The North Carolina Black Repertory Company (NC Black Rep) is presenting George C. Wolfe’s Tony Award Winning musical, Jelly’s Last Jam, and the show will be the opening night performance at the 2019 National Black Theatre Festival (NBTF). The performance will take place at the Stevens Center in downtown Winston-Salem on Monday, July 29 at 9pm following the Opening Night Celebrity Gala celebrating the 30th anniversary of the NBTF. Additional performances will run Tuesday July 30 through Saturday August 3 (no performances on Wednesday, July 31).
Jelly’s Last Jam tells the story of Ferdinand Joseph La Mothe, a.k.a “Jelly Roll Morton,” the self-proclaimed “inventor of jazz.” Featuring explosive dance and an original score inspired by the best musical traditions of New Orleans, Jelly’s Last Jam explores the complexities of African-American life, while celebrating its creative genius.
Stanley Wayne Mathis, who originated the role of “Jack the Bear” on Broadway, returns as “Chimney Man” in this production. Mathis shared, “First time in my career returning to a show where I originated a role. To explore the show through yet another character is magical. What a joy to revisit this story with a new family and to take once again this epic journey.”
Acclaimed tap dancer DeWitt Fleming, Jr. will star as Jelly Roll Morton. Fleming is thrilled to take on the iconic role stating, “To be able to play the same role as one of my biggest influences, Gregory Hines, is like a dream come true. Jelly’s Last Jam is one of those rare shows where as a performer and audience member you are completely fulfilled. The music is brilliant, the script is brilliant, and the message is timeless.”
New Orleans native, Idella Johnson, tackles the role of Anita for the second time in two years, having won a Best Actress award for her performance in Le Petit Theatre’s 2017 production of the musical. Johnson commented, “What an absolute honor it is to ‘Jam with Jelly’ again! I fell in love with Jelly Roll Morton and his story and playing Sweet Anita was a dream role of mine. I am so stoked to do it again!”
The Opening Night performance will also serve as a reunion of sorts for the Broadway production, with original cast members Keith David (Chimney Man), Tonya Pinkins (Anita), Savion Glover (Young Jelly), and Stanley Wayne Mathis (Jack the Bear), all scheduled to be in attendance.
Jelly’s Last Jam will be directed by NC Black Rep Artistic Director, Jackie Alexander, whose 2017 production of the play at Le Petit Theatre in New Orleans was awarded the city’s Big Easy Award for Best Musical of the Year. Morgan Hawkins will choreograph the show, with DeWitt Fleming, Jr. handling tap choreography. The Musical Director for the show is jazz pianist and New Orleans native Tyrone Jackson. The set design is by Patrice Davidson, with costumes by Frenchie La’Vern, and lighting by Arthur Reese.
The 2019 National Black Theatre Festival will be held July 29-August 3, 2019. For more information, please visit: www.ncblackrep.org.