Multimedia: André De Shields Helmed SOPHISTICATED LADIES at NJPAC, March 21 – 24

Director André De Shields with his SOPHISTICATED LADIES cast (Seated) C.K. Edwards, Tommy Scrivens, Lamont Brown and Wesley J. Barnes. (Standing) Jenny Laroche, Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Ken Ard, N’Kenge, Danielle Kelsey and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang.
André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang
André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang

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.

Costume Designer Gail Brassard, Director Andre De Shields, Choreographer Kimberly Schafer, Tommy Scrivens, Wesley Barnes, Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards with Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. Photo by Lia Chang
Costume Designer Gail Brassard, Director Andre De Shields, Choreographer Kimberly Schafer, Tommy Scrivens, Wesley Barnes, Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards with Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. Photo by Lia Chang

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.

Kimberly Schafer and André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang
Kimberly Schafer and André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang

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.

(Seated) C.K. Edwards, Tommy Scrivens, Lamont Brown and Wesley J. Barnes. (Standing) Jenny Laroche, Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Ken Ard, N’Kenge, Danielle Kelsey and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang
(Seated) C.K. Edwards, Tommy Scrivens, Lamont Brown and Wesley J. Barnes. (Standing) Jenny Laroche, Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Ken Ard, N’Kenge, Danielle Kelsey and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang

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 in front of the Walter Kerr Theatre in New York, where HADESTOWN begins previews on March 22, 2019. Photo by Lia Chang
André De Shields in front of the Walter Kerr Theatre in New York, where HADESTOWN begins previews on March 22, 2019. Photo by Lia Chang

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.

Seated: Costume Designer Gail Brassard, Kayla Votapek, Production Stage Manager Rick Steiger. Standing: Choreographer Kimberly Schafer, Crossroads Producing Artistic Director Marshall Jones, III, Director André De Shields, Lighting and Set Designer Burke Wilmore and Chelsea. Photo by Lia Chang
Seated: Costume Designer Gail Brassard, Associate Producer Kayla Kim Votapek, Production Stage Manager Rick Steiger. Standing: Choreographer Kimberly Schafer, Crossroads Producing Artistic Director Marshall Jones, III, Director André De Shields, Lighting and Set Designer Burke J. Wilmore and Assistant Stage Manager Chelsea Olivia Friday. Photo by Lia Chang

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.

Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Ken Ard, N’Kenge. Photo by Lia Chang
Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Ken Ard, N’Kenge. Photo by Lia Chang

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.

Seated: Wesley J. Barnes, Kaleigh Cronin, Ken Ard, Lamont Brown. Standing C.K. Edwards, Jenny Laroche, Danielle Kelsey and Tommy Scrivens. Photo by Lia Chang
(Seated) Wesley J. Barnes, Kaleigh Cronin, Ken Ard, Lamont Brown. (Standing) C.K. Edwards, Jenny Laroche, Danielle Kelsey and Tommy Scrivens. Photo by Lia Chang

Below De Shields reveals his vision for Sophisticated Ladies.

André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang
André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang

Q: How was Sophisticated Ladies relevant in 1981?
In terms of cultural agency, the 1980s in America are remembered as The Golden Decade, when bigger was better: big television, big Rock & Roll, big Wall Street, big hair, big soul . . . big fame, big film and–yes– big Broadway musicals. Duke Ellington’sSophisticated Ladies was one of those opulent productions that ruled The Great White Way during the 80s. I still have vivid, visceral recollection of the spring of 1981. I was returning from having performed a six-month engagement of Ain’t Misbehavin’ in Paris. Once in New York, I discovered The Grapevine alight with rapturous acclaim for the lavish and glamorous Ellington revue. Inspired by the discography of Edward Kennedy Ellington–later to adopt the moniker “Duke”–Sophisticated Ladies played its first preview on February 16, 1981, at The Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, opened on March 1, 1981, and closed on January 2, 1983, having run a total of 767 performances. Arguably the greatest American composer of the Twentieth century, Duke Ellington had finally become a player on America’s main stage for live theatre. Audiences and critics alike were hard-pressed to find the adjective that possessed just the right amount of panache and gravitas to describe the lavish production that was Sophisticated Ladies. The word “fabulous” would soon acquire an even more prodigious connotation.

N'Kenge, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Johmaalya Adelekan, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Jenny LaRoche, Danielle Kelsey and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang
N’Kenge, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Johmaalya Adelekan, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Jenny Laroche, Danielle Kelsey and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang
Johmaalya Adelekan, Lianne Marie Dobbs, N'Kenge and Jacqueline B. Arnold. Photo by Lia Chang
Johmaalya Adelekan, Lianne Marie Dobbs, N’Kenge and Jacqueline B. Arnold. Photo by Lia Chang
Johmaalya Adelekan, Lianne Marie Dobbs, N'Kenge and Jacqueline B. Arnold. Photo by Lia Chang
Johmaalya Adelekan, Lianne Marie Dobbs, N’Kenge and Jacqueline B. Arnold. Photo by Lia Chang
Lianne Marie Dobbs, Johmaalya Adelekan, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Jacqueline B. Arnold, and N'Kenge. Photo by Lia Chang
Lianne Marie Dobbs, Johmaalya Adelekan, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Jacqueline B. Arnold, and N’Kenge. Photo by Lia Chang

Q: And what is your vision for making it relevant to 2019?
Fast forward nearly another two decades to 2019, and the culture has gone through a tectonic shift. No longer made solely of the solidly impervious fabric of male dominance, contemporary American culture has been stretched to the point of porosity. And those porous imperfections are currently being mended by the stitch work of twenty-first century, self-empowered womanhood. Flipping the script has become a necessary tool of the postmodern female. And since it is the responsibility of my generation to explain to the prior and succeeding generations how we got from There to Here, I searched for a piece of entertainment that could be unpacked for its implicit information regarding the psychological, emotional and intellectual relationships between men and women. It occurred to me that Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies was ripe for the picking. The title alone begs to be parsed. For example, have we actually ever heard from the sophisticated ladies referenced in the title? Isn’t it about time that we get to better know the women that the Duke and his collaborators apotheosized in song for sixty years? One of the several definitions of “sophisticated” is “enlightened.” I suggest that we all lean forward, and open our eyes, ears, hearts and minds to the perspective of the enlightened woman, wherever she is encountered. I am convinced that we will find her revelations “beyond category.”

Ken Ard and N'Kenge. photo by Lia Chang
Ken Ard and N’Kenge. photo by Lia Chang

Q: What can the audience expect from this new production of Sophisticated Ladies?
From this new production of Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies, NJPAC audiences can expect dynamic entertainment, sparkling enlightenment and nuanced ecstasy. My creative team and I have not changed any lyric or adulterated any melody. We have great respect for the integrity of the original Broadway show. What we have done is made the choice of not drenching the production in luxury. A simple yet elegant set with Art Deco highlights has been designed by Burke J. Wilmore, who also serves as lighting designer. Our choreographer, Kimberly Schafer, has created a palette of dance genres, featuring tap, to keep the audience’s feet patting, fingers snapping and shoulders shaking. And costume designer Gail Brassard has taken the approach of not anchoring the production in a singular historical period, but rather to allow the costume design to subtly reflect the changing status of the female over various windows if time. The entire physical production is meant to reveal a minimalist set of core design values in order to emphasize our investigation into the seed of the seed: what the authentic sophisticated lady has to say about herself?

Jenny LaRoche, Kaleigh Cronin and Danielle Kelsey. Photo by Lia Chang
Jenny Laroche, Kaleigh Cronin and Danielle Kelsey. Photo by Lia Chang

Q: What are four words that best describe this newly conceptualized production?
The four words that best describe this newly conceptualized production are original, imaginative, unpredictable and inventive.

