The piece, which began June 20 and runs through July 2, is a "musical valentine" to the jazz great is written by James Mirrione and De Shields, the veteran of such Broadway shows as Play On! and The Full Monty. Lawrence Maslon, creator of the PBS series, "Broadway: The American Musical," directs and Mercedes Ellington is choreographer.
De Shields stopped the show each night in The Full Monty with his roof-raising song, "Big Black Man." He was nominated for a Tony Award for his work. His previous nomination was for 1997's Play On!
Other Broadway credits include The Wiz, Ain't Misbehavin' and 1984's Andre De Shields' Haarlem Nocturne, a revue which he conceived, wrote, directed, composed, choreographed and performed.
In other Playhouse news, Harriet Harris, the Tony winner for Thoroughly Modern Millie who is currently enjoying some TV fame as a character on "Desperate Housewives," will appear in the Cape Playhouse's production of A. R. Gurney's The Dining Room, running July 4-16 at the Dennis, Massachusetts, summer stock house. Harris will act opposite Brian Murray. She replaces Dana Ivey, who had to drop out owing to impending knee surgury. Also in the cast are Michael McDonald and Stephanie Weir. James Brennan directs. The season will conclude Aug. 29-Sept. 10 with Dress for Dinner, a comedy by Marc Camoletti. Dee Hoty (Mamma Mia!) and Michael Rupert (Falsettos) will star alongside Kevin Spirtas. James Brennan directs.
In between those two attractions will come the 1920s musical No, No Nanette, with Rebecca Luker and Fred Willard (July 18-30); the Fats Waller revue Ain't Misbehavin', directed by Greg Ganakas (Aug. 1-13); and Around the World in Eighty Days, a small-cast production of the Jules Verne classic by Mark Brown. Russ Treyz directs (Aug 15-27).
The Playhouse was founded by Raymond Moore. A former Unitarian Meeting House, the quaint, white shingled, 600-seat theatre features a wrap-around balcony. The theatre opened in 1927 with a production of The Guardsman starring Basil Rathbone. Among the many noteworthy productions to be staged there over the years was a 1937 Hamlet starring Eva LeGallienne in the title role and Uta Hagen, in her professional debut, as Ophelia. Bette Davis, who spent teenage summers on Cape Cod, acted there, as did Tallulah Bankhead, Helen Hayes and Gertrude Lawrence, who met and married her husband Richard Aldrich (who ran the theatre for many years) at the Playhouse. Shirley Booth acted there so often, she kept her Oscar there.
The Cape Playhouse is located in Dennis, MA, at 820 Route 6A. For more information, call (508) 385-3911.