Modesto’s Morgan James ‘on fire,’ joins cabaret

04/03/2014 12:00 AM

04/02/2014 3:58 PM

Onetime Modestan and Broadway actress Morgan James is coming back to the West Coast to perform in the Bay Area Cabaret’s 10th anniversary season.

The 1999 Johansen High School graduate has been in four Broadway shows (“Motown the Musical,” “Godspell,” “Wonderland” and “The Addams Family”) since moving to New York. The jazz-pop singer, who studied opera at the Juilliard School, makes her return to Northern California on Sunday for the cabaret series in San Francisco.

Already this season, the showcase at the Venetian Room in the city’s famed Fairmont hotel has featured Broadway star and former “Smash” lead Megan Hilty, musical theater legend Chita Rivera and renowned singer-songwriter Judy Collins.

James released her debut album, “Morgan James Live: A Celebration of Nina Simone,” on Epic Records in December 2012.

The project featured renditions of standards from the iconic jazz singer.

Since its release, James has been praised in the press for her powerful voice and presence on stage.

Wall Street Journal drama critic Terry Teachout said she “had it all: soul, charm, chops, blue-chip musicianship, and the kind of absolute individuality that makes her singing as recognizable as a fingerprint.” And, if that wasn’t enough he went on to praise her as “the most promising young vocalist to come along so far this century.”

New York Times film and music critic Stephen Holden called James “heatedly compelling” and “a phenomenal talent whose feel for classic soul music is bone deep.” And, if that wasn’t enough, he closed his review with a definitive, “This woman is on fire.”

“Motown the Musical” opened a year ago with James in the role of Teena Marie.

She left the cast in December and has been performing and touring.

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