Before each live performance, Stephanie Mills has a ritual.
She performs around her home for a few days, singing her tracks and tuning “into the hearts of the songs.”
“And then when I go on stage, I like to sing them just as I sang them when they were hits,” she explains. “If there’s anything I hate, it’s performers who decide that their hits have to be sung in a new way. The audience does not want that. They want the songs they love. That’s why they’re there.
“I also hate it when they do a mediocre job because they’ve sung the songs too many times,” she continues. “Or worse, the one thing I really hate is getting the audience to sing it for them. The audience does not show up to do the performance.”
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Mills guarantees that those who attend her show Saturday at Cache Creek will hear “Home,” “Never Knew Love Like This Before,” “The Power of Love,” and even a sampling of her disco period (songs such as “Put Your Body in It”) as they were originally sung.
Mills got her big break when she was a teenager, hitting Broadway as Dorothy in “The Wiz” in the mid-’70s. She became a star and a tabloid target at the same time because Michael Jackson loved the show, attended it many times, and the two ended up dating. Jackson wound up in the 1978 movie version playing the scarecrow. Mills, however, did not make the leap from stage to screen. Her role went to Diana Ross.
“It didn’t upset me not to get the movie,” she says. “I was young and such a huge fan of Miss Ross. I had my whole life ahead of me, and I’ve never been one to hold grudges.”
She said she would return to Broadway given the chance. Another lady she loves is Barbra Streisand and “I always thought they should make a Broadway show out of ‘Funny Lady,’ and I would love to do it. Pearl Bailey did ‘Hello, Dolly.’ ”
Mills has enjoyed many stages to her career – Broadway, disco, gospel, soul, funky – and even though all of them will be represented in her show, the emphasis will be on her more recent forays into R&B.
“I have a hot new Latino band who love R&B, and I’ve partnered with Hiram Hicks (president of Island Records Black Music Division) for this stage of my career. I don’t think I’m likely to move into hip-hop at this point. I’ll leave that to the youngsters.”
She has two albums in the works, one called “Breathless” which has been “set back,” and a double album of her live performance “which should come out soon.” There’s also a single “You’re My Favorite Song” which is set for release “in a couple of weeks.”
Although Mills has been playing a few Indian casinos on the East Coast, this is her first appearance in a Northern California. (8 p.m.; $55, $65, $75; www.cachecreek.com)