These days, NeNe Leakes is taking some time away from Atlanta to visit Chicago. The Real Housewives of Atlanta alum officially kicked off her four-week run in the iconic Broadway musical as the sassy Matron Mama Morton on November 23. And while the housewives featured in Chicago usually resort to shedding blood instead of throwing shade when it comes to getting revenge, when The Daily Dish caught up with NeNe, we just had to know how Mama might fare in the world of the 'Wives. So, what would be her tagline? "'Don't mess with me, honey, but I got a big heart,'" NeNe said, before further explaining her on stage alter ego. "Mama Morton does have a big heart, but she's really not the one to be messed with, though. But she'll definitely make a lot of connections for you — as long as you give her 50 or 100 bucks."
NeNe first got the call to appear in Chicago last year, but had already signed up to play the Wicked Stepmother in Cinderella. When she was presented with another chance at the role, she jumped, and put in the work needed to get it right. To prepare for playing the singing jailbird, NeNe sought out the advice of her pal, Tamar Braxton. "Tamar and I definitely talked about me being Mama Morton [like], 'Should I do it? Should I not do it?' [because the role] was going to [have] a solo, then there was going to be a duet and things like that," she said. "We talked about [it]. Then I went and I got a couple little [singing] lessons. I went and I've sung before in church, but it's never been my first love. It can be my first love [now] because I feel like I can pull it off. And I feel like there's a lot of people out here singing that shouldn't, so if they can do [it], I feel like I can get on up here and do a little something."
After preparing to sing in front of a live audience night after night, NeNe turned to wardrobe — specifically, ensuring she wouldn't be wearing one of the barely-there costumes the show is so famous for. "I thought [the suit I wear] was absolutely fine. I was really concerned that was I going to be one of those girls with those skimpy, little panties on that's dancing up there," she said. "I was like, 'Let me make sure Mama Morton ain't in her panties, honey.' I feel totally comfortable in my suit."
To celebrate her big debut, husband Gregg Leakes pulled out all the stops with a party following her debut performance. "Gregg always get his girls roses, so he got me my roses and we had a big celebration last night," she explained. "A big dinner party afterwards that was quite costly with everyone drinking. It was open bar and open food, lots of eating and drinking on us. It was actually fun to do [but] you know the next morning you look at the bill and go, 'Wait a minute? We ain't that friendly.' But we actually had a good time."
NeNe wraps up her run in Chicago on December 20.