Quick: what Broadway musicals have yet to open this season?
Yes, The Civil War, Band In Berlin, Annie Get Your Gun, The Gershwins' Fascinating Rhythm and the play-with-music Marlene. But wait -- add another to the list. The Off-Broadway sleeper Rollin' on the T.O.B.A., about the early days of black vaudeville, is moving from the 47th Street Theatre to the Kit Kat Klub, former home of Cabaret.
The three-person musical will end its run at the 47th Street Theatre Mar. 7 and start previews at the Kit Kat Klub March 17 for an official reopening Mar. 24. Production spokesperson Judy Jacksina told Playbill On-Line (Mar. 2) she didn't know whether the venue would retain its Cabaret inspired name, go back to its original "Henry Miller's Theatre" appellation, or pick yet another name.
A spokesperson at the League of American Theatres & Producers, reached Mar. 2, was not yet able to confirm that the show would have official Broadway status. He noted that while Cabaret was considered Broadway (and Tony eligible), the theatre itself isn't necessarily a Broadway house.
Production spokesperson Jacksina said the show would remain the same, with a slightly enlarged set (by designer Larry W. Brown) and the same cast (Sandra Reaves-Phillips, Rudy Roberson and co-creator Ronald "Smokey" Stevens). Conceived by Stevens and Jaye Stewart, T.O.B.A. is subtitled "A Tribute to the Last Days of Black Vaudeville" and offers segments devoted to Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Bert Williams and Butterbeans & Suzie. Several pieces are taken from Langston Hughes' "The Simple Stories." "T.O.B.A" is an acronym Theatre Owners' Booking Association," but performers had a different phrase for it: "Tough On Black Asses."
Stevens and Leslie Dockery direct the show, which features musical direction and arrangements by David Alan Bunn and additional material by Irvin S. Bauer. Jon Kusner (lighting), Michele Reisch (costumes) and Shabach Audio (sound) are the designers.
John Grimaldi, Ashton Springer and Frenchmen Productions, Inc. produced both the 47th Street Theatre engagement and the upcoming move. T.O.B.A. opened Off-Broadway Jan. 28 after starting previews Jan. 20.
For tickets to Rollin' On The T.O.B.A. at the 47th Street Theatre through March 7 call (212) 239-6200. Tele-charge will also handle the show's Broadway ticketing.
-- By David Lefkowitz