Wesley J. Barnes, C.K. Edwards and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang
Wesley J. Barnes, C.K. Edwards and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang
Lianne Marie Dobbs, Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Danielle Kelsey, Ken Ard and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang
Lianne Marie Dobbs, Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Danielle Kelsey, Ken Ard and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang
Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lamont Brown and Johmaalya Adelekan. Photo by Lia Chang
Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lamont Brown and Johmaalya Adelekan. Photo by Lia Chang
Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lamont Brown and Johmaalya Adelekan. Photo by Lia Chang
Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lamont Brown and Johmaalya Adelekan. Photo by Lia Chang
Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lamont Brown and Johmaalya Adelekan. Photo by Lia Chang
Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lamont Brown and Johmaalya Adelekan. Photo by Lia Chang

Q: What most excites you about returning to NJPAC following a successful run of Ain’t Misbehavin’ last season?
Following last season’s successful run of Ain’t Misbehavin’, that which most excites me about returning to NJPAC is the opportunity to continue expanding and solidifying the network of collaborators dedicated to the mission of Crossroads Theatre Company: To create and present professional theatre of the highest standards of artistic excellence that celebrates the culture, history, spirit and voices of the entire African Diaspora.

C.K. Edwards, Lamont Brown, Tomm Scrivens and Wesley J. Barnes. Photo by Lia Chang
C.K. Edwards, Lamont Brown, Tomm Scrivens and Wesley J. Barnes. Photo by Lia Chang
Wesley J. Barnes. Photo by Lia Chang
Wesley J. Barnes. Photo by Lia Chang

About Crossroads Theatre Company
Crossroads Theatre Company continues to lead the nation with its commitment to literary works that examine the African American experience so that it may be understood and appreciated by all people. When co-founders Ricardo Khan and L. Kenneth Richardson envisioned a space where, as actors, the two young men could work on substantive, non-stereotypical roles, little did they realize that their vision would grow into the major institution that it is today. Crossroads has filled an otherwise empty space on the cultural canvas of the country and the world, with a collective body of work that remains unparalleled by any other of culturally-specific theater in the nation by presenting over 50 world premieres. Crossroads forged its vision into reality through the development, production and touring of new works from throughout the African Diaspora where positive images of African American life, history and culture is celebrated. These honest theatrical portrayals helped move the consciousness of the nation forward. Crossroads continues to lead twenty-first century story-telling by building bridges of understanding and veracity between people of all backgrounds in this society and the world. Find out more at CrossroadsTheatreCompany.org.

About NJPAC
New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), located in downtown Newark, N.J., is America’s most diverse performing arts center, and the artistic, cultural, educational and civic center of New Jersey, where great performances and events enhance and transform lives every day. NJPAC brings diverse communities together, providing access to all and showcasing the state’s and the world’s best artists while acting as a leading catalyst in the revitalization of its home city. Through its extensive Arts Education programs, NJPAC is shaping the next generation of artists and arts enthusiasts. NJPAC has attracted more than 9 million visitors (including over 1.7 million children) since opening its doors in 1997, and nurtures meaningful and lasting relationships with each of its constituents.

Director André De Shields with his SOPHISTICATED LADIES cast (Seated) C.K. Edwards, Tommy Scrivens, Lamont Brown and Wesley J. Barnes. (Standing) Jenny Laroche, Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Ken Ard, N’Kenge, Danielle Kelsey and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang.
Director André De Shields with his SOPHISTICATED LADIES cast (Seated) C.K. Edwards, Tommy Scrivens, Lamont Brown and Wesley J. Barnes. (Standing) Jenny Laroche, Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Ken Ard, N’Kenge, Danielle Kelsey and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang.
Jacqueline B. Arnold, Johmaalya Adelekan, Ken Ard, N'Kenge, Lianne Marie Dobbs. Photo by Lia Chang
Jacqueline B. Arnold, Johmaalya Adelekan, Ken Ard, N’Kenge, Lianne Marie Dobbs. Photo by Lia Chang
C.K. Edwards, Wesley J. Barnes, Lamont Brown and Tommy Scrivens. Photo by Lia Chang
C.K. Edwards, Wesley J. Barnes, Lamont Brown and Tommy Scrivens. Photo by Lia Chang
Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards, Wesley J. Barnes and Tommy Scrivens. Photo by Lia Chang
Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards, Wesley J. Barnes and Tommy Scrivens. Photo by Lia Chang

Location and Directions: NJPAC is located at 1 Center Street, Newark, New Jersey; a short walk from the Newark Penn Station stop by Newark-bound PATH Train or Amtrak.

Detailed instructions on approaching the venue by car, by bus, by foot or by rail:
NJPAC directions
NJPAC public transportation
NJOAC parking

C.K. Edwards, Lamont Brown, Wesley J. Barnes and Tommy Scrivens. Photo by Lia Chang
C.K. Edwards, Lamont Brown, Wesley J. Barnes and Tommy Scrivens. Photo by Lia Chang

Nat Adderley, Jr. Joins NJPAC and Crossroads Theatre Co-production of SOPHISTICATED LADIES as Musical Director 

Lia Chang
Lia Chang

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.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2019 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

Nat Adderley, Jr. Joins NJPAC and Crossroads Theatre Co-production of SOPHISTICATED LADIES as Musical Director

Costume Designer Gail Brassard, Director Andre De Shields, Choreographer Kimberly Schafer, Tommy Scrivens, Wesley Barnes, Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards with Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. Photo by Lia Chang
André De Shields in front of the Walter Kerr Theatre in New York, where HADESTOWN begins previews on March 22, 2019. Photo by Lia Chang
André De Shields in front of the Walter Kerr Theatre in New York, where HADESTOWN begins previews on March 22, 2019. Photo by Lia Chang

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.

Costume Designer Gail Brassard, Director Andre De Shields, Choreographer Kimberly Schafer, Tommy Scrivens, Wesley Barnes, Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards with Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. Photo by Lia Chang
Costume Designer Gail Brassard, Director Andre De Shields, Choreographer Kimberly Schafer, Tommy Scrivens, Wesley Barnes, Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards with Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. Photo by Lia Chang

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.

(Seated) C.K. Edwards, Tommy Scrivens, Lamont Brown and Wesley J. Barnes. (Standing) Jenny Laroche, Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Ken Ard, N’Kenge, Danielle Kelsey and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang
(Seated) C.K. Edwards, Tommy Scrivens, Lamont Brown and Wesley J. Barnes. (Standing) Jenny Laroche, Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Ken Ard, N’Kenge, Danielle Kelsey and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang

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. Photo by Lia Chang
André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang

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.

Director André De Shields and Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. Photo by Lia Chang
Director André De Shields and Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. Photo by Lia Chang
Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards, Wesley Barnes Jim Mirrione, Director André De Shields and Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. Photo by Lia Chang
Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards, Wesley Barnes Jim Mirrione, Director André De Shields and Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. Photo by Lia Chang
Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr., Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards. Wesley Barnes and Director André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang
Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr., Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards. Wesley Barnes and Director André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang
Director André De Shields and Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. Photo by Lia Chang
Director André De Shields and Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. Photo by Lia Chang
Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr., Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards and Wesley Barnes. Photo by Lia Chang
Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr., Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards and Wesley Barnes. Photo by Lia Chang
Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr., Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards and Wesley Barnes. Photo by Lia Chang
Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr., Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards and Wesley Barnes. Photo by Lia Chang
Director André De Shields, Costume Designer Gail Brassard, Choreographer Kimberly Schafer, Tommy Scrivens, Wesley Barnes with Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. Photo by Lia Chang
Director André De Shields, Costume Designer Gail Brassard, Choreographer Kimberly Schafer, Tommy Scrivens, Wesley Barnes with Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. Photo by Lia Chang
Director André De Shields and Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. Photo by Lia Chang
Director André De Shields and Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. Photo by Lia Chang
Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. and Director André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang
Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. and Director André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang
Lia Chang
Lia Chang

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.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2019 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

In the Rehearsal Room and an Interview with André De Shields, Director of Crossroads Theatre Company and NJPAC’s Co-Production of Duke Ellington’s SOPHISTICATED LADIES

Tommy Scrivens, N'Kenge, C.K. Edwards, Ken Ard, Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Kimberly Schafer, André De Shields, Lamont Brown, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Kaleigh Cronin, Danielle Kelsey, Wesley J. Barnes and Jenny LaRoche. Photo by Lia Chang

Photos by Lia Chang

Crossroads Theatre Company and New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) are presenting a 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.

Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Ken Ard, N’Kenge. Photo by Lia Chang
Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Ken Ard, N’Kenge. Photo by Lia Chang

The high-style music of “The Duke” is the heart and soul of this 1981 Tony-winning Broadway hit, directed with dazzle by two-time Tony nominee and Emmy winner André De Shields (The Wiz, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Play On, The Full Monty) and choreographed by Kimberly Schafer.

Kimberly Schafer and André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang
Kimberly Schafer and André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang

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.

(Seated) C.K. Edwards, Tommy Scrivens, Lamont Brown and Wesley J. Barnes. (Standing) Jenny Laroche, Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Ken Ard, N’Kenge, Danielle Kelsey and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang
(Seated) C.K. Edwards, Tommy Scrivens, Lamont Brown and Wesley J. Barnes. (Standing) Jenny Laroche, Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Ken Ard, N’Kenge, Danielle Kelsey and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang

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. Talents from some of Broadway’s hottest shows are featured including Johmaalya Adelekan (Ain’t Misbehavin’, Ragtime); Ken Ard (Smokey Joe’s Café); Kaleigh Cronin (Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, A Bronx Tale); Jenny Laroche (Summer: The Donna Summer Musical); and N’Kenge (Motown). The cast also includes Jacqueline B. Arnold (Moulin Rouge!), Wesley J. Barnes (Pamela’s First Musical), Lamont Brown (42nd Street), Lianne Marie Dobbs (Himself & Nora), C.K. Edwards (Shuffle Along, Or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, After Midnight, Bill Elliot: The Musical), Danielle Kelsey (Village Theatre’s The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes) and Tommy Scrivens (Muny’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum).

Seated: Wesley J. Barnes, Kaleigh Cronin, Ken Ard, Lamont Brown. Standing C.K. Edwards, Jenny Laroche, Danielle Kelsey and Tommy Scrivens. Photo by Lia Chang
(Seated) Wesley J. Barnes, Kaleigh Cronin, Ken Ard, Lamont Brown. (Standing) C.K. Edwards, Jenny Laroche, Danielle Kelsey and Tommy Scrivens. Photo by Lia Chang

The New York Times described the original Sophisticated Ladies as “the only Broadway revue of recent vintage that operates on a truly grand scale.”

André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang
André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang

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.

Seated: Costume Designer Gail Brassard, Kayla Votapek, Production Stage Manager Rick Steiger. Standing: Choreographer Kimberly Schafer, Crossroads Producing Artistic Director Marshall Jones, III, Director André De Shields, Lighting and Set Designer Burke Wilmore and Chelsea. Photo by Lia Chang
Seated: Costume Designer Gail Brassard, Associate Producer Kayla Kim Votapek, Production Stage Manager Rick Steiger. Standing: Choreographer Kimberly Schafer, Crossroads Producing Artistic Director Marshall Jones, III, Director André De Shields, Lighting and Set Designer Burke J. Wilmore and Assistant Stage Manager Chelsea Olivia Friday. Photo by Lia Chang

Mr. De Shields’ creative team includes Burke J. Wilmore (Set and Lighting Design), Kimberly Schafer (Choreography), Gail Brassard (Costume Design), Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr.,  Production Stage Manager Rick Steiger and Assistant Stage Manager Chelsea Olivia Friday.

Tommy Scrivens, N'Kenge, C.K. Edwards, Ken Ard, Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Kimberly Schafer, André De Shields, Lamont Brown, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Kaleigh Cronin, Danielle Kelsey, Wesley J. Barnes and Jenny LaRoche. Photo by Lia Chang
Tommy Scrivens, N’Kenge, C.K. Edwards, Ken Ard, Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Kimberly Schafer, André De Shields, Lamont Brown, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Kaleigh Cronin, Danielle Kelsey, Wesley J. Barnes and Jenny Laroche. Photo by Lia Chang

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.

Below De Shields reveals his vision for Sophisticated Ladies.

André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang
André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang

Q: How was Sophisticated Ladies relevant in 1981?
In terms of cultural agency, the 1980s in America are remembered as The Golden Decade, when bigger was better: big television, big Rock & Roll, big Wall Street, big hair, big soul . . . big fame, big film and–yes– big Broadway musicals. Duke Ellington’sSophisticated Ladies was one of those opulent productions that ruled The Great White Way during the 80s. I still have vivid, visceral recollection of the spring of 1981. I was returning from having performed a six-month engagement of Ain’t Misbehavin’ in Paris. Once in New York, I discovered The Grapevine alight with rapturous acclaim for the lavish and glamorous Ellington revue. Inspired by the discography of Edward Kennedy Ellington–later to adopt the moniker “Duke”–Sophisticated Ladies played its first preview on February 16, 1981, at The Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, opened on March 1, 1981, and closed on January 2, 1983, having run a total of 767 performances. Arguably the greatest American composer of the Twentieth century, Duke Ellington had finally become a player on America’s main stage for live theatre. Audiences and critics alike were hard-pressed to find the adjective that possessed just the right amount of panache and gravitas to describe the lavish production that was Sophisticated Ladies. The word “fabulous” would soon acquire an even more prodigious connotation.

N'Kenge, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Johmaalya Adelekan, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Jenny LaRoche, Danielle Kelsey and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang
N’Kenge, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Johmaalya Adelekan, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Jenny Laroche, Danielle Kelsey and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang
Johmaalya Adelekan, Lianne Marie Dobbs, N'Kenge and Jacqueline B. Arnold. Photo by Lia Chang
Johmaalya Adelekan, Lianne Marie Dobbs, N’Kenge and Jacqueline B. Arnold. Photo by Lia Chang
Johmaalya Adelekan, Lianne Marie Dobbs, N'Kenge and Jacqueline B. Arnold. Photo by Lia Chang
Johmaalya Adelekan, Lianne Marie Dobbs, N’Kenge and Jacqueline B. Arnold. Photo by Lia Chang
Lianne Marie Dobbs, Johmaalya Adelekan, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Jacqueline B. Arnold, and N'Kenge. Photo by Lia Chang
Lianne Marie Dobbs, Johmaalya Adelekan, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Jacqueline B. Arnold, and N’Kenge. Photo by Lia Chang

Q: And what is your vision for making it relevant to 2019?
Fast forward nearly another two decades to 2019, and the culture has gone through a tectonic shift. No longer made solely of the solidly impervious fabric of male dominance, contemporary American culture has been stretched to the point of porosity. And those porous imperfections are currently being mended by the stitch work of twenty-first century, self-empowered womanhood. Flipping the script has become a necessary tool of the postmodern female. And since it is the responsibility of my generation to explain to the prior and succeeding generations how we got from There to Here, I searched for a piece of entertainment that could be unpacked for its implicit information regarding the psychological, emotional and intellectual relationships between men and women. It occurred to me that Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies was ripe for the picking. The title alone begs to be parsed. For example, have we actually ever heard from the sophisticated ladies referenced in the title? Isn’t it about time that we get to better know the women that the Duke and his collaborators apotheosized in song for sixty years? One of the several definitions of “sophisticated” is “enlightened.” I suggest that we all lean forward, and open our eyes, ears, hearts and minds to the perspective of the enlightened woman, wherever she is encountered. I am convinced that we will find her revelations “beyond category.”

Ken Ard and N'Kenge. photo by Lia Chang
Ken Ard and N’Kenge. photo by Lia Chang

Q: What can the audience expect from this new production of Sophisticated Ladies?
From this new production of Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies, NJPAC audiences can expect dynamic entertainment, sparkling enlightenment and nuanced ecstasy. My creative team and I have not changed any lyric or adulterated any melody. We have great respect for the integrity of the original Broadway show. What we have done is made the choice of not drenching the production in luxury. A simple yet elegant set with Art Deco highlights has been designed by Burke J. Wilmore, who also serves as lighting designer. Our choreographer, Kimberly Schafer, has created a palette of dance genres, featuring tap, to keep the audience’s feet patting, fingers snapping and shoulders shaking. And costume designer Gail Brassard has taken the approach of not anchoring the production in a singular historical period, but rather to allow the costume design to subtly reflect the changing status of the female over various windows if time. The entire physical production is meant to reveal a minimalist set of core design values in order to emphasize our investigation into the seed of the seed: what the authentic sophisticated lady has to say about herself?

