Any Madea fans out there? If yes, you know that Tyler Perry has ended his beloved character, Mabel “Madea” Simmons, 25-year run. Tyler Perry and his Simmons family cast, along with our very own Ronnie Garrett, hit the road January – May for “Madea’s Farewell Play Tour.” This show marks Tyler’s 21st stage play. Ronnie Garrett, who is band leader of Simply Irresistible, is renowned for his work at Tyler Perry’s music director. In this role, he composes songs for Tyler’s movies and plays and received a 2007 Grammy nomination (Best Duo or Group) for Tyler Perry’s Soundtrack. Ronnie recently shared his insights from the road.
Q. What was “Madea’s Farewell Play Tour” all about?
A. “The purpose of the performance tour was to travel the country and give thanks to Madea fans for all the love and support over the last 25 years. The show was all about making people happy. There was singing, dancing and laughter.”
Q. How many shows did you perform, and what was your role?
A. “We performed at 131 sold-out shows beginning in mid-January in Oakland, California, and just finished in late May in Atlanta, Georgia. We performed in major markets and some secondary markets as well. I was the music director of the show. Many of the actors sing and my job was to make sure the music was right. I also played bass in the band.”
Q. How long have you worked with Tyler?
A. “We have worked together 16 years. I was recommended to him by a close friend, actress Chandra Currelli. At the time, Tyler was looking for a musician with music business experience. He wanted to raise the presentation level of his music in his shows, and I got the call.”
Q. How did you juggle working with Simply Irresistible and performing on this tour?
A. “Lots of facetime and lots of email. My wife, Linda Garrett, who advances the Simply Irresistible shows, helped me out. She became the point person for our shows and ran everything while I was gone. I did play three Simply Irresistible shows, including our performance at the Super Bowl in January, but had to focus on the Madea tour exclusively for the past few months, but now I am back!”
Q. What did you learn from working with Tyler?
A. “I was impressed by the importance Tyler places on customers. He really believes it is all about the customer, listening to them and catering to them. He cares about the people for which he is performing, and that raises the level of expectations for the people that work for him. He expects excellence so, in turn, he can deliver excellence. I share this philosophy – at Simply Irresistible, our customers are everything and deserve the best. One learning that I will take with me is how he handles success. Tyler is a dear friend of mine, and we have spent a lot of time off set together. Being exposed to him and seeing his success has exposed me to how it’s done…I have a birds-eye view on how success is done well and with integrity at a high level.”
Q. Anything interesting you can share that happened during this tour?
A. “It’s always kind of cool when celebrities come to your show and hang with us backstage. Without name dropping too much, celebs that stopped by included Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Whoopi Goldberg, Gayle King, Cicely Tyson, Vin Diesel, Robin Roberts and Ellen DeGeneres among others.”
Q. Any challenges from your tour?
A. “When you are on the road for as long as we were with a crew as large as ours – we had 97 people, 9 busses and 11 trucks — the biggest challenge is to stay healthy and be consistently good every day.”
Q. What were your favorite stops along the way?
A. “Definitely, Durham, NC, because that’s where I am from. It was a highlight to pass by the Durham Performing Arts Center because as a kid, I would walk past that spot (of course the Performing Arts Center wasn’t built yet) every day on my way to school. Another highlight was our performances at Radio City Music Hall in NYC. We sold out every day, playing six shows in five days for 30,000 people. It was incredible!”
Scenes from the Road