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'Little Girl Blue: A Nina Simone Musical' sheds light on civil rights trailblazer

Liaona Michelle says the musical is a passion project, wanting to tell the story behind the iconic singer.

EAST HADDAM, Conn. — Laiona Michelle isn’t just acting when she takes on the role of Nina Simone – she’s reflecting.

Her mom, a music teacher, introduced her to the unmistakable style of Simone – known as the "High Priestess of Soul" – who first covered jazz classics in the 50s, before turning to heavier topics. Simone became a voice in the Civil Rights Movement and Michelle identified with her immediately.

“This is a passion project for me. I love Nina, let's just start there. I grew up listening to her," said Michelle.

"Little Girl Blue" was the name of Simone’s first album, and now it’s the Springfield, Massachusetts native’s passion project

“I was that little girl blue – and so was Nina," Michelle explained. "She was talking about Black lives matter then – and it wasn’t a thing. She’s very brave. It wasn’t a thing it was her life. Yes, something she didn’t sign up for. She wanted to be a classical pianist but became a trailblazer.”

Now, fans are listening to Michelle perform a show she’s been developing for years, on the banks of the Connecticut River at the Goodspeed Opera House.

Could this Little Girl Blue bring Nina Simone to Broadway? It’s a dream for Michelle, but for the true purpose of the story, she wants people to hear the story behind the iconic singer, who died in 2003

Little Girl Blue: The Nina Simone Musical runs at the Goodspeed Opera House through Aug 29.

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