Reva Rice is an international sensation in the world of theatre, music, film, and television! Born and raised in Toledo, Ohio, Reva graduated from the Boston Conservatory of Music. Her Broadway and international starring credits include "Starlight Express," "Fosse," and "Chicago." She has starred in the first National Tours of "Starlight Express," "Smokey Joe’s Café," "Fosse," "Chicago," and Oprah Winfrey’s "The Color Purple" starring Fantasia. Reva has worked with such greats as Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, Patrick Swayze, Chaka Khan, Dolly Parton, Melissa Manchester, and many more. She also performs and produces cabaret acts around the world.
Reva recently released her new album "What Is Love" which can be ordered by e-mailing REVARICE@aol.com. She is also developing "Reva Las Vegas," a 90 minute revue based on her journey back and forth from Broadway Babe to Vegas Vixen and her dance show band The Jewelry Box.
Currently, Reva is starring in "Vegas! The Show" at the Saxe Theater inside the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood Casino & Resort (3663 Las Vegas Blvd. S. Suite 465). "VEGAS! The Show" tells the story of the most influential and exciting entertainers who made Las Vegas the “entertainment capital of the world.” From The Rat Pack and Elvis to today’s hottest stars…this amazing cast of more than 40 performers, big band live orchestra, and beautiful showgirls make "VEGAS! The Show" one of the biggest stage productions on the Strip in 20 years. Showtimes are nightly at 7pm and 9pm! Click here for tickets!
"Vegas! The Show"
1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? There were a lot of variables. I knew I wanted to do something in my life that was fun as opposed to just finding a job to make money. I used love to perform and always was active and when I was little. I did everything from roller skating to playing the piano to swimming to riding my horses. I was a very physical kid. My family was very musical even though no one was professional at it. I always wanted to get into entertainment. It was something that looked like fun and that I could do for 30 or 40 years. I went into the dance world first and then became a singer.
2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? Good question. I wish I could have worked with Michael Jackson. That was a big dream of mine. I would like to work with someone like an Ed Foster or a Robert De Niro. My forte is more musical than drama, but as an actor, they're someone I always looked up to.
3. What attracted you to "Vegas! The Show" and what do you hope audiences come away with after seeing it? Tiger Martina is a very good friend of mine and we go back almost 15/16 years. When he called and asked me to be part of it, I said yes, because I know his work and he’s brilliant. That was the first thing to attract me. The second thing to attract me was that I was coming back home to work. At the time he asked me to do the show, I was on the road touring in “Color Purple” with Fantasia, but I wanted to be home working again because I hadn’t worked at home for a few years. So, that’s what brought me back to Vegas and into the show.
People take away different things from our show than some other shows here in Vegas. People are emotionally touched by our show. At the same time, the show is a sense of true engagement, enjoyment, and relaxation. It goes back to the days of when an entertainer would connect with you as if you were sitting around his living room with a glass of wine at the piano. It’s the time of performers who were in Vegas in the 40s and part of the 50s like Frank Sinatra, The Rat Pack, and Ella Fitzgerald. We had some racial issues back then and what is so cleaver about the show is that we introduce those issues which lets the young people know that it was a different time in many great ways, but it was also a time that was difficult for many people, but thankfully we’ve gotten over that hurdle. It shows audiences that there are people of color up on the stage now because of entertainers like Sammy Davis Jr and Ella Fitzgerald. A lot of people who come see our show were here when the Landmark Hotel went down and all the other hotels went down. When they see that, there is a certain amount of melancholy that comes over. I think there is a lot of nostalgia that is associated with seeing our show as well as the grandiose that you see. There’s a certain sense of elegance and upscale to the show. It makes people remember that you used to put on your best suit to go to a show and not attend in shorts and a t-shirt.
Reva in "VEGAS! The Show"
4. What made you want to move to Las Vegas? What do you love about living there? What do you miss about working on Broadway? When I moved to Vegas, I had just come back from starring in “Starlight Express” in London’s West End and I was going to move to LA where my home is and try to get my television and film career going, but the then I got a call to see if I would do “Starlight Express” in Vegas, this would be my fourth production of the show. I remembered I was in Vegas when I was 16 and it was a hoping little town and I didn’t have an immediate job, so I took it and came to Vegas. When I got there and saw the limitlessness of the city, I fell in love with it. I could still go to LA and audition because I was so close.
