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Minnesota musician Stokley “kills it” in lead role of musical “Super Freak: A Rick James Story,” now touring the nation

Audiences across the country are applauding popular Minnesota musician Stokley Williams as he steps into a new artistic incarnation.

 

Now known just as Stokley, the songwriter, producer, drummer and lead singer of Mint Condition is touring as the lead character in the jukebox musical Super Freak: A Rick James Story.

 

“I used to do Rick James. Now I have the braids and the boots. I want to embody his spirit and then disappear,” Stokley said. “He contributed to the music industry and the culture with the punk funk that he created. In his life there are funny moments and some of what he goes through is horrible.”

 

Another actor plays James in his youth; Stokley steps into the role as James launched his storied musical career while in his twenties. The musical includes castmates playing real life musicians that James worked with: Lionel Richie, Nick Ashford, Neil Young Stevie Wonder, M.C. Hammer, Diana Ross, Prince and MC Hammer.

 

“His is a story that needs to be told and I’m trying to capture his essence,” said Stokley, reached on the road in Norfolk, Va. “There are many personalities within him and we show the ups and downs, the light and dark, the vices and successes.”

 

The national tour of “Super Freak: A Rick James Story,” began in Houston in March and is traveling across the nation at theaters in multiple cities including Chicago, Memphis, New Orleans and Los Angeles. The tour closes in Atlanta on June 16. The show does not stop in the Twin Cities; the closest stage where the show will appear is in St Louis.

 

In the publication DCTheaterArts based in Washington, DC, critic William Powell gave Stokley a rave review, writing that he “killed it.” Powell called Stokley’s acting, singing and the performance of a Rick James medley in a mini-concert “powerful,” “phenomenal,” and “top-notch.”

 

Lindy and Anton Vincent, a couple who lived in the Twin Cities for many years and now live in New Jersey, caught the show at a Brooklyn, NY matinee.

 

“When I go to a show, I’m super-picky, hard to impress. If I’m giving you my time, energy and money, you have to bring it—and Stokley was amazing,” said Lindy.  “I thought it was Rick James on stage. You could tell he did his homework. The costumes, the wigs, the mannerisms, he had it all.”

 

“I’m a good mimic, so I’m told,” said Stokley. “Being a drummer, I’m sensitive to timing. With this opportunity, I went into research mode. I went back and looked at the music, any  concert footage I could find, talking to people who knew him to put it together.”

 

Growing up in St Paul, Stokley performed in community theater productions and onstage at the Penumbra Theater in his youth. Although it was his career as a musician that took off, he never stopped thinking about the theater.

 

“I’m a student of humanity. I always loved the process of acting; it never left me,” he said. “I’ve done some film, TV cameos and I’ve been quietly auditioning and meeting casting agents. This has always been the plan. I’m exercising my artist’s mind.”

 

The real life Rick James died at 56—that’s the exact age that Stokley is right now.

 

“I say, this was supposed to happen. I am picking up where he left off,” he said. “We all do the best we can with every moment and keep moving.”

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