'R.E.S.P.E.C.T.' comes to the Granada January 3-4, 2023 | Credit: Julia Drummond

The legend of Aretha Franklin continues to loom large, following last year’s Jennifer Hudson film Respect, Cynthia Erivo in the National Geographic mini-series Genius: Aretha, and the Sydney Pollack documentary Amazing Grace, we now have the musical tribute R.E.S.P.E.C.T., a brand-new theatrical production coming to the Granada January 3-4, 2023. 

While this show based on the hit Australian musical, RESPECT — The Aretha Franklin Story, director Christina Sajous (SpongeBob SquarePants, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, American Idiot, Baby It’s You) has made some key adjustments for the American tour. 

“What we discovered by seeing the show have a few runs in the past six, seven weeks, was that it seemed like audiences were attracted to all the characters in the show, because it’s kind of built with three backup singers and one lead singer. But now we’ve given the artists an opportunity to actually sing more of her music and be more intricate in the way that we tell the story — it’s not really about one person playing Aretha. It’s actually who is the Aretha in all of us — even if you’re a man, okay, so the story has become a little bit more universal,” said Sajous. 

“No one’s playing Aretha. It’s kind of playing the spirit and voice of Aretha and how the story informs that song or that music or who is singing it in that moment.”

With fully choreographed beloved Aretha Franklin hits like, “Natural Woman,” “I Knew You Were Waiting for Me,” “Chain of Fools,” “Respect,” and many more, Sajous described the show as “a theatrical concert,” with “intricate storytelling and design.” 

As for her favorite number by the Queen of Soul, “I would say ‘Natural Woman.’” says Sajous. “Not only is it my favorite song, but I’ve also noticed it’s one of the most attractive parts of our show, because it’s stripped down. And it really is just about three women singing at a piano. I want it to capture the raw sensibility of how women express themselves, and to celebrate the female voice navigating that through those lyrics. … I would say it’s become one of my favorite numbers not only in the creative process, but also witnessing it come alive in the theater is so thrilling, because it’s exactly what I wanted that moment to be — I wanted it to feel personal.” 

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. is presented as part of the Broadway in Santa Barbara Series at The Granada Theatre, January 3-4. For more information, visit granadasb.org.

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