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Country star Jennifer Nettles credits son for Broadway debut

February 2, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) — Country music star Jennifer Nettles finds herself in an unusual place for an artist with a twang — Broadway. And she credits her 2-year-old son for getting her there.

“Having a child allowed me to explore in a different way. It gave me different confidences,” the singer-songwriter said on the eve of making her Broadway debut Monday in the musical “Chicago” as Roxie Hart.

“It really prioritized things to be like, ‘OK, what do I want to do with my life? What do I want to show this beautiful person who now is in the world? How do I show him what it means to live?’”

Nettles, who onstage wears a tiny black slip that shows off long, lean legs, is fulfilling a childhood dream. Born and raised in Douglas, Georgia, she did community theater after being enchanted by musicals during a visit to New York to see “A Chorus Line.”

“It definitely made an impression on a 10-year-old,” said the Grammy Award winner and lead vocalist of the country group Sugarland who briefly considered a life in the theater instead of in country music. “My world was really opened.”

Set in the 1920s, “Chicago” is a scathing satire of how show business and the media make celebrities out of criminals. It has Bob Fosse-inspired choreography, skimpy outfits and killer songs such as “All That Jazz,” ″Cell Block Tango” and “Mr. Cellophane.”

“I’m nothing if not ambitious and sometimes a little bit crazy,” Nettles said. “What a treat for me as an artist to be able to get to sing and dance all day long. It’s a dream. I love it.”

For Nettles, who turned 40 in September and celebrated her son Magnus’ second birthday last month, it’s been a few years of change. With Sugarland on hiatus, Nettles released a solo CD “That Girl” that had a different ’70s country sound than the one Sugarland fans were used to.

“When one gets branded with a certain sound — especially where modern radio is concerned — then that is very much a box that you can easily get put into,” she said. “But I have other colors in my palate. I don’t just want to color with one. I love that one. I love it. But I have others.”

Broadway offered another way to show her skills, and she’s enjoying sharing the stage with some veterans, including Carly Hughes, who just left “Pippin” and starts in the show at the same time as Nettles as Roxie Hart’s nemesis, Velma.

“Jennifer’s been a beautiful surprise because she’s so hardworking. She brings all of herself to it, and from day one never given anything but — so that makes it easier for both of us,” Hughes said.

Nettles said she’s making her debut to challenge and excite herself, but she’s also doing it for Magnus. “I hope that he can be fearless and pursue his passions that way, too,” she said.

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Online:

http://www.chicagothemusical.com

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Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

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