Jenny LaRoche, Kaleigh Cronin and Danielle Kelsey. Photo by Lia Chang
Jenny Laroche, Kaleigh Cronin and Danielle Kelsey. Photo by Lia Chang

Q: What are four words that best describe this newly conceptualized production?
The four words that best describe this newly conceptualized production are original, imaginative, unpredictable and inventive.

Wesley J. Barnes, C.K. Edwards and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang
Wesley J. Barnes, C.K. Edwards and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang
Lianne Marie Dobbs, Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Danielle Kelsey, Ken Ard and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang
Lianne Marie Dobbs, Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Danielle Kelsey, Ken Ard and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang
Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lamont Brown and Johmaalya Adelekan. Photo by Lia Chang
Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lamont Brown and Johmaalya Adelekan. Photo by Lia Chang
Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lamont Brown and Johmaalya Adelekan. Photo by Lia Chang
Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lamont Brown and Johmaalya Adelekan. Photo by Lia Chang
Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lamont Brown and Johmaalya Adelekan. Photo by Lia Chang
Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lamont Brown and Johmaalya Adelekan. Photo by Lia Chang

Q: What most excites you about returning to NJPAC following a successful run of Ain’t Misbehavin’ last season?
Following last season’s successful run of Ain’t Misbehavin’, that which most excites me about returning to NJPAC is the opportunity to continue expanding and solidifying the network of collaborators dedicated to the mission of Crossroads Theatre Company: To create and present professional theatre of the highest standards of artistic excellence that celebrates the culture, history, spirit and voices of the entire African Diaspora.

C.K. Edwards, Lamont Brown, Tomm Scrivens and Wesley J. Barnes. Photo by Lia Chang
C.K. Edwards, Lamont Brown, Tomm Scrivens and Wesley J. Barnes. Photo by Lia Chang
Wesley J. Barnes. Photo by Lia Chang
Wesley J. Barnes. Photo by Lia Chang

About Crossroads Theatre Company
Crossroads Theatre Company continues to lead the nation with its commitment to literary works that examine the African American experience so that it may be understood and appreciated by all people. When co-founders Ricardo Khan and L. Kenneth Richardson envisioned a space where, as actors, the two young men could work on substantive, non-stereotypical roles, little did they realize that their vision would grow into the major institution that it is today. Crossroads has filled an otherwise empty space on the cultural canvas of the country and the world, with a collective body of work that remains unparalleled by any other of culturally-specific theater in the nation by presenting over 50 world premieres. Crossroads forged its vision into reality through the development, production and touring of new works from throughout the African Diaspora where positive images of African American life, history and culture is celebrated. These honest theatrical portrayals helped move the consciousness of the nation forward. Crossroads continues to lead twenty-first century story-telling by building bridges of understanding and veracity between people of all backgrounds in this society and the world. Find out more at CrossroadsTheatreCompany.org.

About NJPAC
New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), located in downtown Newark, N.J., is America’s most diverse performing arts center, and the artistic, cultural, educational and civic center of New Jersey, where great performances and events enhance and transform lives every day. NJPAC brings diverse communities together, providing access to all and showcasing the state’s and the world’s best artists while acting as a leading catalyst in the revitalization of its home city. Through its extensive Arts Education programs, NJPAC is shaping the next generation of artists and arts enthusiasts. NJPAC has attracted more than 9 million visitors (including over 1.7 million children) since opening its doors in 1997, and nurtures meaningful and lasting relationships with each of its constituents.

Director André De Shields with his SOPHISTICATED LADIES cast (Seated) C.K. Edwards, Tommy Scrivens, Lamont Brown and Wesley J. Barnes. (Standing) Jenny Laroche, Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Ken Ard, N’Kenge, Danielle Kelsey and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang.
Director André De Shields with his SOPHISTICATED LADIES cast (Seated) C.K. Edwards, Tommy Scrivens, Lamont Brown and Wesley J. Barnes. (Standing) Jenny Laroche, Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Ken Ard, N’Kenge, Danielle Kelsey and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang.
Jacqueline B. Arnold, Johmaalya Adelekan, Ken Ard, N'Kenge, Lianne Marie Dobbs. Photo by Lia Chang
Jacqueline B. Arnold, Johmaalya Adelekan, Ken Ard, N’Kenge, Lianne Marie Dobbs. Photo by Lia Chang
C.K. Edwards, Wesley J. Barnes, Lamont Brown and Tommy Scrivens. Photo by Lia Chang
C.K. Edwards, Wesley J. Barnes, Lamont Brown and Tommy Scrivens. Photo by Lia Chang
Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards, Wesley J. Barnes and Tommy Scrivens. Photo by Lia Chang
Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards, Wesley J. Barnes and Tommy Scrivens. Photo by Lia Chang

Location and Directions: NJPAC is located at 1 Center Street, Newark, New Jersey; a short walk from the Newark Penn Station stop by Newark-bound PATH Train or Amtrak.

Detailed instructions on approaching the venue by car, by bus, by foot or by rail:
NJPAC directions
NJPAC public transportation
NJOAC parking

C.K. Edwards, Lamont Brown, Wesley J. Barnes and Tommy Scrivens. Photo by Lia Chang
C.K. Edwards, Lamont Brown, Wesley J. Barnes and Tommy Scrivens. Photo by Lia Chang
Lia Chang
Lia Chang

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.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2019 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

Lainie Sakakura and Alex Sanchez Usher in Year of the Dog at P.S. 87 with Ali Ewoldt, Telly Leung, Rika Nishikawa, Kelvin Moon Loh, Jason Garcia Ignacio, Belinda Allyn, Sam Tatsuo Tanabe, YoonJeong Seong, Hansel Tan, Adam Rogers, Tommy Scrivens, Kai Rivera

(Back Row) Tommy Scrivens, Kelvin Moon Loh, Ali Ewoldt, Sam Tanabe, Daniel May, Lainie Sakakura, Telly Leung, YoonJeong Seong, Adam Rogers. (Front Row) Hansel Tan, Rika Nishikawa, Jason Garcia Ignacio, Kai Rivera. Photo by Lia Chang
Chinese Lion Dance by Kwan's Kung Fu, with Sam Tanabe, YoonJeong Seong, Hansel Tan. Photo by Lia Chang
Chinese Lion Dance by Kwan’s Kung Fu, with Sam Tanabe, YoonJeong Seong, Hansel Tan. Photo by Lia Chang

Broadway vets Lainie Sakakura and Alex Sanchez ushered in the Year of the Dog at P.S. 87 – William T. Sherman School’s Annual Pan Asian Lunar New Year celebration, with a little help from their Asian American Broadway friends on February 9, 2018.

Alex Sanchez, Avelina Sanchez, Isabela Sanchez and Lainie Sakakura. Photo by Lia Chang
Alex Sanchez, Avelina Sanchez, Isabela Sanchez and Lainie Sakakura. Photo by Lia Chang

The evening, highlighting a variety of Pan Asian cultures, is a labor of love for Sakakura and her husband, award-winning choreographer Alex Sanchez, who has served as her P.S. 87 Culture & Community Committee co-chair for eight years – in bringing multicultural awareness and arts to a New York City public school through contemporary and cultural music, dance, and personal stories.

Lainie Sakakura, with her husband, Alex Sanchez. Photo by Lia Chang
Lainie Sakakura, with her husband, Alex Sanchez. Photo by Lia Chang

“Growing up, I didn’t have any Asian American role models to look up to,” shared Sakakura. “I only saw Asian people portrayed as buck tooth, thick glasses wearing nerds. I didn’t have any positive influences to counter the racial prejudices I felt towards me. The PAN ASIAN LUNAR NEW YEAR event is what I wish I had as a kid. An evening filled with amazing, talented, beautiful Asian American performers celebrating everything that we are.”

