When Jazz Had the Blues Review - Jazz, Big Bands, Great Music

When Jazz Had the Blues -  Jazz, Big Bands, Great Music

Book by Carole Eglash-Kosoff

Directed by John Henry Davis

Musical Direction by Rahn Coleman

Choreography by Cassie Crump

Produced by Leigh Fortier

 

LIMITED ENGAGEMENT AT THE MATRIX THEATRE IN WEST HOLLYWOOD!

 

1930s Harlem - The only thing harder than being black, gay and brilliant, was being in love... CEK Productions presents the World Premiere of When Jazz Had the Blues running through Sunday, December 18 at the Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave. in West Hollywood. 

 

It was the era of jazz, big bands, and the greatest music ever written.  In this searing new musical, When Jazz Had the Blues centers on the lives of musical genius, Billy Strayhorn, and his uneasy relationships with Lena Horne and Duke Ellington, as well as  Billy’s lover, Aaron Bridgers.  Set against a time of racism, homophobia, and World War II, When Jazz Had the Blues follows us around Manhattan and the nightclubs of Harlem.  We follow their lives through a musical songbook that sustained us during the worst of the Great Depression and the Second World War, a war in which blacks and whites served separately just as they weren’t allowed to share the same bandstand.  A six piece orchestra, four member dance ensemble, and eight outstanding actors bring the Stage Raw ”Top Ten” play to life.

 

The cast of When Jazz Had the Blues features Frank Lawson as Billy Strayhorn (Hudson; Recorded In Hollywood, Celebration; Songs from an Unmade Bed), Michole Briana White (Off Broadway; Jitney, Goodman; Radio Golf) as Lena Horne, Gilbert Glenn Brown (Ebony Repertory Theatre Company; Gospel at Colonus, Fountain Theatre; Live from Death Row… The Scottsboro Boys) as Aaron Bridger, Boise Holmes (Kiss the Girls with Morgan Freeman, Chicago Fire) as “The Duke,” Katherine Washington as Trixie, and in the ensemble Brad Light, Michael Covert, Chris Smith, and Darian Archie, and Keverlie Herron.

 

Gil Kaan (Broadwayworld) wrote “Frank Lawson inhabits his role of the musical genius Billy, plus this man can SING!... Boise Holmes commands as the awe-deserving Duke Ellington... Scene-stealer Michole Briana White IS Lena Horne!... Gilbert Glenn Brown brings strength and passion to his role of Billy's lover Aaron Bridgers.

 

Dee Dee McNeil (Musicalmemoirs) said “The casting was superb and so was the music... Ms. White has a forceful and dynamic singing style and brought the house down with her renditions of “When the Sun Comes Out” and “Lady Is a Tramp.” 

 

Also from Broadwayworld:  "John Henry Davis most deftly directs his wonderful cast at a smooth and steady pace through the emotional highs and lows of a racially charged era (that unfortunately, doesn't seem so long ago). This must-see gots lotza swing: the remarkable musicians (led by musical director Rahn Coleman on keyboard) all get their opportunities to shine in the beginning overture - Quentin Dennard on drums, Michael Saucier on bass, Woodard on saxophone, Eric Butler on trumpet, and Stephan Terry, also on keyboard.  Compliments to Sound Designer Christopher Moscatiello for allowing the exquisitely sung lyrics to always be heard over the tuneful instruments.  Very clever to have the piano that Lawson and Brown don't actually play, wired for sound.”

 

The When Jazz Had the Blues Design Team features Set Design by Se Hyun Oh, Lighting Design by Leigh Allen, Sound Design by Christopher Moscatiello, Costumes by Michael Mullen, Hair and Makeup by Brian J. Batista, and Casting by Michael Donovan, CSA.  The Production Stage Manager is Debbie Blount.  When Jazz Had the Blues is produced by Leigh Fortier.

 

SCHEDULE AND PRICING

Runs through Sunday, December 18 at the Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave. in West Hollywood.  Friday and Saturday performances are at 8:00pm; Sundays at 3:00pm.  Ticket prices are $34.00 for all performances.  Tickets are available online at the Plays 411 jazz/blues website or by calling 323-960-7776.   

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