By Rita CharlestonFor the TimesGrowing up in the rough neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, and enduring a tough childhood wouldn’t lead many men to comedy. But in the case of Tracy Morgan, it did.“I was always a funny kid,” said Morgan, 43, who is set to take the stage at the Keswick Theatre on Saturday. “I think comedy was always in me, so I don’t think I picked it. I think it picked me.”Really, said one of the stars of NBC’s Emmy- and Golden Globe Award-winning 30 Rock, “I couldn’t see myself doing anything else in life. Sure, everybody has a rough beginning, and I did too. I’m not Paris Hilton and I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. But I’m all right. I’m far away from those early days. I’m a grown man now. You live and you learn. Life is complicated, but we try.”And Morgan certainly did try. Spurred on by a good friend to try comedy, Morgan began doing stand-up, building his act on the difficult situations he’d dealt with in his life. It was during one of those stand-up performances that Saturday Night Live’s Lorne Michaels saw Morgan and decided to audition him for the popular TV show.Morgan’s humor landed him a spot on the show and he stayed for seven years before moving on to other things. In 2003, Morgan left SNL to headline his own show on NBC, a sitcom called The Tracy Morgan Show. Although the show didn’t last long, Morgan was able to turn his talents to other pursuits, landing significant roles in a handful of feature films.And in 2006, Morgan found his niche on 30 Rock, the sitcom created by fellow SNL alumna Tina Fey. A longtime friend and admirer of Morgan’s, Fey wrote the character of Tracy Jordan specifically for Morgan. “Tina came to SNL three years after me and we always had a good time working together,” Morgan said. “We are professionals and we work well together. There’s a chemistry there that’s always been there.”In 2009, Morgan received his first Emmy nomination for his role in 30 Rock in the Supporting Actor category. He’s also been nominated for a Supporting Actor NAACP Image Award, and has won the Screen Actors Guild Award for “Outstanding Performance in an Ensemble in a Comedy Series.”Among the other heights he reached in 2009 was the release of his book, I Am The New Black, a compilation of anecdotes and some of the more serious moments that shaped him and his career.“I wanted to tell my own story rather than have someone else tell it,” Morgan explained. “I’ve never been the kind of person who asks ‘why?’ but rather, ‘why not?’ I’m somebody who came from the ghetto and learned how to make it. Somebody had to, so why not me?”Morgan has also been heard lending his voice to the animated film RIO, tackled a role in the drama The Son Of No One, and rounded out his list of great comedic achievements with his first HBO special, Black & Blue.And when he takes the stage at the Keswick, he said he hopes his audience will realize that his stand-up is unlike what they see him do on television.“When I get on stage,” Morgan said, “I just want to spread my love and do it live. What I do on TV is for TV. But this will be live entertainment. It’s straight up, with no chaser. Sometimes, when people come to comedy shows they come expecting to see what they see on TV. But this is live. This is life. This is the real stand-up. This is the real me.”For show times and ticket information, call 215-572-7650.
Probably best known for her 1977 hit You Light Up My Life, which led to her winning the Grammy Award for Best New Artist, Debby Boone will light up the stage at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside next Sunday, May 13.“Of course, that song will be included in my show,” says the 55-year-old singer. “I think people would be really upset with me if they came to my show and I left that one out. Today, because it’s become such a standard, I realize I owe it to my audience to sing it.”Boone is comfortable singing that song now, but it wasn’t always that way.“When I sang that song I sang it to God, even though most people saw it as a romantic song,” she explained. “When I recorded it I wasn’t in a relationship, so I felt like this was a kind of prayer and so I sang it that way.” But, Boone admitted, because of the popularity of that song, a song that was on almost everyone’s lips once it came out, she got really nervous.“It seemed that for the next three years, nobody wanted me except to do that song,” she said. “That’s all they wanted and so I felt I would never be allowed to grow or sing anything else.”But she needn’t have worried.The third of four daughters born to singer-actor Pat Boone and Shirley Foley Boone — daughter of country music star Red Foley — Boone was just 14 years old when she began touring with her parents and sisters. Later, when the other sisters dropped out of the spotlight, Debby Boone decided she wanted more. That’s when record producer Mike Curb urged Boone to release her first hit solo, You Light Up My Life. “Singing and touring with my dad came about because he didn’t want to travel so much and leave us behind. So we went with him,” she said. “But I think he thought his daughters should get married and settle down. But from the first time I hit the stage, I loved the attention I got. I knew I had found what I could do well and enjoy for the rest of my life.”And she was right. Since those early beginnings, Boone has gone on to make a name for herself in many aspects of music, leading to tours with her father and frequent television appearances. After the success of her first big hit, Boone later focused her music career on country music resulting in the 1980 No. 1 country hit, Are You on the Road to Lovin’ Me Again. In the ‘80s, she recorded Christian music that garnered her four top 10 Contemporary Christian albums as well as two more Grammys.And then, she said, much to her surprise, she was approached to appear in stage productions nationwide including lead roles in Camelot, Meet Me In St. Louis, South Pacific, The Human Comedy and more. “My first show was Seven Brides For Seven Brothers,” Boone recalled. “I think I was one of the lucky ones who got asked to do that role for a Broadway tour rather than having to audition with many others. They came to me because of You Light Up My Life, and I was absolutely thrilled for the opportunity.”Boone’s latest CD, titled Reflections of Rosemary, is a musical portrait of her late mother-in-law, the legendary singer Rosemary Clooney. It is a collection of 14 standards chosen for their significance to Boone’s life with Clooney and will be featured when Boone comes to the Keswick.Married for many years to Gabriel Ferrer, one of Clooney’s sons from her marriage to actor Jose Ferrer, Boone said her spirituality is one of the major reasons she’s been able to enjoy and get through the ups and downs in her life.“My parents were great role models. Watching how my father handled the ups and downs in his own career and in his life gave me the strength I needed in my own life,” she concluded.For show times and ticket information, call 215-572-7650.