- CHARITY BENEFIT
Multiple award-winning writer/director Paul Levine produced a workshop of Big Maybelle: Soul of the Blues in association with the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts and Amas Musical Theatre. The results caused an uproar of interest and electrifying word-of-mouth. Lillias White’s performance was heralded by multiple standing ovations by the theatrical community. American Express immediately came aboard in an unprecedented Off-Broadway marketing-based partnership.
On August 11th the Bay Street Theatre, Academy Award/multiple Tony Award winning Marty Richards and The Gilead Company will present the World Premiere of the white-hot new musical for a limited run at the historic Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor where it will run through September 2nd. Big Maybelle: Soul of the Blues is aiming for a Winter 2013 New York City Opening.
Soul of the Blues features 31 iconic Blues songs from the last five decades including ‘Candy,’ Big Maybelle’s 1956 hit single which received the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1999 as well as songs from her acclaimed album, The Okeh Sessions which won the 1983 W. C. Handy Award for Vintage/Reissue Album of the Year.
Michael Mitchell will musically Director. Orchestrations are by Musical Supervisor Kenny Seymour. The designs are by John Arnone (Scenery), Paul Miller (Lighting), Emilio Sosa (Costumes), Tony Melfa (Sound), Michael Clark (Projections) and Kathy Fabian (Props). Brian Meister is the Production Stage Manager. The band includes Eric Brown (Drums), Kiku Collins (Trumpet), George Farmer (Bass), Jason Marshall (Saxaphone) and Kevin Ramessan (Guitar). Eric Brown and Kiku Collins are also featured in the roles of ‘Sully’ and ‘Loretta.’
Set in a Cleveland, Ohio psychiatric hospital/rehab facility where she spent the last years of her life, Big Maybelle tells the audience the story of her breathtaking rise to world renown against odds almost impossible to believe. The exchange between Maybelle and the audience is spellbinding.
She was the essence of the original American art form. Her hypnotic phrasing of the most enthralling Blues songs ever written came to her naturally; it was her life and she had the emotional scars to prove it.
Mabel Louise Smith was born in Jackson, Tennessee on May 1, 1924, the grandchild of a slave and daughter of a father that deserted the family days after her birth. Forty-five years later she was booked at Carnegie Hall and is included among Blues greats W.C. Handy, Charlie Barton, Papa Charlie Jackson, Ledbelly, Blind Lemon, Ma Rainey, Robert Johnson and Bessie Smith.
There was no one like her.
She once opened for Billie Holliday, who stormed out the back door of the theatre while the audience was giving Big Maybelle her fourth standing-ovation-curtain-call.
While overcoming the cruel prejudice against her weight and her race she also overcame a substance abuse problem and a series of insincere men who realized she was more generous with her money when she was in love.
And while she fought off the racism, the enablers and the consequences of her weight , she recorded 21 albums for the King, Okeh, Savoy, Epic, Brunswick, Scepter, Chess, Port, Rojac and Encore Record Labels.
Her first performance at the Apollo was legendary. She was unanimously acclaimed after both her appearances at the Newport Jazz Festival. She constantly sold out Birdland and The Baby Grand in New York. She discovered John Coltrane and immediately put him in her band. And gave Jerry Lee Lewis his biggest earth-shattering hit when he heard her recording of ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On’ produced by Quincy Jones.
She died alone in a rehab facility in Cleveland, Ohio in a diabetic coma on January 23, 1972.
She was 47 years old.
She had been singing since the Sanctified Church Choir back in Jackson, Tennessee.
We’re still listening to her today.
This musical journey features the following songs:Up Above My Head, Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On, Oh Lord What Are You Doing To Me, Comin’ Home Baby, Blues Early Early, Say It Isn’t So, One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show, A Good Man Is Hard To Find, Until The Real Thing Comes Along, Hair Dressin’ Women, Gabbin’ Blues, Mean To Me, If I Could Be With You, What A Difference A Day Makes, That’s A Pretty Good Love. There, I’ve Said It Again, I’ve Got A Feeling I’m Falling, What More Can A Woman Do, The Masquerade Is Over, Rockhouse, Same Old Story, You’ll Be Sorry, Candy, I Cried For You, It’s A Man’s World, Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying, Gloomy Sunday, I Ain’t Got Nobody, Pitiful, Maybelle’s Blues, Oh Lord What Are You Doin’ To Me, My Mother’s Eyes, Goodnight, Wherever You Are, I’m Getting’ Along Alright
Lillias White received Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for her performance as Sonia in Cy Coleman’s “The Life.” Most recently, she received a Tony nomination for her role as Funmilayo in “Fela.” Other Broadway credits include: “Barnum,” “Dreamgirls,” “Cats,” “Once on This Island,” “How to Succeed…” and “Chicago.” Lillias received an Emmy Award for her performance on “Sesame Street,” and TV roles also include “PBS’ Performance at the White House,” Great Performance’s “South Pacific,” Disney’s “Hercules,” “Law and Order: SVU,” “NYPD Blue,” and “The Jury.” Film roles include “Pieces of April,” “Game 6,” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Her Off-Broadway credits include: William Finn’s “Romance in Hard Times” (Obie Award), “Crowns” (AUDELCO Award), “The Best is Yet to Come” (2009 L.A. Ovation Award nomination) and as Dinah Washington in “Dinah Was.” Her recordings include “Dreamgirls in Concert” and “From Brooklyn to Broadway.”