(Back Row) Tommy Scrivens, Kelvin Moon Loh, Ali Ewoldt, Sam Tanabe, Daniel May, Lainie Sakakura, Telly Leung, YoonJeong Seong, Adam Rogers. (Front Row) Hansel Tan, Rika Nishikawa, Jason Garcia Ignacio, Kai Rivera. Photo by Lia Chang
(Back Row) Tommy Scrivens, Kelvin Moon Loh, Ali Ewoldt, Sam Tanabe, Daniel May, Lainie Sakakura, Telly Leung, YoonJeong Seong, Adam Rogers. (Front Row) Hansel Tan, Rika Nishikawa, Jason Garcia Ignacio, Kai Rivera. Photo by Lia Chang

The 90 minute set, which was free to the public, kicked off with Japanese Taiko Drumming by New York Taiko Aiko Kai. The stellar lineup included performances by Telly Leung, currently starring as Aladdin in ALADDIN, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA’s Ali Ewoldt, who plays Christine, THE LION KING’s Rika Nishikawa, who portrays Young Nala, and SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS’ Kelvin Moon Loh, who is featured as Perch Perkins. Jason Garcia Ignacio (M BUTTERFLY), Belinda Allyn (ALLEGIANCE), Sam Tanabe (ALLEGIANCE), YoonJeong Seong (THE KING & I, Dallas Summer Musicals), Hansel Tan (PING PONG, The Public Theater), dancers Adam Rogers (AMERICAN IN PARIS) and Tommy Scrivens (ROMAN HOLIDAY), Kai Rivera (SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE NEXT GENERATION), and students of UWSDance with Lainie Sakakura, rounded out the lineup. The evening closed with the Chinese Lion Dance by Kwan’s Kung Fu, and was followed by a potluck of Asian cuisine.

New York Taiko Aiko Kai. Photo by Lia Chang
New York Taiko Aiko Kai. Photo by Lia Chang

NEW YORK TAIKO AIKO KAI “Isamigoma” & “Enjin Daiko”
Taiko was originally a battlefield instrument to intimidate and scare the enemy in the 1500’s. NYTAK born from PS 87 families practicing Taiko in hopes of passing Japanese culture to their children.
*Mayur Baruah, Nina Briggs, Jackson Pietsch, Nobuko Sato, **Rie Taniguchi, **Kyoko Toyama-Baruah, Keiko Yamamoto (*PS87 alumni, **PS87 former parents) nytak.blogspot.com

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TELLY LEUNG “Proud of Your Boy”
Chinese-American, born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. Telly is currently playing the title role in Disney’s ALADDIN on Broadway. Other Broadway & National Tour credits: In Transit, Allegiance (with George Takei and Lea Salonga), Godspell, Rent (final Broadway company), Wicked (Boq, Chicago company), Pacific Overtures, & Flower Drum Song. Off Broadway: MTC’s THE WORLD OF EXTREME HAPPINESS. Television: “Wes, the Warbler” on “Glee” (Fox), “Instinct” (CBS), “Odd Mom Out” (Bravo), “Deadbeat” (Hulu), “Law and Order: Criminal Intent’ (NBC). He has released two solo albums – I’ll Cover You (2012) and Songs for You (2016) and can be heard on many original Broadway cast recordings. BFA Carnegie Mellon University. Website: www.tellyleung.com. Follow @tellyleung

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ALI EWOLDT “Pakiusap”
Half-Filipino, half-“Midwestern”, currently starring as Christine in The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. She made her Broadway debut as Cosette in Les Miserables, appeared in Lincoln Center’s recent Tony Award Winning revival of The King and I and has played Maria in numerous productions of West Side Story across the nation and the world. Her other credits include: The Fantasticks (Luisa) Off-Broadway, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Philia) at The Muny in St. Louis, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s The King and I (Tuptim), McCarter Theatre’s A Christmas Carol (Fan/Mrs. Bonds) and concerts at Feinstein’s/54 Below, Alice Tully Hall, Carnegie Hall and The Town Hall. TV/Film: The Michael J. Fox Show, Yield and Drama: The Web Series. Ali has a BA in psychology from Yale University. www.aliewoldt.com Follow @aliewoldt

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JASON GARCIA IGNACIO “Nasa Iyo Na Ang Lahat”
Born and raised in Manila, Philippines. His love for dance brought him to NYC and recently had his broadway debut in M. BUTTERFLY. www.jasonignacio.com

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RIKA NISHIKAWA “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King”
Age 11 Nisei (2nd generation Japanese American) but lived in Japan for 3 years. She’s currently playing Young Nala in THE LION KING on Broadway. Her professional stage career started with the role of Princess Ying Yaowalak in Marriott Theatre’s 2014 production of The King and I. Other local credits include her appearance in Lyric Opera’s The King and I, Theatre at the Center’s Annie Warbucks, and Griffin Theatre’s Balm in the Gilead. Rika is a former member of Lookingglass Theatre’s Young Ensemble. She has also appeared in Ruth Page Civic Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker.

Kelvin Moon Loh. Photo by Lia Chang
Kelvin Moon Loh. Photo by Lia Chang

KELVIN MOON LOH “Go The Distance”
Born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia but grew up in Queens & Long Island.  He is currently playing a rainbow suited fish, Perch Perkins in SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS on Broadway. Kelvin most recently appeared in Classic Stage Company’s revival of Pacific Overtures (dir. John Doyle). On Broadway, Kelvin appeared in revivals of The King and I (Lincoln Center) and Side Show. He created the role of the DJ in the critically acclaimed Here Lies Love (Public Theater) and toured with the 1st National Tour of Green Day’s American Idiot. www.KelvinMoon.com Follow @KelvinMoonLoh

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UWS DANCE “Grant Avenue”
Lainie Sakakura’s tap students ages 4 to 13 yrs old. A playful song about SF Chinatown from the 1958 Rogers & Hammerstein musical, FLOWER DRUM SONG about Chinese immigrants and their American born children’s inter-generational struggle between their Chinese roots and American culture. www.uwsdance.com

YoonJeong Seong. Photo by Lia Chang
YoonJeong Seong. Photo by Lia Chang

YOONJEONG SEONG “I Feel Pretty”
Born in South Korea. Moved to New York 15 years ago. YoonJeong appeared in 10 productions of THE KING AND I as Tuptim. One of her favorite roles was playing Amahl in AMAHL AND THE NIGHT VISITOR.

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HANSEL TAN “Bunga Sayang” with Adam Rogers & Tommy Scrivens
Hails from the sunny Southeast Asian isle of Singapore (which by the way is not in China). Hansel spent 2 years in the Singapore Armed Forces, so don’t mess with him. Graduate of Wesleyan and Oxford University. www.hanseltan.com

Sam Tanabe and Belinda Allyn. Photo by Lia Chang
Sam Tanabe and Belinda Allyn. Photo by Lia Chang

BELINDA ALLYN and SAM TANABE “Breaking Free”
Belinda Allyn is Filipino-American Hapa (first generation). Broadway performer, proud doggy mama, and third time performer at PS 87’s Pan Asian Lunar New Year celebration! www.belindaallyn.com
Sam Tanabe is half Japanese and half Swiss, making him Hapa (half Asian)! He loves musicals and was a part of Japanese-American history in ALLEGIANCE on Broadway. www.samtanabe.com

Avelina Sanchez, Isabela Sanchez and Sabrina Green. Photo by Lia Chang
Avelina Sanchez, Isabela Sanchez and Sabrina Green. Photo by Lia Chang

AVELINA SANCHEZ*, SABRINA GREEN*, ISABELA SANCHEZ** “How Far I’ll Go”
*13 year old PS 87 Alumni, ** PS 87 5th Grade

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KAI RIVERA “God’s plan/Fever/Special Delivery” Mix
14 years old, Hapa – half Japanese and half Puerto Rican. A member of Brooklyn Nets Kids dance team. Appeared on So You Think You Can Dance S13 and many commercials including Black Panther toy (currently playing). Performed with celebrities such as Justin Bieber, Jimmy Fallon and The Roots.

