New York City has provided the old town, and now here comes Vernel Bagneris with the hot time. One Mo' Time, the New Orleans jazz musical revue conceived, written and directed by Bagneris, cakewalks from a summer 2001 staging at Williamstown Theatre Festival to a spring 2002 Broadway run, beginning previews at the Longacre Theatre on Feb. 21. Opening is March 6.
The 1979 musical, which ran Off-broadway and was seen regionally, will also star Bagneris, stepping and singing in the enterprise that recreates one sultry night in 1926 at the Lyric Theatre in New Orleans, where greats like Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey wailed their sweet and blue music. In the show, Big Bertha's touring vaudeville song-and-dance act primps and bickers between numbers on stage. The company features Rosalind Brown (Broadway's Footloose), B.J. Crosby (Smokey Joe's Cafe), Wally Dunn (Broadway's Master Class), Roz Ryan (Chicago, TV's "Amen") and Bagneris as Papa Du, all recreating their summer work.
The Williamstown Theatre Festival is presenting the Broadway production.
One Mo' Time was the 2001 Williamstown Theatre Festival's mainstage season opener. It played June 20-July 1. The cast sang and danced Charlestons, rags, cakewalks and other characteristic numbers of the time. Theatregoers were also treated to a sampling of Bagneris' signature limber-limbed dancing.
The Williamstown engagement had its audiences clapping and yelling for more each night as the cast sang "there'll be a hot time in the old town tonight" — an unusual reaction for a subscription base more used to the likes of Hedda Gabler and The Price. Songs in the show include "Down in Honky Tonk Town" and "Everybody Loves My Baby," among others, played by The New Orleans Blues Serenaders, musical-directed by Orange Kellin. Designers are Campbell Baird (set), Toni-Leslie James (costumes), John McKernon (lighting) and Kurt Kullenberger (sound). Eddie D. Robinson choreographs.
One Mo' Time opened Off-Broadway at the Village Gate in 1979 and ran for three and a half years. The show is preserved on a cast album. The show eventually had runs in London, Australia and across the U.S. It also inspired a sequel, titled Further Mo'. Bagneris' other credits include Jelly Roll, The Life, Staggerlee and the film "Pennies from Heaven."
Williamstown habitually sees its offerings journey south to New York City. Past transfer successes include Arthur Miller's The Price and All My Sons and N. Richard Nash's The Rainmaker. This fall, the festival's production of Hedda Gabler, starring Kate Burton, opened on Broadway.
One Mo' Time tickets range $30-$75. The Longacre is at 220 W. 48th Street in Manhattan. For information, call (212) 239-6200.