Melba Moore ’67 always loved the theater but she came to Montclair State to become a teacher. “I was very shy,” she says. Then she laughs and adds, “But that’s changed now.” It changed in a big way for her when after teaching for a year she went into show business and quickly became a star of stage, screen and the airwaves. And the multi-talented, Tony Award-winning actress and singer is still going strong with her latest show, “Melba Moore: Sweet Songs of the Soul,” an autobiographical one-woman “play with music” written by and starring Moore.
In “Sweet Songs of the Soul,” which she most recently performed at the Crossroads Theatre in New Brunswick, she weaves story and song into a compelling and poignant narrative of her life from childhood, through her storybook early years in entertainment, to the later, darker days. She leaves nothing out of her tale and includes the high points, such as her successes on Broadway and her many hit single records, as well as the troubles she experienced in later life with men and money. The people she speaks about are real and she admits that she’s ruffled a few feathers along the way. “I’ve had to dodge some bullets,” she says. “The people I talk about aren’t dead yet.”
The show’s 10 musical numbers include “Stormy Weather,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” “I Got Love,” and a medley from the rock-musical “Hair,” in which Moore debuted on Broadway in 1969. With its mix of jazz, gospel, and Broadway melodies, “Sweet Songs of the Soul” is a showcase for Moore’s still powerful, four-octave voice and her command of different musical genres.
Moore says she created “Sweet Songs of the Soul” out of a burning desire to get back to the stage. She was in a difficult period in her life and wanted to change it. She had never written before so she tried to get writers to help but that didn’t pan out so she did it herself. “It was very painful,” she says frankly. “It cost me tremendous amounts of time, money and work to do it.” Despite the costs, her drive and perseverance have paid off because she is once again performing on stage and has landed TV and movie roles as well.
With over three decades in show business and numerous awards, chart-topping singles, theater, film and TV roles to her credit, Moore is still doing what she loves—sharing her extraordinary talents—and story—with others.