Vegas is like the Great Frontier. No matter what you want to do here, whether it be entertainment or business, there is a budget here for it and you can develop it and grow it. When I moved to Vegas in 1994 and bought my first home, I had already established myself as a theatre person, and had a great bi-coastal agent, and then ended up coming back to NY and did two Broadway shows. So, being here in Vegas, did not limit my career. I still go to NY to audition for Broadway. There are a few shows now I’d love to try to get into. “Sister Act” seems like a good fit for me. Me: Oh that would be great. I saw “Sister Act” twice. It’s a very fun show. Reva: That would be great.
I also love the weather of Vegas. I don’t mind the extreme heat of the summer. Everyone has a pool. The only downside to weather here, as a singer, it takes a minute to acclimate to what they call a “Vegas Throat.” Because it’s such an extreme from the heat of the outside to the dry air of the air conditioning, some singers develop vocal problems.
Another thing I love about living in Vegas is that when you are not in a production show there are so many other venues around that you can cultivate a show. When I was living in NY and not in a Broadway show, I’d be working in regional theatre or outside of my craft (it might be a bit different now). Here in Vegas, you can go to one of the nice restaurants and say, "Can I put a combo show in here a few nights a week?" There is a lot of corporate work here with conventions where they hirer models and dancers and singers and actors for different events. You can generate income here as well as developing your craft at the same time, which is something I think is great about this town. Another great thing is that when we do workshops here, it looks like a production. We have the funding here to do that, unlike in New York where most workshops are just in a rehearsal space or on a stage with music stands, the actors, and scripts.
5. You've been so fortunate to work with many great artists throughout your career. You've worked with Andrew Lloyd Webber, especially with "Starlight Express." What has been the best part about working with Andrew Lloyd Webber and what have you learned from him? Oh my God, so much! With “Starlight Express” I got to work with Andrew Lloyd Webber, Trevor Nun, Arlene Phillips, and Prince Edward (well, he was a big fan of the show). The show gave me the discipline as a performer and a vocal ability, that I might not have gotten because I started singing later in life than other singers. Working with Andrew and his people, I also learned there is a beauty and simplicity in telling the story as opposed to showing the people by your gymnastic vocal ability. I learned to be patient. That show itself gave me a physicality that most people in my age group can’t do. I’m very, very, very thankful and blessed I was able to do that show for as long as I did it. Andrew wrote two songs for me. He sat down at the piano and said, “What do you think of this song?” “Make Up My Heart” was then released over in London and made the Top 40 Charts back then. I was able to perform for the Royal Variety Show in London with such artists as Gloria Estefan and Barry Manilow. The show did a lot for me.
6. What was it like to stay with "Starlight Express" for so long and perform in the Broadway, Vegas, and West End productions? What's your most cherished memory of that whole experience? One of my first cherished memories is just getting the show. Two years prior to getting the show, I sent my resume and headshot over to London, prior to it coming to Broadway and never heard anything back. When I saw it was coming to Broadway, I was determined to get into this show. So, I called a very good friend of mine, who has been on a few big series over the years, and borrowed her equity card to sneak into the audition because it was roller skating show and I had been roller skating since I was a kid. The first audition was with Johnson-Liff, which was the largest casting agency at that time. There were a lot of shows that had African American casts then such as “Dreamgirls,” “Black & Blue,” and a couple of other shows. It wasn’t as large of a community back in 1985/86. They knew the majority of the African American equity singers on Broadway, but I snuck into the audition, with my skates over my shoulder, and when I came and sang, (I wasn’t a singer then. I just picked a song on the radio I liked “I’m Keeping My Desire” by Atlantic Star. I ran down to Colony Music and bought the sheet music, didn’t know what key was, and I said if I can get passed the singing and get to the skating, I’ll get this show) they said “That was amazing, why haven’t I seen you before? Are you in the union?” I ran up to the table and said, “Listen, I really need to do this show and this show needs for me to do it. If you think I can sing, I can skate a hundred times better than I sing. Let me get my skates on and show you what I can do.” They said, “No, no, no, I can’t let you skate because of this issue, but we’ll be calling you back.” Then they said, “So, how’d you get in here?” I said, “I borrowed a friend’s card and snuck on in here.” He said, “You know sometimes you have to find your loop holes and get through them, so we’ll be calling you back.”