The production team included Musical Director/Pianist Tom Conroy and Percussionist/ Drummer Kory Grossman.

Tom Conroy. Photo by Lia Chang
Tom Conroy. Photo by Lia Chang

TOM CONROY, Musical Director – Doctor of Musical Arts in Composition – Rice University, MM Composition – San Francisco Conservatory of Music, MA Liberal Arts & Homeric Greek Studies – St John’s College. Work ranging from Pokemon Live! to Betty Buckley. Actor and teacher of English to speakers of other languages.

Lainie Sakakura and Percussionist Kory Grossman. Photo by Lia Chang
Lainie Sakakura and Percussionist Kory Grossman. Photo by Lia Chang

KORY GROSSMAN, Percussion/Drums – has played well over 35 Broadway shows, is a member of the American Symphony Orchestra, currently working on the new Broadway revival, MY FAIR LADY. PS 87 Alumni.

Lainie Sakakura. Photo by Lia Chang
Lainie Sakakura. Photo by Lia Chang

Lainie Sakakura is a 26+ year Broadway veteran, choreographer, director, writer and teaching artist. She was awarded the 2015 Joe A. Callaway Award – Best Choreography for the Off Broadway show, RED EYE OF LOVE in collaboration with co-choreographer Alex Sanchez, directed by Ted Sperling and the 2002 Joseph Jefferson Award – Best Choreography for DAMN YANKEES, Marriott Theatre in collaboration with director/co-choreographer David H. Bell. Nominated for the 2003 Joseph Jefferson Award – Best Choreography for HOT MIKADO, directed by David H. Bell.

Lainie Sakakura, Lia Chang and Alex Sanchez. Photo by Garth Kravits
Lainie Sakakura, Lia Chang and Alex Sanchez. Photo by Garth Kravits

Sakakura is currently co-writing the musical adaptation of HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET, the New York Times best seller by Jamie Ford.

Broadwayworld.com: Photo Flash: Lainie Sakakura Ushers In The Year of the Dog at P.S. 87 With Broadway Pals Ali Ewoldt, Telly Leung and More

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

Lia Chang. Photo by Lori Tan Chinn
Lia Chang. Photo by Lori Tan Chinn

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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Telly Leung, Ali Ewoldt, Rika Nishikawa, Kelvin Moon Loh, Jason Garcia Ignacio, Belinda Allyn, Sam Tanabe, YoonJeong Seong, Hansel Tan, Kai Rivera and More Set for Pan Asian Lunar New Year Celebration at the P.S. 87 – William T. Sherman School on February 9

LAINIE SAKAKURA
LAINIE SAKAKURA

Lainie Sakakura will usher in the Year of the Dog with a Pan Asian Lunar New Year celebration at the P.S. 87 – William T. Sherman School ( 160 W. 78th Street) on Friday, February 9, 2018, with a little help from her Asian American Broadway friends including Telly Leung, starring in ALADDIN as Aladdin, Ali Ewoldt starring in PHANTOM OF THE OPERA as Christine, Rika Nishikawa in THE LION KING as Young Nala, Kelvin Moon Loh in SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS, Jason Garcia Ignacio (M BUTTERFLY), Belinda Allyn (ALLEGIANCE), Sam Tanabe (ALLEGIANCE), YoonJeong Seong (THE KING & I, Dallas Summer Musicals). Hansel Tan (PING PONG, The Public Theater) will be joined by his backup dancers Adam Rogers (AMERICAN IN PARIS) and Tommy Scrivens (ROMAN HOLIDAY), Kai Rivera (SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE NEXT GENERATION), Japanese Taiko Drumming by New York Taiko Aiko Kai, Chinese Lion Dance by Kwan’s Kung Fu, and students of UWSDance Lainie Sakakura, will round out the evening’s performances.

The evening, highlighting a variety of Pan Asian cultures is a labor of love for Sakakura and her P.S. 87 Culture & Community Committee co-chair, her husband Alex Sanchez – in bringing multicultural awareness and arts to a New York City public school through contemporary and cultural music, dance, and personal stories.

Alex Sanchez and Lainie Sakakura. Photo by Lia Chang
Alex Sanchez and Lainie Sakakura. Photo by Lia Chang

The production team included Musical Director/Pianist Tom Conroy and Percussionist/ Drummer Kory Grossman.

The 90 minute performance, which is free to the public, begins at 5:30pm and will be followed a community Asian themed potluck dinner.

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Photos: Jeffrey Schecter, Ali Ewoldt, Mark Linn-Baker, John Tartaglia, Marcus Choi, Lainie Sakakura and More in A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM at The Muny 

The cast in The Muny's A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is currently playing at The Muny through July 11th. Supported by a sensational company of Muny and Broadway stars, Jeffrey Schecter (Pseudolus), gave an awe-inspiring performance after stepping into the lead role just 3 days before opening.

Jeffrey Schecter in A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM
Jeffrey Schecter in A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM

Considered one of Broadway’s greatest farces, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum follows Pseudolus, a crafty slave, as he aids his master in winning the hand of Philia, a slow-witted, but sweet courtesan, in exchange for his freedom. This musical romp through Rome includes scheming neighbors, secrets behind every toga and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

Justin Keyes, Tommy Scrivens, Marcus Choi and Jeffrey Schecter in A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
Justin Keyes, Tommy Scrivens, Marcus Choi and Jeffrey Schecter in A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.

The full cast includes: Jeffrey Schecter (Pseudolus), John Tartaglia (Hysterium), Ali Ewoldt (Philia), Mark Linn-Baker (Senex), E. Faye Butler (Domina), Jason Kravits (Lycus), Marrick Smith (Hero), Nathaniel Hackmann (Miles Gloriosus), Whit Reichert (Erronius) and Marcus Choi, Justin Keyes and Tommy Scrivens (Proteans) joined by a comedic ensemble that includes Justina Aveyard, Molly Callinan, Emily Hsu, Khori Michelle Petinaud, Katelyn Prominski and Lainie Sakakura.

E. Faye Butler, MarRick Smith and John Tartaglia
E. Faye Butler, Marrick Smith and John Tartaglia in The Muny’s A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.

A noteworthy design team spearheads this production with direction by Gary Griffin, choreography by Alex Sanchez, music direction by Brad Haak, scenic design by Timothy R. Mackabee, costume design by Mara Blumenfeld, lighting design by Rob Denton, sound design by John Shivers and David Patridge, wig design by John Metzner, with production stage manager Cody Renard Richard.

The company in The Muny's A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
The company in The Muny’s A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.

Tickets are now available at The Muny Box Office, or online at muny.org.

Katelyn Prominski, Jeffrey Schecter and Tommy Scrivens in The Muny's A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
Katelyn Prominski, Jeffrey Schecter and Tommy Scrivens in The Muny’s A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
Molly Callinan and Jeffrey Schecter in The Muny's A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
Molly Callinan and Jeffrey Schecter in The Muny’s A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
The cast of The Muny's A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
The cast of The Muny’s A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
Jason Kravits, Jeffrey Schecter and Marrick Smith in The Muny's A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
Jason Kravits, Jeffrey Schecter and Marrick Smith in The Muny’s A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
Mark Linn-Baker and Ali Ewoldt in The Muny's A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
Mark Linn-Baker and Ali Ewoldt in The Muny’s A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
John Tartaglia, Mark Linn-Baker and Jeffrey Schecter in The Muny's A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
John Tartaglia, Mark Linn-Baker and Jeffrey Schecter in The Muny’s A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
The cast in The Muny's A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
The cast in The Muny’s A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
Tommy Scrivens, Jeffrey Schecter and Nathaniel Hackmann in The Muny's A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
Tommy Scrivens, Jeffrey Schecter and Nathaniel Hackmann in The Muny’s A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
Whit Reichert, Nathaniel Hackmann and Jeffrey Schecter in The Muny's A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
Whit Reichert, Nathaniel Hackmann and Jeffrey Schecter in The Muny’s A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
Marrick Smith and Ali Ewoldt in The Muny's A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
Marrick Smith and Ali Ewoldt in The Muny’s A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
Marrick Smith and Ali Ewoldt in The Muny's A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
Marrick Smith and Ali Ewoldt in The Muny’s A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
The cast in The Muny's A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
The cast in The Muny’s A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
Jeffrey Schecter and the cast in The Muny's A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
Jeffrey Schecter and the cast in The Muny’s A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.

