Ashley D. Kelley, Paolo Montalban, Kenita R. Miller, Britton Smith, Yurel Echezarreta and More in BELLA: AN AMERICAN TALL TALE at Playwright’s Horizons

Playwrights Horizons is presenting BELLA: AN AMERICAN TALL TALE, the co-world premiere of a new musical with book, music and lyrics by Obie Award winner Kirsten Childs (The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin at Playwrights, Miracle Brothers).

Ashley D. Kelley (as Bella), NaTasha Yvette Williams & Kenita R. Miller. Photo by Joan Marcus
Ashley D. Kelley (as Bella), NaTasha Yvette Williams & Kenita R. Miller. Photo by Joan Marcus

Directed by two-time Obie Award winner Robert O’Hara (Bootycandy at Playwrights, Barbecue, In the Continuum, The Brother/Sister Plays) with choreography by Camille A. Brown (The Fortress of Solitude), the musical is the sixth and final production of the theater company’s 2016/2017 Season.

Ashley D. Kelley (as Bella) & Brandon Gill. Photo by Joan Marcus
Ashley D. Kelley (as Bella) & Brandon Gill. Photo by Joan Marcus

BELLA: AN AMERICAN TALL TALE was commissioned, developed and produced through the Playwrights Horizons Musicals in Partnership Initiative, with leadership support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This co-world premiere production had an initial run at Dallas Theater Center last fall.

Ashley D. Kelley (as Bella), Kenita R. Miller, NaTasha Yvette Williams & Marinda Anderson. Photo by Joan Marcus
Ashley D. Kelley (as Bella), Kenita R. Miller, NaTasha Yvette Williams & Marinda Anderson. Photo by Joan Marcus

The cast of BELLA: AN AMERICAN TALL TALE features Marinda Anderson (A Life, Far From Heaven at Playwrights; Every Good Girl, Sex of the Baby), Yurel Echezarreta (Bella… at Dallas Theatre Center, Aladdin, La Cage aux Folles, West Side Story, Matilda), Brandon Gill (Holler if Ya Hear Me, Neighbors, “Golden Boy”), Olli Haaskivi (Baghdaddy, I Battled Lenny Ross, Saturday Night, “Mr. Robot”), Ashley D. Kelley (title role in Bella… at Dallas Theatre Center, regionally as Dorothy/The Wiz, Mama Morton/Chicago, Mazeppa/Gypsy, Nell Carter/Ain’t Misbehavin’), Kevin Massey (A Gentleman’s Guide…, Tarzan, Memphis, Big River), Jo’Nathan Michael (tours of Ragtime, Dreamgirls, The Color Purple, Fame), Drama Desk Award and Audelco Award winner Kenita R. Miller (Bella… at Dallas Theatre Center, The Color Purple, Xanadu, Avenue Q, Encores! The Wild Party), Paolo Montalban (Bella… at Dallas Theatre Center, Pacific Overtures, The King and I, Cinderella, “The Blacklist,” “Madam Secretary”), Gabrielle Reyes (Bella… at Dallas Theatre Center, regionally in Dreamgirls, Ragtime, Distracted, Clybourne Park), Britton Smith (Shuffle Along, After Midnight, Fortress of Solitude, Encores! The Wild Party,) and NaTasha Yvette Williams(Chicago, Porgy and Bess, The Color Purple, Show Boat).

Ashley D. Kelley (as Bella) & Brandon Gill. Photo by Joan Marcus
Ashley D. Kelley (as Bella) & Brandon Gill. Photo by Joan Marcus

The production began previews on May 19 with an Opening Night set for Monday, June 12 at 7PM at the company’s Mainstage Theater (416 West 42nd Street). The limited engagement is currently scheduled to play through Sunday, July 2.

The company of BELLA: AN AMERICAN TALL TALE. Photo by Joan Marcus
The company of BELLA: AN AMERICAN TALL TALE. Photo by Joan Marcus

All aboard for a Western musical adventure the likes of which you’ve never experienced. As a wanted woman of mythic proportions looks to begin life anew out west, Bella (Ms. Kelley) takes us on the trip of a lifetime to escape her scandalous past and bounce into the arms of her awaiting Buffalo Soldier (Mr. Smith). Rowdy, wild, and hilarious, Kirsten Childs infuses this tall tale with soulful tunes and madcap antics aplenty. Giddy-up to our get-down!

