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Jenifer Lewis headlines with St. Louis Symphony and her sister in the choir

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Posted: Thursday, February 2, 2012 12:09 am

“Girl, I’m so excited,” Jenifer Lewis exclaimed with her renowned sass and a smile you could feel through the phone. She’s always in rare form, but there was a different energy as she eagerly anticipated the next professional engagement on her calendar.

She has a headlining role in the 2012 Lift Every Voice concert, the annual Black History Month performance of The Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra and its IN UNISON Choir.

The superstar from Kinloch who honed her performance skills at Webster University recently sang at Carnegie Hall and performed the national anthem in her adopted town of Los Angeles when her hometown Cardinals beat the Dodgers.

But next Friday at Powell Hall will be special – extra special – because she will be sharing the stage with her sister Wilatriel Rice, who is a member of the IN UNISON Choir.

“She’s been singing all of her life also, and she’s kind of responsible for bringing me home,” Lewis said. “I love my sisters and brothers, so to go home and sing sharing the stage with my sister – and that she is a part of something that is so special to the community – is very special.”

It’s her family that leaves this celebrity star-struck.

“They are proud of me, but I am equally proud of them,” she said. “They are very prominent citizens who work within the community, and four have master’s degrees. My brothers and sisters are proud of me. My mama is proud of me, and they are all going to be there.”

With her family, friends, fans and symphony regulars in the prestigious Powell Hall, Lewis is going to add her special flavor. Much as she did in films like The Preacher’s Wife, Disney’s The Princess and the Frog and Broadway’s Hairspray.

“Formal … I don’t think so,” Lewis said. “I’m going to lift them up and make them laugh –I don’t leave a room unless I make somebody laugh.”

She has written some new material – including a comedy number that she will perform with the choir – just for the event.

“Mostly, I want to have fun and bring the humor to the journey of the African-American race,” Lewis said. “Yes, we have struggled, but you have to keep a sense of humor. I assure you laughter is the greatest healer – absolutely.”

For her, Lift Every Voice will be a love exchange.

“St. Louis – the entire city – was so generous and supportive to me as I was coming up and coming into my own as a performer,” Lewis said. “St. Louis is my home. Kinloch is my home. And I’m proud of the city where I come from. The city has grown immensely, and I’ve come a long way from when I started in St. Louis.”

After they see her on stage at home, fans can look forward to Lewis being back on the big screen later this spring in Think Like a Man, the feature film adaptation of Steve Harvey’s best-selling book. She co-stars with the likes of Michael Ealy, Chris Brown, Megan Good, Taraji P. Henson and Kevin Hart.

But right now, the pending blockbuster is in the back of her mind as she preps to return to the spotlight at home in a special way.

“I’m going to come home and show out now. Yes, honey, I am going to show out, because that’s what I know how to do – and people are expecting me to be myself.”

“This experience will be so special. I’m just so excited – excited, yes, that’s the word – excited. Did I tell you how excited I am?”

Lift Every Voice: Jenifer Lewis and The Saint Louis Symphony with the IN UNISON Chorus will take place on Friday, Feb. 10 at Powell Hall (718 N. Grand) at 7 p.m. For tickets and/or more information, visit">

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