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 award-winning filmmaker, a Best Actress nominee, a photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. 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.

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 lia@liachang.com

Jeffrey Schecter Joins A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM at The Muny, July 5 – 11

Ali Ewoldt, Emily Hsu, Lainie Sakakura, Marcus Choi and Justina Aveyard. Photo courtesy of Marcus Choi

Jeffrey Schecter will star as Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at The Muny, the third production of its 99th season, which plays July 5-11. Schecter replaces Peter Scolari, who struggled with allergies during rehearsals that resulted in extreme vocal stress and a severe sinus infection.

Jeffrey Schecter
Jeffrey Schecter

Schecter, who thrilled Muny audiences as the hilariously entertaining Scuttle in last week’s production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, steps into the role of Pseudolus. He also has had featured roles in the Broadway productions of A Chorus Line, Fiddler on the Roof, and Nice Work if You Can Get It, as well as the current hit CBS series “The Good Fight.”

Ali Ewoldt, Emily Hsu, Lainie Sakakura, Marcus Choi and Justina Aveyard. Photo courtesy of Marcus Choi
Ali Ewoldt, Emily Hsu, Lainie Sakakura, Marcus Choi and Justina Aveyard. Photo courtesy of Marcus Choi

Schecter joins the previously announced John Tartaglia (Hysterium), Ali Ewoldt (Philia), Mark Linn-Baker (Senex), E. Faye Butler (Domina), Jason Kravits (Lycus), MarRick Smith(Hero), Nathaniel Hackmann (Miles Gloriosus), Whit Reichert (Erronius) and Marcus Choi, Justin Keyes and Tommy Scrivens (Proteans). This comic ensemble includes Justina Aveyard, Molly Callinan, Emily Hsu, Khori Michelle Petinaud, Katelyn Prominski and Lainie Sakakura.

Forum is directed by Gary Griffin, with choreography by Alex Sanchez, music direction by Brad Haak, scenic design by Timothy R. Mackabee, costume design by Mara Blumenfeld, lighting design by Rob Denton, sound design by John Shivers and David Patridge, wig design by John Metzner, with production stage manager Cody Renard Richard.

The Muny is located at 1 Theatre Dr, St. Louis, MO 63112. Click here to purchase tickets.

Peter Scolari, Ali Ewoldt, John Tartaglia, Mark Linn-Baker, Marcus Choi, Lainie Sakakura, Justina Aveyard, Emily Hsu and More set for The Muny’s A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, July 5-11 

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Peter Scolari, Ali Ewoldt, John Tartaglia, Mark Linn-Baker, Marcus Choi, Lainie Sakakura, Justina Aveyard, Emily Hsu and More set for The Muny’s A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, July 5-11

The Muny’s is presenting A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, July 5-11. The Muny is located at 1 Theatre Dr, St. Louis, MO 63112. Click here to purchase tickets.

The cast features Peter Scolari as Pseudolus, John Tartaglia as Hysterium, Ali Ewoldt as Philia, Mark Linn-Baker as Senex,  E. Faye Butler as Domina, Jason Kravits as Lycus, MarRick Smith as Hero, Nathaniel Hackmann as Miles Gloriosus, Whit Reichert as Erronius and Marcus Choi, Justin Keyes and Tommy Scrivens as Proteans. Justina Aveyard, Molly Callinan, Emily Hsu, Khori Michelle Petinaud, Katelyn Prominski and Lainie Sakakura round out the comedic ensemble.

Helmed by Gary Griffin, with choreography by Alex Sanchez and music direction by Brad Haak, Forum’s design team includes scenic design by Timothy R. Mackabee, costume design by Mara Blumenfeld, lighting design by Rob Denton, sound design by John Shivers and David Patridge, wig design by John Metzner, with production stage manager Cody Renard Richard.

Considered one of Broadway’s greatest farces, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum follows Pseudolus, a crafty slave, as he aids his master in winning the hand of Philia, a slow-witted, but sweet courtesan, in exchange for his freedom. This musical romp through Rome includes scheming neighbors, secrets behind every toga and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. This is one Muny spectacle guaranteed to make even the Greek gods keel over with laughter.

PETER SCOLARI (Pseudolus)

Broadway/NY: Bronx BombersWickedLucky GuyHairspraySly FoxMagic BirdOut of this WorldZiegfeld Follies of 1937 (Encores!), World premieres of A.R. Gurney’s Family Furniture at The Flea, Daniel Sullivan’s Inspecting Carol, Ken Ludwig’s Fox on The Fairway(George Street Playhouse). Winner Best Actor, Berkshire Theater Festival for The ForeignerMusic Man at Ogunquit Playhouse, Forum at Bay Street Theater. TV: Film Critic’s Award nomination, and 2016 Emmy Award Outstanding Guest Actor for Girls (HBO), GothamOdd Mom OutMadoff (ABC Films), Newhart (Three-time Emmy nominee), Bosom BuddiesThe West WingERFamily TiesWhite CollarKing of QueensRebaAlly McBealEarth to the Moon (HBO), Stop the World (Showtime). Film: That Thing You DoPolar ExpressSuburban GirlCamp NowhereThe Ryan White Story.’

JOHN TARTAGLIA (Hysterium)
JOHN TARTAGLIA (Hysterium)

Broadway: Avenue Q (Tony nomination)Disney’s Beauty and the BeastShrek the Musical. John created, executive produced and starred in his own preschool series Johnny and the Sprites for Disney Junior (8 Emmy nominations) and performed on Sesame Street(PBS Kids) for 13 seasons. As a director: The Wizard of Oz, Tarzan and Shrek (The Muny), Dinosaur Train Live and Sid the Science Kid Live (national tours), Claudio Quest (NY Musical Festival, Best of the Fest), Lord Tom (York Theatre), Shrek the Halls (DreamWorks Theatricals), Because of Winn Dixie (Arkansas Repertory), amongst others. Current projects include playing Kip on Jim Henson’s Word Party and Hank on Julie’s Greenroom, as well as creator, co-executive producer and star (Splash) of Jim Henson’s Splash and Bubbles (PBS Kids). www.johntartagliaproductions.com

MARK LINN-BAKER (Senex)
MARK LINN-BAKER (Senex)

Broadway: On the 20th Century, You Can’t Take It With YouRelatively SpeakingLosing LouieA Year with Frog and Toad (Toad), A Funny Thing Happened… (Hysterium), Laughter On The 23rd FloorFace ValueDoonesbury. NY City Center Encores!: The Pajama Game. NY Shakespeare Festival: All’s Well That Ends WellOthelloThe Death of Von Richthofen…The Laundry HourAlice In Concert. Off­Broadway: Almost An Evening, Chesapeake (Drama Desk and OCC nominations), A Flea In Her EarThe Miss Firecracker Contest. Film: ManhattanMy Favorite YearNoises OffHow Do You Know. TV: Perfect Strangers, Showtime’s Laughter on the 23rd FloorBluebloodsThe Good FightThe Good WifeLaw & OrderLaw & Order: CIMiami ViceMoonlighting and others. Mr. Linn Baker is a co-founder/co-director of New York Stage and Film.