Ashley D. Kelley (as Bella, center) with members of the company. Photo by Joan Marcus
Ashley D. Kelley (as Bella, center) with members of the company. Photo by Joan Marcus
Ashley D. Kelley (as Bella), Olli Haaskivi & Yurel Echezarreta. Photo by Joan Marcus
Ashley D. Kelley (as Bella), Olli Haaskivi & Yurel Echezarreta. Photo by Joan Marcus

The production will feature scenic design by Tony Award winner Clint Ramos, costume design by Dede M. Ayite, lighting design by four-time Tony Award nominee Japhy Weideman, sound design by Lindsay Jones, projection design by Jeff Sugg and hair, wig and makeup design by Dave Bova and J. Jared Janas. Orchestrations are by Tony Award winner Daryl Waters, vocal arrangements are by Kirsten Childs, music direction and additional arrangements are by Rona Siddiqui and music coordinator is John Miller. Production stage manager is Erin Gioia Albrecht.

Ashley D. Kelley (as Bella) & Kevin Massey. Photo by Joan Marcus
Ashley D. Kelley (as Bella) & Kevin Massey. Photo by Joan Marcus

The performance schedule for BELLA: AN AMERICAN TALL TALE will be Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7PM, Thursdays and Fridays at 8PM, Saturdays at 2:30 & 8PM and Sundays at 2:30 & 7:30 PM. Beginning Tuesday, April 18, single tickets, $59-89, may be purchased online via www.phnyc.org and www.Facebook.com, by phone at (212) 279-4200 (Noon-8pm daily) and in person at the Ticket Central Box Office, 416 West 42nd Street (between Ninth & Tenth Avenues).

ABOUT THE ARTISTS:
Kirsten Childs (Book, Music and Lyrics). At Playwrights Horizons: The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin. Her other musicals include Miracle Brothers (Vineyard Theatre), Fly (with Rajiv Joseph and Bill Sherman) and Funked Up Fairy Tales. For her work she has received Obie, Kleban, Larson, Richard Rodgers, Audelco, and Gilman/Gonzalez-Falla awards, as well as Lortel and Drama Desk nominations. She recently collaborated with Charlayne Woodard on the musical Grace for Inner Voices: Solo Musicals. Kirsten has written for Disney Theatricals, the American Songbook series at Lincoln Center, the New Electric Company, Works and Process at the Guggenheim Museum and City CenterEncores! She is a professor in NYU’s Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program, a member of both the Dramatists Guild Council and the Dramatists Guild Fund, and is proud to be a mentor in Theatre Development Fund’s Open Doors program.

Robert O’Hara (Director). At Playwrights Horizons: Bootycandy (writer and director), next season’s Mankind. He has received the NAACP Best Director Award, the Helen HayesAward for Outstanding New Play, two Obie Awards and the Oppenheimer Award. He directed the world premieres of Nikkole Salter and Danai Gurira’s In the Continuum, Tarell McCraney’s The Brother/Sister Plays (Part 2), Colman Domingo’s Wild with Happy as well as his own plays, Bootycandy and Insurrection: Holding History. His new plays Zombie: The American and Barbecue world premiered last season at Woolly Mammoth Theater and The Public Theater, respectively.

Camille A. Brown (Choreographer). Playwrights Horizons debut. Broadway: A Streetcar Named Desire. Off-Broadway/New York: Fortress of Solitude (Public Theatre, Lortel Award nomination), The Box (Foundry Theatre), Encores! productions of Cabin in the Sky and tick, tick…BOOM! starring Lin-Manuel Miranda. Regional: Bella: An American Tall Tale, Stagger Lee (Dallas Theatre Center); The Winter’s Tale (McCarter Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre Company); Blood Quilt (Arena Stage). Upcoming: the Broadway revivals of Once on This Island (December 2017) and Pal Joey (Spring 2019) and the world premiere of her new work Ink at The Kennedy Center (December 2017).

Marinda Anderson (Ida Lou/Aunt Dinah). Playwrights Horizons: A Life, Far From Heaven. Off-Broadway: Sex of the Baby, Every Good Girl, Macbeth. Regional: A Doll’s House, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, Intimate Apparel, Three Sisters, Fairfield, A Carol for Cleveland, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Doubt, Hair. TV: “Gotham.” Web: “Horace and Pete,” “Homegirls” (creator). BFA in musical theater, Howard University; MFA, NYU Graduate Acting Program.

Ashley D. Kelley (as Bella), Yurel Echezarreta & Kenita R. Miller. Photo by Joan Marcus
Ashley D. Kelley (as Bella), Yurel Echezarreta & Kenita R. Miller. Photo by Joan Marcus

Yurel Echezarreta (Diego Moreno/CP Conyers) originated his roles in the Dallas Theater Center engagement of this co-world premiere production. Playwrights Horizons debut. Broadway: Aladdin, La Cage aux Folles, West Side Story, Matilda. Regional: West Side Story, Chicago, South Pacific, Songs for a New World, Grease, Cats, Children of Eden. Film: The Last Five Years.

