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My Story

 

JENNLEE SHALLOW's first significant musical break came just after she began her first year at college, studying sociology in her native island of Trinidad in the Caribbean. As a result of encouragement from a teacher at the school, Rochelle Lewis, who had heard about some auditions, Jennlee unexpectedly found herself singing for the international casting team of Disney's theatrical production The Lion King. That day would be one that changed her life.

Although she had grown up singing in church she had no formal vocal or theatrical training to boast of, and yet that day she beat out several thousand other auditionees around the world for the chance to understudy the lead role of Nala, Simba's willful and passionate love-interest. Within weeks she had left the sunny Caribbean for the first time in her life - to land in freezing Hamburg, Germany, for a year's contract in the German-language production of The Lion King, Der König der Löwen.

This could have been the end of the story, but soon she was being seen as a contender for the lead role itself and within eight months had moved to Sydney to play Nala in new Australian production of The Lion King. The rehearsal period for the production gave her the wonderful opportunity to work for many weeks with the legendary Julie Taymor, the Tony Awardwinning director of the show, and during her time in Australia she also took advantage of the great opportunities for growth that existed in observing and learning from the more experienced performers with whom she had the pleasure of sharing the stage with each night. After two years of her muchpraised performances in Sydney, she then opened the show in Melbourne before taking the bold step to pursue a path to strengthening her vocal and theatrical craft in the United States.

In 2005 she was offered a full scholarship at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Los Angeles, where she completed a two-year program. Upon graduating, she made a short audition trip to New York, yet what was planned merely as a first exploratory visit there resulted in her first theatrical role in the U.S. – no less than the leading role of Sarah in the acclaimed revival of the musical Ragtime in Washington's prestigious Kennedy Center, directed by Tony Award nominee Marcia Milgrom Dodge. There she garnered significant praise for her reinterpretation of the role originally created by Audra McDonald on Broadway. After the show's success in Washington she was offered the lead role of Sarah again, and this time it was to be on Broadway where the show was soon to transfer. But by this date momentum had been building for Jennlee, and she had already been signed as lead singer for Cirque Du Soleil's latest stage production, Viva Elvis, at the brand new City Center in Las Vegas. Broadway would have to wait. Jennlee then traveled to Montreal to participate in the creative development of the show at the Cirque du Soleil rehearsal stage complex, collaborating with legendary choreographer-director Vincent Patterson (Madonna, Michael Jackson). She then appeared for over two years in Las Vegas on the largest theatrical stage built in North America, singing solo songs live on giant sets surrounded by a cast of eighty performers.

During this time she met and worked with many icons of the music and recording industry: meeting Priscilla Presley of course, and singing nightly on stage as a soloist and in duet with Elvis' original master recordings. She later recorded songs for an album inspired by the show. Her version of King Creole attracted particular praise as the new arrangement of the song by music producer Erich van Tourneau strongly features her authentic Caribbean influences. In Las Vegas and in Los Angeles she began to take the opportunities to record as a soloist and as a backing singer on pop and gospel tracks, complimenting and expanding upon her theatrical experience. She also reignited her passion for fashion, collaborating with several photographers. She has since appeared at a number of high profile events in both cities. Immediately following her time in Viva Elvis she made the move to live permanently in Los Angeles in order to pursue her recording and pop career, but in what was by now a familiar pattern, just as soon as she arrived she was offered yet another chance to travel!

This time it was to Macau, China, as the solo singer in Franco Dragone's latest theatrical creation, Taboo, a cabaret-style showcase for a hand-selected international cast. There she featured for three months, singing (amongst other songs) Fallin' (Alicia Keys) and One Night Only (from Dreamgirls). After the show completed its initial limited engagement Jennlee returned to Los Angeles. During her time in China she was noticed by Albert Murcia, the production manager of famed burlesque performer and model Dita von Teese. His enthusiasm for Jennlee's vocal performance soon reached the ears of Jason Scoppa, the manager of the prestigious Los Angeles musical hot spot, The Sayers Club. As a result Jennlee began appearing there regularly upon her return, and simultaneously began collaborations with record producers in Los Angeles, Montreal and New York, working on her solo and backingsinger projects. And so although she was subsequently offered a long-term contract to return to China for Taboo 2, an open-ended production of the show she had helped create, she will no doubt be returning to China at some other time. Based on all the surprises and wonderful opportunities she has experienced so far, she has reason to be hopeful that the future will be an interesting and musically rewarding one. To be continued…