Two-time Tony nominee and Emmy winner André De Shields, currently in rehearsal for the Broadway production of Anais Mitchell’s Hadestown, is simultaneously at the helm of Crossroads Theatre Company and New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC)’s co-production of Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies at NJPAC, 1 Center Street in Newark, Thursday, March 21 – Sunday, March 24, 2019. Click here to purchase tickets.
The high-style music of “The Duke” is the heart and soul of this 1981 Tony-winning Broadway hit, featuring choreography by Kimberly Schafer and musical direction by Nat Adderley, Jr. Scroll down for photos of rehearsal.
Presented in the year marking the 120th anniversary of Ellington’s birth, Sophisticated Ladies is a first-class excursion back to the heyday of Harlem’s swanky Cotton Club. According to legend, the great bandleader and composer Duke Ellington once told his musicians that they had to play their best because they were about to open in Newark. All those glorious numbers – “Satin Doll,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” “Cotton Tail,” “Take the A Train” and “Mood Indigo” – return to the city in full swing with the arrival of Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies, a co-production of NJPAC and Crossroads Theatre Company.
A glamorous cast of Broadway veterans and bright young stars performs with an onstage band versed in the tradition of the orchestras of Duke Ellington and his son, Mercer. The cast features Johmaalya Adelekan, Ken Ard, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Wesley J. Barnes, Lamont Brown, Kaleigh Cronin, Lianne Marie Dobbs, C.K. Edwards, Danielle Kelsey, Jenny Laroche, N’Kenge, and Tommy Scrivens.
André De Shields made his NJPAC debut six years ago in Prudential Hall as Zeus during an orchestral performance of The Creatures of Prometheus. He returned in 2017 to direct and choreograph the first co-production between NJPAC and The Crossroads Theatre Company, the critically acclaimed Ain’t Misbehavin’. In his half-century artistic career, Mr. De Shields has distinguished himself as an unparalleled actor, director, choreographer and educator. His numerous accolades include an OBIE Award for Sustained Excellence of Performance, the 2009 National Black Theatre Festival’s Living Legend Award, the Black Theatre Network’s 2016 Winona Lee Fletcher Award, and many more. His body of work includes Broadway, Off-Broadway, regional theatre, feature films, television, and cabaret. Mr. De Shields is best known for his show stopping performances in four legendary Broadway musicals: The Full Monty,Play On!, Ain’t Misbehavin’, and The Wiz (title role). De Shields heads back to Broadway in March as Hermes in Anais Mitchell’s Hadestown at the Walter Kerr.Mr. De Shields’ creative team also includes Burke J. Wilmore (Set and Lighting Design), Gail Brassard (Costume Design), Production Stage Manager Rick Steiger and Assistant Stage Manager Chelsea Olivia Friday.
Performances for Sophisticated Ladies are on Thursday, March 21st @ 7pm, Friday, March 22 @ 7pm, Saturday, March 23rd @ 2pm and 7pm and Sunday, March 24 @ 2pm. Click here to purchase tickets.
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 Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.
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