Brandon Gill (Nathaniel Beckworth). Playwrights Horizons debut. Broadway: Holler if Ya Hear Me. New York: Neighbors. Regional: Stagger Lee, The Last Goodbye, The Recommendation, Panzee, Superior Donuts, Rabbit Hole. Film/TV: Radium Girls, Paladin, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Fourth Man Out, “Blue Bloods,” “Golden Boy,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Are We There Yet?,” “Detroit 187,” “Momma’s,” “Fringe.”

Olli Haaskivi (Gabriel Conyers/Scooter). Playwrights Horizons debut. Off-Broadway: Baghdaddy. New York: I Battled Lenny Ross, Saturday Night. Regional: …Spelling Bee. Film/TV: Going in Style, Freak Show, From Nowhere, The Lennon Report, Ratter, The Funeral Guest, “Orange Is the New Black,” “The Detour,” “The Blacklist,” “Z,” “Mr. Robot,” “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “Boardwalk Empire.”

Ashley D. Kelley (as Bella). Photo by Joan Marcus
Ashley D. Kelley (as Bella). Photo by Joan Marcus

Ashley D. Kelley (Bella) originated the title role in the Dallas Theater Center engagement of this co-world premiere production. Playwrights Horizons debut. Regional (leading/featured roles: The Wiz; Chicago; All Shook Up; Gypsy; Ain’t Misbehavin’; Nunsense; …Spelling Bee; Kiss Me, Kate; Hairspray; Little Shop of Horrors; Avenue Q; The Full Monty; Smokey Joe’s Café; La Cage aux Folles. Film: American Hustle.

Kevin Massey (Snaggletooth Hoskins). Playwrights Horizons debut. Broadway: A Gentleman’s Guide…, Tarzan, Memphis, Big River. Off-Broadway/New York: Angels The Musical, Anthony and Cleopatra, Down at the Inferno, Blackamoor Angel. National tours: A Gentleman’s Guide…, Tarzan, Little House on the Prairie, Big River, Grease. Regional: Bonnie & Clyde, Les Misérables, The Secret Garden, Pippin, Footloose.

Kenita R. Miller. Photo by Joan Marcus
Kenita R. Miller. Photo by Joan Marcus

Kenita R. Miller (Miss Cabbagestalk/Mama) originated her roles in the Dallas Theater Center engagement of this co-world premiere production. Playwrights Horizons debut. Broadway: The Color Purple, Xanadu. Off-Broadway: Working (Drama Desk Award), Langston in Harlem (Audelco Award, Drama Desk nomination), Avenue Q, The Wild Party, Merrily We Roll Along, Dessa Rose, Saturday Night. TV: “The Blacklist,” “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”.

Paolo Montalban & Ashley D. Kelley (as Bella). Photo by Joan Marcus
Paolo Montalban & Ashley D. Kelley (as Bella). Photo by Joan Marcus

Paolo Montalban (Tommie Haw/Skeeter) originated his roles in the Dallas Theater Center engagement of this co-world premiere production. Playwrights Horizons debut. Broadway: Pacific Overtures, The King and I, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Off-Broadway: Two Gentlemen of Verona. National tour: Cinderella. TV: “The Blacklist,” “Madam Secretary,” “Cinderella,” “Camelot.” Concert work: Carnegie Hall (with Lea Salonga), Alice Tully Hall, Las Vegas.

Gabrielle Reyes (Mrs. Dinwiddie/Nurse) originated her roles in the Dallas Theater Centerengagement of this co-world premiere production. Playwrights Horizons debut. Regional: Ragtime, Dreamgirls, Trojan Women, Distracted, Clybourne Park, In the Next Room…, Joseph…, Macbeth, West Side Story, A Christmas Carol. TV: “The Whitney Houston Story.

Britton Smith. Photo by Joan Marcus
Britton Smith. Photo by Joan Marcus

Britton Smith (Aloysius T. Honeycutt). Playwrights Horizons debut. Broadway: Shuffle Along, After Midnight. Off-Broadway: Encores! The Wild Party and Cotton Club Parade, Fortress of Solitude (also Dallas Theatre Center), For the Last Time. Regional: Damn Yankees, Seussical The Musical, Hairspray, Ragtime, Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story.

NaTasha Yvette Williams (Grandma/Spirit of the Booty). Playwrights Horizons debut. Broadway: Chicago, Porgy and Bess, The Color Purple, A Night with Janis Joplin. Off-Broadway/New York: Show Boat (NY Philharmonic), Storyville, Dessa Rose. London: Gone with the Wind. National tours: Xanadu, The Drowsy Chaperone, All Shook Up, Seussical The Musical, Cinderella, Parade, The Goodbye Girl, Mahalia. TV: “Orange Is the New Black,” “The Wiz Live!”

Click here  for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang, Photo by Garth Kravits
Lia Chang, Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers,  musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Examiner.comJade Magazine and Playbill.com.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2017 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s