For singer/entertainer Martha Wash, performing in "WaistWatchers The Musical!" has taken her a bit out of her comfort zone.
"It's been very interesting for me. This is my first time doing a musical like this," said Wash, during a recent telephone interview.
Wash is playing one of the characters in the Chicago premiere of the popular production, "WaistWatchers The Musical!" which continues in an open run at Royal George Theatre in Chicago. Wash is scheduled to appear in the role through Oct. 28.
"WaistWatchers The Musical!" produced by Dana Matthow, deals with the strength of female friendship, the challenges of self-acceptance and the growth of relationships all within the context of their relationships to food, fitness, body image and other stereotypes.
"I'm not a dancer," Wash said, adding the fast pace and fitness-inspired choreography in the show is a definite challenge. But it's a challenge she's up for.
After all, Wash helped many music lovers get up and dance while she was one half of The Weather Girls and a backup vocalist for singer Sylvester's disco songs while a member of Two Tons O' Fun. Wash brought the hit, "It's Raining Men," to the charts, and she's also the voice heard in the '90s dance anthem, "Everybody Dance Now" by C+C Music Factory.
"This is another step in my branching out (with my career)," Wash said, adding she's interested in doing more theatrical productions.
Wash laughed that she's "still standing" after enduring the vigorous rehearsals for the show. The Chicago production began previews on Sept. 13.
"For all the women out there who may be of a particular age or a 'seasoned' citizen, there's still hope," Wash said.
The singer said the show is about "four different women" who talk about their lives, losses, loves and struggles.
"When you listen to them talk, you'll think 'I know someone like that particular character,' " she said.
Wash said she sees the message of the show as being: "Accept who you are. Make the changes you want to make, if any. And don't listen to the outside world that wants to shame you."
She said the show promotes the idea of self-acceptance leading to the feeling of being OK with who you are.
"It's all done in laughter and fun," Wash said. And who knows, audiences may also hear a Wash musical anthem or two in the show. The singer playfully kept mum on that information.
The performer said, these days, people are realizing that this is a time in which "women have stepped out and stepped up."
Wash knows the importance of stepping up. She was a big inspiration in helping to get legislation passed for putting mandatory vocal credits on CDs and music videos. At the time Wash did her work on "Everybody Dance Now" she wasn't properly credited for her vocals on the smash hit.
For Wash, it's still a great honor to be known as one of the disco queens of the dance club era.
"It was great orchestrated music," she said, adding that you just don't hear music like that anymore. "They used 'live' instruments in those songs."
Wash said she's working on a new album and also often does her own concert dates throughout the year.