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Chico art collective to celebrate Amy Winehouse’s music, life

From left to right: Alyssa Jade, Ilani Welsh-Johnson, Sierra Hall will be performing as part of the Amy Winehouse tribute.
Belladonna Collective
From left to right: Alyssa Jade, Ilani Welsh-Johnson, Sierra Hall will be performing as part of the Amy Winehouse tribute.

In the realm of music legacies gone too soon, Amy Winehouse stands a towering figure. Belladonna Collective, a Chico-based media production company, has taken on the mighty task of showing audiences why her talent was such a tremendous loss.

Amy, Amy, Amy! An Amy Winehouse Revue” will take stage at Chico's El Rey Theater in April. It will showcase 14 different performers and be accompanied by a six-piece jazz band led by Webster Moore and Olivia Cerullo.

In honor of Winehouse's legacy, Belladonna Collective has created an immersive production that hopes to highlight Winehouse's influence and capture the essence of her dynamic voice.

“The goal of the show is for everyone to see a little bit of Amy in themselves, and truly take a ride through the human experience that fully includes struggling with love and addiction and ourselves,” Director Kendra Jean said. “We can all relate to her music and energy in some way or another.”

Belladonna Collective was formed in 2023 with the goal of producing immersive experiences that empower artists and showcase talent. This is their first show.

Capturing Amy Winehouse’s legacy

“We really all dive into her emotive repertoire. You'll see heartbreak, her independent side, struggling with vices, and her silliness,” Jean said. “It's all really played out right in front of you on stage.”

Winehouse's road to success was turbulent and her work was often overshadowed by her substance abuse. Her Grammy Award-winning album “Back to Black” catapulted her to worldwide stardom and helped popularize a certain style of modern soul.

The show hopes to display that under that beehive hairdo, dark black eyeliner, and 1960s fashion, Amy’s voice was unparalleled and her pen was unmatched.

“Ultimately, Amy is no longer with us, but her music is very much still alive and relevant,” Jean said. “If even just for a weekend, we can draw some acknowledgment to the influence she has had on music.”

The show's fruition

Sisters and local musicians Ilani Welsh-Johnson and Marina Welsh-Johnson, who are also performing, came up with the idea for the show and approached Belladonna Collective.

“Over this last summer, I got really obsessed with Amy Winehouse, specifically the one song I was listening to ‘Amy, Amy, Amy’, and I kept thinking, wow, this would be such a good song to sing and perform on stage,” Ilani Welsh-Johnson said. “It would just be such a good song to dance and sing to.”

Angel Huracha
From left to right: Webster Moore, Ilani Welsh-Johnson, Sophia Simmons, Olivia Cerullo at rehearsal in Chico, Calif. on March 20, 2024.

The team has been studying Winehouse’s career for several months to be able to respectfully embody her work.

“The delivery throughout the show and the transitions that everybody has planned out, I think really highlight what she went through as an artist, and what her intention was as an artist from start to finish,” Marina Welsh-Johnson said. “I think that by the end, everybody will have a deeper understanding of what sort of a human being she was.”

By showcasing Amy as an artist, rather than focusing on her addiction, the collective hopes to highlight her ability to connect with her audience through songwriting.

“This production feels really good to be a part of because every time they come to us with a new number and tell us the layout plan, it's just so creative and dynamic, and it feels so good to watch it happen. Your eyes and your ears are so pleased,” Welsh-Johnson said.

Capturing Amy’s complexity

Amy Winehouse passed away at 27, but her music feels more alive than ever. Belladonna's production unfolds a complete portrait of the complex singer's troubled life on stage.

Alyssa Jade is one of those performers and says she feels the pressure of stepping into Winehouse's shoes.

“There's a lot of facets that come with Amy Winehouse, so we're really trying to respect all facets of Amy, each of us is kind of symbolizing a facet of Amy's character,” she said.

Jade will be performing what is perhaps Winehouse’s most famous song, "Rehab." The song was inspired by a real-life incident in which someone close to the singer suggested she seek residential rehabilitation for her struggles with addiction.

From left to right: Alyssa Jade, Chriscielle Birr, Kaila Davidson, Stevie Saffen, Kendra Jean, and Em Einspar choreographing "Rehab" in Chico, Calif. on March 14, 2024.
Angel Huracha
From left to right: Alyssa Jade, Chriscielle Birr, Kaila Davidson, Stevie Saffen, Kendra Jean, and Em Einspar choreographing "Rehab" in Chico, Calif. on March 14, 2024.

"I'm in a room with a lot of talented, incredible musicians, actors, and dancers that I've looked up to in the Chico community,” Jade said. “I'm singing the song that Amy won record of the year for the Grammys, so there's a lot riding on that. I want to make this the best that I can make it."

Winehouse's road to success was turbulent and her struggles with addiction often loomed over her musical achievements.

The show’s Vocal Music Director Olivia Cerullo hopes that Winehouse is remembered for the powerhouse voice that challenges women to reach for the deepest parts of their souls without a care for what other people think.

"People will realize they know a lot more Amy Winehouse songs than they think they do when they see this production," Cerullo said. "I also hope they take away that this production is powered by this woman-led creative group here in Chico, and we don't have a lot of that here right now in the theater and music community.”

Limited tickets are now on sale for the two performances. Show performances are on April 5-6 at 7:30 p.m. at El Rey Theater at 230 W. 2nd St. in Chico.

Angel Huracha has been a part of the journalism field since 2006 and has covered a range of topics. He is a graduate of Chico State with a Bachelor's degree in news-editorial and public relations with a minor in English.