Color Purple's Dixon to Star as Music Great in Ray Charles Live! Musical

News   Color Purple's Dixon to Star as Music Great in Ray Charles Live! Musical Broadway stars Brandon Victor Dixon and Nikki Renée Daniels will star in the forthcoming world premiere of Ray Charles Live! A New Musical at the Pasadena Playhouse.

Brandon Victor Dixon
Brandon Victor Dixon

Artistic director Sheldon Epps will direct the new musical, which will close the season for his California company. Previews begin Oct. 31, and the show will officially open Nov. 9 for a run scheduled through Dec. 9.

Dixon — a Tony nominee for his role as Harpo in The Color Purple and a recurring star on "One Life to Live" — will star in the title role opposite Daniels (Les Miserables, Aida, Nine) as his second wife Della.

The cast will also feature Matthew Benjamin (The Hat Left Behind) as Tom Dowd, Aaron Brown (Pepito's Story) and Christopher Brown ("Christmas Everyday") as Little George, Yvette Cason (Play On!) as Retha Robinson, Wilkie Ferguson (Dreamgirls tour) as Young Ray, Maceo Oliver (Swing!) as Joe Adams, Jeremiah Whitfield-Pearson (Oliver) as Little Ray, Sabrina Sloan (Hairspray and "American Idol") as Margie Hendricks, Daniel Tatar (Baby) as Ahmet Ertegun, Angela Teek (Ragtime) as Mary Ann Fisher and Harrison White (Sister Act, The Musical) as Jeff Brown.

NRaca (Hairspray), Meloney Collins (Purlie), Tara Cook (Beauty and the Beast), Dionne Figgins (The Wiz), Sylvia MacCalla (Beehive), Yusuf Nasir (Fame, The Musical), Leslie Stevens (Can-Can), Rocklin Thompson (Purlie) and Ricke Vermont (The Highest Heaven) round out the ensemble.

Featuring the music of Ray Charles and a book fashioned by Pulitzer Prize winner Suzan-Lori Parks (Topdog/Underdog), the work will follow "the strength, the humor, the musical genius, as well as the successes and failures of one of America's best known and loved icons," as show notes describe. Parks' book "incorporates the seminal moments in Ray Charles' life as 'The Genius' records his last album. Parks skillfully uses the great music of Mr. Charles to tell the 'in studio' audience the story of his life with all of the good, the bad, the ugly, and the sublime." The musical will encapsulate the variety of musical styles Charles was known for — from rhythm and blues, to gospel, to jazz, to country music and pop. Among the hits included will be "Georgia on My Mind," "What'd I Say," "Mess Around," "Hit the Road, Jack," "Unchain My Heart," "I Got a Woman" and "Hallelujah, I Love Her So."

The creative team includes Ken Roberson (choreographer), Rahn Coleman (musical supervisor) and Harold Wheeler (orchestrations). The designers feature Riccardo Hernandez (set), Paul Tazewell (costume), Donald Holder (lighting), Carl Casella (sound) and Austin Switser (projections).

The musical is produced by special arrangement with Benjamin Productions, Baldwin Entertainment Group, Joe Adams and Ray Charles Enterprises, Inc.

Tickets to Ray Charles Live! at the Pasadena Playhouse, 39 South El Molino Avenue in Pasadena, CA, are available by calling (626) 356-PLAY. For more information visit pasadenaplayhouse.org.