Paul Levine received Best Director and Production of the Year honors from Daily Variety, Drama-logue and the L.A. Weekly for his Los Angeles premiere productions of Lanford Wilson’s “Balm in Gilead,” Nell Dunn’s “Steaming” and Claire Luckham’s “Tarzana Tanzi.” He was nominated for an L.A. Drama Critics Circle Best Director Award for “Balm in Gilead.” His production of Max Frisch’s “The Firebugs” in Frankfurt, Germany won the Best English Language Production award. His films have been distributed by MGM/UA, HBO, Columbia/Tri-Star, Sony and 20th Century Fox. Paul received a BA in history at Colgate University and worked as a reporter in the arts for the Los Angeles Times. His theatrical training was at the Royal Shakespeare Company in London, with Stella Adler at the Stella Adler Conservatory in New York, with Harold Clurman in his last New York Master Class and with Jose Quintero in Los Angeles.
Martin Richards heads the film and theatrical production company, The Producer Circle, which he founded with his late wife Mary Lea Johnson in 1976. Their first musical, On The Twentieth Century, directed by Harold Prince, which won five Tony Awards. Their next, Sweeney Todd, also directed by Mr. Prince, won eight Tony Awards including Best Musical. They co-produced the Pulitzer Prize winning Crimes Of The Heart, Foxfire, for which Jessica Tandy received the Best Actress Tony Award, Grand Hotel, directed and choreographed by Tommy Tune, which won five Tony Awards, and the hit Off Broadway musicals, March Of The Falsettos and Mayor. Mr. Richards has also co-produced the Obie Award winning Dylan, which starred Rue McClanahan, Bob Fosse’s Chicago, which was nominated for eleven Tonys and won Best Musical in London and Los Angeles, The Norman Conquests, which received the Outer Critics Circle Award, La Cage aux Folles, which won six Tonys, including Best Musical, and The Will Rogers Follies, again with Tommy Tune directing and choreographing, which won six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, The Best Of Friends, starring Diana Douglas, which he produced with Michael Douglas, Sally Marr …and her escorts, which starred Joan Rivers, who received a Best Actress Tony Nomination, the Cy Coleman musical The Life, which received Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Drama League Awards for Best Musical, and Sweet Smell Of Success, directed by Nicholas Hytner, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, adapted from the film by John Guare, with music and lyrics by Marvin Hamlisch and Craig Carnelia. He most recently co-produced the Tony Award winning revival of La Cage aux Folles, which starred Gary Beach and Robert Goulet, and was directed by Jerry Zaks and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, and Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life, starring the legendary Chita Rivera, with book by Terrance McNally, directed & choreographed by Graciela Daniele. Mr. Richards’ stage productions have received thirty-six Tony Awards, The Pulitzer Prize, seven Outer Critic Circle Awards, and two New York Drama Critics Awards. Mr. Richards’ film productions include The Boys From Brazil, which was directed by Franklin Schaffner and starred Gregory Peck and Laurence Olivier, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, which starred Jack Nicholson, Fort Apache, The Bronx, which starred Paul Newman, and the musical Chicago, directed and choreographed by Rob Marshall, starring Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta Jones and Richard Gere, which received three Broadcast Critic’s Choice Awards, including Best Picture, three Golden Globe Awards, including Best Picture, The Producers Guild of America Darryl F. Zanuck Award as Best Producer of 2002, the Directors Guild of America Award for Rob Marshall’s direction, and six Academy Awards, including Best Picture of 2002. Mr. Richards is a member of The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences and serves on the Board of Governors of the League of American Theaters and Producers. In 1997, Mayor Giuliani appointed him to a six-year term as a member of The Trust for Cultural Resources of the City of New York. He was also a member of the Mayor’s Advisory Council for Theatre. Mr. Richards served on the President’s Council for the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, and is on the Board of Directors of Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS. In 1994, in memory of his wife, he established the Mary Lea Johnson Richards Institute at New York University Medical Center for organ transplantation and research, and in 1995, also in memory of his wife, he co-founded the Children’s Advocacy Center of Manhattan, New York City’s only non-profit center for abused children. For the past eight years he has produced the annual Red Ball, one of New York’s premiere charitable events, which benefits both the Institute and the Advocacy Center.