Loved by millions, despised by some, director/actor Tyler Perry is making his way to the First Coast.
His latest stage play opens Tuesday night at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, and Perry says it's big--almost three times the size of his last live production.
"Madea's Big Happy Family is truly the biggest show I've ever done. I am traveling with 70 people, nine 18-wheelers, eight buses, not to mention the lights, sound, the video components, and the special effects," remarks Perry in a recent statement.
This is Perry's first tour since the death of his mother, Willie Maxine Perry in December. The entertainer credits her as his inspiration for his most-recognized character "Madea", and adds that this show is providing him with a much-needed catharsis as he deals with his loss.
"Trust me when I tell you, I need to laugh and make you laugh even harder." In another statement he continues, "every time I leave the stage I realize that the audience, you guys, has helped to ease my grief a little. I just thank you so much...you have no idea what you are doing for me."
Born Emmitt Perry, Jr. in New Orleans, he legally changed his name in an effort to distance himself from his father. After a childhood he describes as physically and mentally abusive, mostly at the hands of Perry, Sr., Tyler turned to writing. He says he got the idea from watching an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show. Perry says the talk show host, with her own history of overcoming familial abuse, is another inspirational source.
With messages always deeply rooted in Gospel teachings, Perry, who learned to regularly attend church with his mother, has turned an early life of turmoil into nine-figure empire.
After thirteen stage plays, a best-selling book entitled Don't Make a Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings, eight--soon to be nine--major motion pictures, and two successful network television situation comedies, Perry now enjoys a top 30 earnings ranking on Forbes' Celebrity 100 list.
Once holding down a job as a bill collector, Perry also was once homeless. He says his own personal financial setbacks, and lessons learned from the Gospel have inspired him to share his wealth with needy people today.
In addition to providing brand new jobs to support his studio, Perry participates in countless charitable efforts including Hurricane Katrina, homebuilding for TV show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and more. Recently, Perry joined the earthquake relief efforts in the Republic of Haiti. Perry reports that his fan family has donated more than $100,000. With the country's extensive loss, the entertainer and philanthropist says he wants to do more. "I have raised my personal donation from $250,000 to $1 million."
Next week, Perry brings his colorful cast and the gift of laughter to Northeast Florida. He guarantees along with the laughs, patrons will receive positive and powerful spiritually-driven messages. "I promise you won't be disappointed."
For ticket and showtime information, visit Ticketmaster online.