubled pre-Broadway tour. She remained with the musical while it was retooled, outlasting almost all of the show's original cast and crew. She was again singled out for praise--and a Tony nomination-- when the revamped musical opened to mixed reviews in NYC in the spring of 2000.

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