The Jazz Makers Make Their Way To Broadway

Over the past week, two select groups of media and Broadway talent were treated to an invitation-only workshop hosted at Ripley-Grier Studios in Midtown Manhattan that showcased an amazing revival headed toward the Great White Way through the producing team of Paul Lambert and Jonas Neilson.

The producing team of Jonas Neilson and Paul Lambert.

Lambert and Neilson have a dual approach as they each represent different aspects of the industry as well as a cross-generational appeal and focus. These men are changing the face of Broadway with two upcoming productions. The first, First Wives Club, based on the book by the late Olivia Goldsmith, initially delighted the world through the comedic talents of Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton as they used the bonds they cemented as college friends to conquer the agony that had become middle life with all of its competitions and complications. This widely successful screen adaptation is being readied for the Broadway stage and is creating a fast track buzz that has insiders breathless with anticipation.

The incomparable Brian Holland, Lemont Dozier and Eddie Holland of Motown Fame.

The music for First Wives Club is set with eight tunes already written by the incomparable team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland. This award-winning writing team might not be on your memory list but their million selling tunes are probably seared into your brain. Think Motown and you can probably name more than one Holland Dozier Holland song. The tunes will get you jumpin' and the night that you take in the show, First Wives Club, will be remembered and talked about.

On board for the First Wives Club is noted writer and author, Rupert Holmes.

On board for First Wives Club are noted award winning Hollywood writer and author Rupert Holmes and internationally honored Director Francesca Zambello.  The writing resume of Rupert Holmes reads like a Who's Who of stage, film, television,  and songwriting projects and awards. He has worked with the great Babs: The immortal Barbara Streisand on the film "A Star is Born." As a playwright his work has set new box office records and been nominated for Broadway's highest industry honor, the Tony.

First Wives Club Director Francesca Zambello is well-known throughout the international theater community for her innovation and dedication to adding range and depth to the work and creating newness that appeals to a wider audience. She has received the theater's highest honor by the governments of France, Russia, Germany, Japan and Australia for her achievements. She has received three Olivier Awards from the London Society of Theaters and two Evening Standard Awards for Best Musical and Best Opera.

Internationally honored Director Francesca Zambello is slated to direct First Wives Club for a 2008 opening.

The second production, Bricktop, even in these early stages has created a charge of electricity as the word has spread regarding the love project of Mr. Lambert who admitted falling in the love with the book by the late James Haskins and his wife, Kathleen Benson. The synopsis of the book, that is still available in print, is the story of a candid, high-spirited, scrappy redhead colored girl from West Virginia and Chicago who combines her eye for talent with an American brashness and European sophistication to become the toast of two continents: That woman is, of course, Bricktop.

"When you think of great musicals you think of strong women whether it be Dolly, Mame, or Maria and with Bricktop you have that," stated entertainment attorney Jonathon Herzog, a longtime friend and associate of Mr. Lambert and one of the invited guest who toasted the upcoming production. "With a name like Ada Beatrice Queen Victoria Louise Virginia Smith," he added,   "How could it not be interesting?" The story of this female in African American history, who was endearingly given the name Bricktop due to a face full of freckles and red hair, and her relationships with the noted Who's Who of the time is one the jazz world and the rest of us cannot afford to miss.

The great Jelly Roll Morton, 3rd from the left, with Ada "Bricktop" Smith to his left.

She was a light skinned African American woman with ambition in a time when all that was available was colored woman's work. The boundaries of home were not big enough for her dreams. She had to expand the borders of her world and lucky for us she found a place: Paris 1924.

She was not the only disenfranchised African American that made their way to Paris. African American writer Langston Hughes was a dishwasher at Chez Bricktop.  Where ever she went legends followed. Paris was a haven for Harlem Jazz musicians and European's elite.  The smoky sounds of sultry, midnight hour jazz reminiscent of late night Paris 1924 are going to steam up the bulbs on Broadway.

To say that this era was an inspirational time is mild: It has been noted that Ernest Hemingway wrote his best work from Paris in the 1920's and he, like the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Tallulah Bankhead, Legs Diamond and Mabel Mercer were all frequenters of Chez Bricktop's.  She, the Queen of the Cafe Society, was as much a draw as the creative spirit that held no boundaries.

The Harlem Renaissance finds a unshackled home in Paris, 1924.

The 20's in Europe was a time for celebration. Creativity in its purest sense is boundless. It brought writers with scandalous imaginations and music that floated all the way back to Harlem with invitation. Creativity has always opened the door to new ideas, free thinkers and bohemian thoughts, whispered first then spoken into movements. Disenfranchised souls thirsty for fellow free thinkers found their way to that place. The Jazz Greats always looking for a good jam met up with writers who looked through different eyes and saw a kaleidoscope of thoughts, words and ideas all in color.

This, ladies and gentlemen, along with tux, tails and top hats and the sultry sounds of midnight hour hot jazz with ladies dressed to the nines and a time that spawned a generation of greats is on its way to the Great White Way, brought to you by the producing team of Paul Lambert and Jonas Neilson.

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