Dionne Warwick talks new musical coming to Atlanta, uplifting next generation of performers

‘Hits! The Musical’ debuts in Atlanta on March 28.
Singer Dionne Warwick performs at the God's Love We Deliver 2021 Golden Heart Awards at The Glasshouse, New York, on Oct. 18, 2021. She is the subject of the documentary “Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over.” (Nina Westervelt/The New York Times).

Singer Dionne Warwick performs at the God's Love We Deliver 2021 Golden Heart Awards at The Glasshouse, New York, on Oct. 18, 2021. She is the subject of the documentary “Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over.” (Nina Westervelt/The New York Times).

Dionne Warwick wastes no time when wanting to encourage young aspiring artists. That’s why the 82-year-old music icon and hitmaker instantly wanted to be involved in a musical showcasing a variety of young talent after being requested to watch a rehearsal of it in Florida.

And that’s also why, during an interview about the new show, she dodges most questions about her own career. She’s adamant about the young performers getting all of the shine.

“Once the rehearsal was over, I personally was blown away,” Warwick said via Zoom. “These kids are the most talented kids that I’ve seen in quite a long time. It’s a show full of hit records that we all are familiar with. Even if they weren’t born when those records were made, as they grew, they listened to them, and that speaks to their talent.”

The production in question? “Hits! The Musical.” Featuring a cast of 29 singers and dancers (whose ages range from 10-22), the show is billed as a celebration of this country’s top songs in pop music. Attendees can expect to see the cast perform songs like Gloria Gaynor’s disco classic “I Will Survive,” Whitney Houston’s record-breaking “I Will Always Love You,” and more. The musical kicked off its 50-city tour in Asheville, North Carolina, last month and will stop in Atlanta next Tuesday at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.

The Dionne Warwick-produced "Hits! The Musical" will come to Atlanta on March 28. Courtesy of Susan Jeffers

Credit: susan jefffers

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Credit: susan jefffers

“Hits! The Musical” is directed by Cynthia Nekvasil. Warwick, along with her son Damon Elliott, are among the show’s executive producers. Elliott is a Grammy-winning producer and Oscar nominee who has worked with the likes of Mya, Missy Elliott, Britney Spears, Beyoncé and more. He said this is his first time partnering with his mom to promote a musical.

“Mom and I really don’t endorse anything,” Elliott said. “This is the first time that we felt compelled to really stand behind something because it’s truly five decades of incredible music. It’s truly a family show. It’s something you can take your great-grandmother all the way down to your great-grandchild [to] and everyone can enjoy it equally.”

He said he was stunned by the variety of talent in the show, given his career of making hit songs for popular artists.

“These kids are seasoned,” he said. “Their energy level is amazing, and I’ve seen a lot of talent. They’re truly at the top of their game, and they deserve every accolade that they’re going to receive, they deserve every standing ovation. My mom and I were jumping out of our seats, literally.”

Grammy-winning producer Damon Elliott, along with his mom Dionne Warwick, will executive produce a new musical that's headed to Atlanta on March 28. Courtesy of "Hits! The Musical"

Credit: Hits The Musical

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Credit: Hits The Musical

For Warwick, who started her legendary career — spanning more than five decades — as a teen singing in a gospel group with family members, co-signing a wide array of young artists in a musical feels both natural and mandatory.

That’s especially true, considering Warwick was a chart-topping artist when most of the songs performed in the musical were originally released.

“You’re talking about music that I was a part of,” she said. “I was a part of every single one of those eras, but you have kids who are playing instruments, children who are absolutely incredible dancers and singing — it’s above and beyond to witness.”

Warwick is continuing to introduce herself to younger generations via her popular, witty tweets to more than half a million followers. Her documentary “Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over,” which chronicles her artistry and impact, premiered on CNN earlier this year (it’s also available for streaming on HBO Max). She’s also working on new music, noting that she plans to release an album titled “Songs of Inspiration” soon. Last month, she teamed with Dolly Parton for a duet titled “Peace Like a River.”

“She’s a wonderful lady,” Warwick said of Parton. “(She’s) very giving, very loving and funny. We were laughing the entire time, and the music is really special.”

But for now, her focus is on making sure people see the young talent in the musical.

“Each one of these children have honed their craft and they’re showing you ‘I know what I’m doing, and I can do it well,’ and that deserves to be seen.”


“Hits! The Musical”

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 28. $26-$86. Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, 2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Atlanta. 770-916-2852, cobbenergycentre.com.