So next audition, I sang again. The third audition was the first time I skated for them and they had us in groups, so we all auditioned together. I was auditioning for some other stuff at that time as well. I was actually offered a role in “Can Can” starring Chita Rivera, in the chorus, and while it was a chorus role, it was non-union show. Troika Organization was producing the show at that time, so after I skated for them, I rolled around the table and said I just got this offer to do “Can Can” with Chita Rivera.” They said, “Is it union?” I said, “Well, no.” They said, “Well, Reva, look at these girls out there. They are falling down left and right. They can give you a swing position at least.” At that moment, the choreographer was leaning up against the table and said, “Oh Reva, don’t sign a thing. You could be “Pearl,” you could be “Buffy.” Then she turned back around and said, “Next group.” For the fourth audition, they had me sing this song called “Only You” and skate again. Now the assistant director is there as well. I sing “Only You” and when I finished, the assistant director said, “You know that was brilliant.” When we call you back for the final call back, dig out all the Sara Vaughn and sing the song as it was written. I said, “Okay.” The final audition comes and there’s myself, Andrea McArdle, Jane Krakowski, Lola Knotts, and a fifth girl that I can’t remember. They roll us in and everyone is there…Andrew Lloyd Webber, Trevor Nun, Lord Gray and like 20 other people. Up until this point, we’ve only had a few people at the casting table. Now there is a whole audience. The five of us roll in and Arlene says, “Trevor, she was with the musical in London." He goes, "No, I just want to see them roll around.” Well, I got the grin of the "Grinch Who Stole Christmas" on my face and I just went off. The other girls just rolled to the side because they didn’t really skate. When the song as over everybody applauded and they rolled us back out. Then they rolled us back in one at a time to sing “Only You.” I sang “Only You” in its purest form. I sang every note as Mr. Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote it (this was before he was Sir). When I finished singing, Trevor Nun jumped up from the table and runs around and hugs me and says, “Oh my God, you’re just a diamond in the rough.” About a week later, Vinny Lift called me and said, “Reva we want to congratulate you and welcome you to the company of 'Starlight Express' and offer you the role of “Pearl.” So I said, “Oh great.” I thought to myself, “I’m gonna be on Broadway. Now I wonder who ‘Pearl’ is.” I took myself down to the record store and picked up the double cassette tape of the London show and I said “Pearl” has this song and that song, oh look, I have a solo. I think “Pearl” is the lead of the show. I said, “Oh my God.” I went out to the pay phone (back then we had pay phones) and I called my mother and said, “Ma, I just got cast in a Broadway musical and it’s the lead.” She said, “A musical? Do you have to sing?” I said, “Yes, I have to sing Ma, I have like three or four solos.” She was just so excited.
My mother’s name is “Pearl” and my grandmother’s name is “Pearl,” and my mother was diagnosed with cancer three years before I was cast. We opened in March of 86/87 and my mother passed away that following September, but she was able to see me star on Broadway. Every time I tell that story, I cry.
"Starlight Express" really set me up for my career. The universe was a part of all that. With each production I did after that, they honed the show more to me and my character. I kept originating the role. After Broadway, I did the National Tour and that’s when Prince Edward came over saw it and then he invited the crew out and then he asked the stage manager if I liked to come out too. So, I went out with everyone. Then we went to London’s West End. It was great. The National Tour allowed me to see the country, the London run was my first time there, then we went to Canada and Mexico. So many people came to see the show, from Grace Jones to Princess Diana and her kids. As a result of the show, Bryan May from Queen came to see the show (years ago he did a tour with Guns n Roses and Elton John made appearances on that tour) and wanted me to be a featured singer on that tour, but Andrew’s company wouldn’t let me go to do it because of my contract, but it still meant a lot to get asked. I was exposed to so many things. Sometimes I think, if the internet was around back then, it might have been a whole different ball game.
After I finished the show and released some albums over in London, I came back to the US and that’s when I said, I’m going to LA. That is when Troika (the company that offered me "Can Can" with Chita Rivera), came calling that they were producing “Starlight Express” in Vegas. It’s so funny because all those years before I was going to work for them and now here I am working for them. It reinforced my belief that you meet people for a reason. They treated me beautifully. The Vegas show was my last journey with that show.