JASON KRAVITS (Lycus)
JASON KRAVITS (Lycus)

Jason Kravits is so pleased to be invited back to The Muny, where he played Bert Barry in last season’s 42nd Street. Broadway credits include The Drowsy ChaperoneSly Fox and Relatively Speaking (an evening of one acts by Ethan Coen, Elaine May and Woody Allen). Recent NY: Hector in The Golden Apple (City Center Encores!). TV: ADA Richard Bay on ABC’s The Practice. Other credits include: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, The Mick, Major Crimes, Madam Secretary, The Blacklist, Madoff, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Smash, Masters of Sex, Everybody Loves Raymond and the upcoming Disjointed. Creator/performer of “Off the Top!” – a solo, completely improvised cabaret, which heads to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival August. www.offthetop.nyc

E. FAYE BUTLER (Domina)
E. FAYE BUTLER (Domina)

National and regional credits: St. Louis Repertory Theatre, Court Theatre, Steppenwolf, Goodman Theatre, Martinique Drury Lane, Drury Lane Oakbrook, Northlight Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Congo Square, Paramount Theatre, Fulton Theatre, Maine State Music Theatre, Olney Theatre Center, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Marriott’s Lincolnshire Theatre, Victory Gardens Theater, Arena Stage, Baltimore’s Center Stage, Signature Theatre, Dallas Theater Center, Pasadena Playhouse, La Jolla Playhouse, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Yale Repertory Theatre, The Kennedy Center, Broadway Playhouse, Harmon Hall. National and regional tours: Mamma Mia!Ain’t Misbehavin’NunsenseNunsense IIDinah WasDon’t Bother MeI Can’t Cope. Six Joseph Jefferson Awards, two Helen Hayes Awards, four Black Theater Alliance Awards, RAMI Award, John Barrymore Award, Excellence In The Arts Award, After Dark Award, Ovation Award, Kathryn V. Lampkey Award, Sarah Siddons Leading Lady Award, Black Excellence Award, Guy Adkins Award, 2016 Rosetta LeNoire Award, Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship, National Museum of Women in the Arts inductee. E.Faye has a CD entitled A Circle of Firsts and performs across the country in concert, cabaret, club and theatre venues with her orchestra, EFO. Coming Up: The Taming of the Shrew (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre). Proud AEA Member. Follow her @ www.e-fayebutler.com.

ALI EWOLDT (Philia)
ALI EWOLDT (Philia)

Ali Ewoldt played Maria in The Muny’s 2013 production of West Side Story and is thrilled to return to St. Louis! She is currently playing Christine in The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. Other credits include: Les Misérables (Cosette, Broadway revival), The King and I (Lincoln Center, Broadway revival), West Side Story (Maria, Broadway revival 1st national tour). Off-Broadway: The Fantasticks (Luisa). Other credits include: Lyric Opera of Chicago’s The King and I (Tuptim), McCarter Theatre’s A Christmas Carol (Fan/Mrs. Bonds) and concerts at Feinstein’s/54 Below, Alice Tully Hall, Carnegie Hall and The Town Hall. TV/Film: The Michael J. Fox ShowYield and Drama: The Web Series. Ali has a B.A. in psychology from Yale University. www.aliewoldt.com

MARRICK SMITH (Hero)
MARRICK SMITH (Hero)

Marrick Smith is thrilled to be back at The Muny. Broadway: Fun Home (Roy u/s)  Off-Broadway: Wild Goose Dreams (Public Theater), Pretty Filthy (Civilians), The Underclassman (The Duke), Revolution (Minetta Lane), Fun Home (Public Theater). Regional: Fiddler on the Roof (The Muny). Film: The Lennon ReportOne Stop AwayUncovering Eden. Workshops: TeethAlice by HeartLove’s Labour’s Lost. Playwright: Behind the Badge (NYC Fringe) Big thanks to The Fam, KMR and Wright Entertainment. @Marricksmith

NATHANIEL HACKMANN (Miles Gloriosus)
NATHANIEL HACKMANN (Miles Gloriosus)

Nathaniel Hackmann is thrilled to be coming back to the Gateway City and the historic Muny stage! He most recently played Gaston in Beauty and the Beast at The Muny and Variety Children’s Theatre, as well as on the national tour. Broadway/NY/tours: Les Misérables (Valjean, Javert u/s), Paint Your Wagon (Steve). Regional: Jekyll & Hyde (Jekyll/Hyde) Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Adam), Oliver! (Bill Sykes), Sweeney Todd (Anthony), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Miles), Carousel (Billy), Ragtime (Tateh), Into the Woods (Cinderella’s Prince/Wolf), Camelot (Lancelot), Sanders Family Christmas (Stanley), Bye Bye Birdie (Conrad). Proud member AEA. Twitter: @super_n8.  Instagram: N8HACKMANN

WHIT REICHERT (Erronius)
WHIT REICHERT (Erronius)

Whit Reichert is delighted to return to The Muny, where he was last seen in Footloose (Cop and Cowboy Bob’s Quartet). Other Muny shows include Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Oscar) and South Pacific(Stewpot). Earlier this year, Whit appeared in To Kill a Mockingbird (Judge Taylor) at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and The Winter’s Tale (Old Shepherd) at The Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis. A familiar face to St. Louis, he has been seen at Stages, The Black Rep, Variety Children’s Theatre, Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis, The Actor’s Studio, Upstream Theater, 27 shows at The Rep and a new show this fall at Insight Theatre Company. Regionally, Whit has appeared in Anything Goes (Moonface Martin, Kansas City Starlight Theatre); Here’s Love (Kris Kringle, Fireside Theatre); Inherit the WindThe Crucibleand Most Happy Fella for Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park; The Fantasticks (Hucklebee, Riverside Theatre); world premiere of Monk-y Business (Abbot Costello, Grand 1894 Opera House); The Music Man (Mayor Shinn, Casa Manana); 1776 (Ben Franklin), Sunshine Boys(Al Lewis), Sugar (Osgood Fielding) and Harvey (Dr. Chumley) for Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre.

MARCUS CHOI (Protean)
MARCUS CHOI (Protean)

Original Broadway companies of AllegianceWickedFlower Drum Song and The Times They Are A-Changin’. Also, Christina Applegate’s Broadway production of Sweet Charity and NY City Center Encores! production of Kismet. Regional: Mysterious SkinPippin at East West Players, Dangerous Beauty and the US premiere of Waterfall at Pasadena Playhouse. TV: HomelandChicago P.D.BlindspotThe OAThe Last ShipThe FostersJessie. Film: Can You Ever Forgive Me?, SharknadoEnchantedAdopting TerrorThe Novack Murders and Project Drew. Please visit Marcus at marcuschoi.net.

JUSTIN KEYES (Protean)
JUSTIN KEYES (Protean)

Broadway: How To Succeed…, The Apple Tree, Mary Poppins; National tour: The 25th Annual Putman County Spelling Bee; Regional: Resident Ensemble Players, The Guthrie, Two River Theater Company, San Francisco Symphony, Dallas Theater Center, Kansas City Starlight, Great Lakes Theater Festival, The Muny, Pittsburgh CLO. TV: Power, I Love You, But I Lied, Gossip Girl. Justin is a graduate of the University of Michigan.

TOMMY SCRIVENS (Protean)
TOMMY SCRIVENS (Protean)

Tommy Scrivens is excited to be back at The Muny. Previous productions were Aladdin and Mary Poppins(Dance Captain). Off Broadway: Where’s Charley? and Fiorello! (NY City Center Encores!) The Little Mermaid (Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Dance Captain) and American Dance Machine for the 21st Century (Dance Captain). Tommy has also been a principal dancer with Parsons Dance, dre.dance, Kristin Sudekis Dance, Nicholas Andre Dance and marInspired. Most recently, he has been archiving the works of the late Bob Fosse with the Verdon Fosse Legacy LLC. He is a Florida native and received a BFA in dance from Ohio State University. Proud AEA member since 2011.

Eva Noblezada, John Douglas Thompson, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Richard Thomas, Ali Ewoldt, Rodney Ingram, Telly Leung and More Set for STARS IN THE ALLEY Concert

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA Star Ali Ewoldt Celebrates Feinstein’s/54 Below Solo Debut with Liz Casasola, Joshua Dela Cruz, Rona Figueroa, Derek Gregor, Rodney Ingram, Jeremy Stolle and More 

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

Lia Chang is an award-winning filmmaker, a Best Actress nominee, a photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. 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.

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 lia@liachang.com

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