If you frequent New York theatre and haven't heard of Charles Randolph-Wright, you will soon come to know his name. In June, his play Blue, which held a press invited recording session yesterday, opens at the Gramercy Theatre, courtesy of the Roundabout Theatre Company. In July, his next production, Ball, will hold a workshop performance. And in August, the 50-city national tour of his production of Frank Loesser's Guys and Dolls will kick off at the Wolf Trap Performing Arts Center in Virginia.
At the Roundabout Theatre Company's session, Blue's star Phylicia Rashad (Claire Huxtable on TV's "The Cosby Show") was whisked in and out of rehearsals to lay down some vocals for the "play with music." Randolph-Wright says that the music in the play "is really what a soundtrack does in film" serving as a character rather than an external part of the play. Michael McElroy (Encores!Hair, Broadway's Wild Party) sang "Out of the Blue" and pieces of "The Beat" and "Angel" (3 of 10 songs that he will perform live in the show).
In Blue, the career of jazz singer Blue Williams is followed by Peggy Clark (Rashad), the mother of a well-off African-American family who run a funeral home business in South Carolina. The production, directed by Sheldon Epps, also features Hill Harper, Howard W. Overshown, Jewell Robinson, Randall Shepperd, Messeret Stroman and Chad Tucker.
The design team comprises set designer James Leonard Joy, costume designer Debra Bauer and lighting designer Michael Gilliam and sound designer Kurt Fischer.
Blue's music is by Nona Hendryx of LaBelle fame ("Lady Marmalade") and lyrics are by both Hendryx and Randolph-Wright. The two are also teaming up with Savion Glover and Sarah Jones for the upcoming musical Ball. Randolph Wright told Playbill On-Line that two days earlier, they had been recording some songs for that production as well. Buzz is certainly circulating for the musical based on the Nike Freestyle ad campaign because, as we spoke, he let out a Cheshire Cat-like smile and said that he's getting "many calls" about the production. Blue, which premiered at Washington, D.C.’s Arena Stage last April, (along with Randolph-Wright's Guys and Dolls) will begin previewing at the Gramercy Theatre June 1 and open June 28 for a run through Sept. 2.
— by Ernio Hernandez