I’ve done 5 National Tours and on every tour, I would always find the local roller rinks and go skating. While I was on Broadway, every Sunday night, my dresser would be waiting in the wings and I would roll off stage, undress, and then put my street clothes on and head out to Laces on Long Island to go roller disco skating. Me: I used to go to Laces. Reva: I was there every Thursday and Sunday. The Roxy was jumping before I got to NY, but once I moved to NY, the Roxy wasn’t jumping as much as a roller rink, which is why I went to Laces or Skatee in the Bronx. I love to roller skate and still do, but it was the roller skating that really kept my interest in "Starlight Express." Recently, the African American Legacy Program honored me in my hometown which was wonderful. While I was home, I even got to roller skate there too.
I was always amazed that they paid me to do what I love. I love my life and career. It’s just so vibrant. I’m in better shape now than I ever was. "Starlight Express" really kept me in shape.
7. I recently saw a video of you singing "Life Is Just A Bowl of Cherries" from Jim Caruso's Cast Party in Vegas. It was wonderful. I was very impressed and think you have beautiful, beautiful voice. Reva: Oh Thank You. Me: What did you enjoy most about performing at Cast Party and getting to work with Jim Caruso and Billy Stritch? Reva: You just named it. Jim Caruso and Billy Stritch. Those two guys are amazing. I just love them. I like that "come on over the house, have a glass wine and feel the love" kind of environment, and it’s that kind of vibe and environment for those guys. You’re just going up on stage, raw, and enjoying each other. I’m just elated that they are doing this in Vegas. When I first moved out here, many of my peers said, “What are you going to do in Vegas?” I said, “Don’t you worry, you’ll be out here very soon.” Sure enough, they are coming out here. Cast Party itself is just wonderful.
8. You've also starred in "Chicago" on Broadway with Patrick Swayze. What can you tell me about that experience and working with Patrick? It’s hard to speak about Patrick without speaking about his wife Lisa. They were just an amazing duo. I was so heartbroken when he passed because he and Lisa were just the sweetest thing. They were both pilots and flew themselves anywhere. They were the most approachable people you ever want to meet. Patrick was a big roller skating fan too and he wanted to go roller skating with me. I said, “You can’t come roller skating with me, people know who you are, unless you want to put on a disguise.” I was really honored to have been part of his energy in his lifetime.
9. What did it mean to star in Oprah Winfrey's "The Color Purple"? That was such an amazing experience, let me tell you Adam. I joined the show, and this was my first chorus contract I ever signed, however, I did cover "Shug Avery" and got to perform with Fantasia as "Shug." I also covered and played the "Church Ladies" and "Church Soloist." If you are familiar with the show, the "Church Ladies" are these three kind of gossip ladies in the church. They sing these vocal trio vignettes that are tight knit harmonies and when you are covering those three parts, you might have to do one part the first show and one part the second show. Covering these roles, honed my craft like I don’t know what. If I had any doubts before, there are no doubts now, that I can sing.
You are on stage with a whole cast of people and everybody can sing their asses off. That’s why I say, if I hadn’t done a show like “Starlight,” I could have never been up on stage with those people. People would just open up their mouths and gifts would just come out of their vocal chords. My jaw would just drop to the floor. These women were all church honed vocal bravados that I was just in awe of. I was very, very impressed at the way they were able to bring "The Color Purple" to the stage and not lose the audiences or the struggle of the characters. They were able to bring comedic parts to the show while keeping the flow and then mist you at the end. Once again, very thankful and blessed to be part of it. Fantasia, was amazing. Sweet as can be and very approachable. She’s an amazing performer, very professional, and I love her do death.
10. What's the best advice you've ever received? It always comes out in the wash and also 95% is showing up. You have to be there and present. What you put in the universe comes back ten fold. I’ve always been the kind of person that it was about doing the work. It wasn’t about the accolades. The accolades for me is when I can look in the mirror and go, “Oh my God, I love you. You were great and you got another day today. Work it out girl, you fierce, alright!” I have to please me first and make sure when I look in the mirror that I see a genuine positive loving person. Me: I get that sense that you are a lot like that. Reva: Oh thanks, I like life.
11. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? My husband to be. That’s another big bookmark in my life. I’m single again. Being a career woman is different now then when I was in my 20s and even 30s and that’s as far as I’m going to go on the age. It was harder to be a career woman, mother, and all back in that time. I’m sure I’m gonna get a husband in the next year or so. He’s going to get and understand what I do and who I am. I’d love to get on “Millionaire Matchmaker.” I think it would be fun. But, if you know any single, successful, good-looking men over 40, send them my way.
Reva: This was really fun and those are great questions. They really made met think. Me: Thank you. I really try to cater them to each person and their career. Reva: I really enjoyed it!