Back in 1959, she was one of the first black artists to cross into the all-white pop charts. With such hits as "What A Difference A Day Makes" and "Come Rain or Come Shine," not to mention her great duet with Brook Benton, "Baby, You've Got What It Takes," Dinah Washington became a legendary songstress before she died at a mere 39.
Oliver Goldstick's drama with music, Dinah Was, captures the singer at the peak of her fame, telling of her battles with racism and career in the music business. The play opened at the WPA Theatre Mar. 24 after starting previews Mar. 11 for a run through Apr. 26. Audience interest led to an extension of the show through May 3 and now the show will have a commercial Off-Broadway run.
Dinah Was will be the first offering of the new Gramercy Theatre, located at 23rd St. (between Park & Lexington Ave). Jean Doumanian, producer of Death Defying Acts, will produce the transfer, which starts performances May 28 with the same cast, according to a spokesperson from the Dan Klores office. No news at this point on a cast recording.
Yvette Freeman, who plays Nurse Haleh Adams on TV's ER and also co-stars on NBC's "Working," plays Dinah. She appeared on Broadway and on tour in Ain't Misbehavin' and has worked at the Muny in St. Louis (Show Boat) and the Boston mounting of Nunsense.
Also in the cast are Adriane Lenox, Bud Leslie, Darryl Alan Reed and Vince Viverito. Designing Dinah are Michael Yeargan (set), James F. Ingalls (lighting), Paul Tazewell (costumes) and Laura Grace Brown (sound). A veteran director at Chicago's Goodman Theatre (The House of Martin Guerre, Mill Fire), David Petrarca stages Dinah Was. Petrarca's New York credits include Marvin's Room and The Water Children. George Faison serves as Dinah Was' choreographer, with Lanny Hartley (Freeman's real-life husband) doing the honors as music director and Jason Robert Brown, himself a composer/lyricist (the upcoming Parade) providing the orchestrations for a six-piece band.
-- By David Lefkowitz