Fresh Orchestration Sweetens Jelly's Last Jam Revival in Atlanta

News   Fresh Orchestration Sweetens Jelly's Last Jam Revival in Atlanta Alliance Theatre in Atlanta gives the Broadway musical Jelly's Last Jam its first major Equity revival in a decade, March 15-April 9. Alliance associate artistic director Kent Gash directs and co-choreographs the show, which celebrates the life of musician-songwriter Jelly Roll Morton. Bryon Easley is co-choreographer.

Opening is March 22 at Alliance's home in the Woodruff Arts Center.

"This multiple Tony Award-winning musical explores the rollercoaster life of Jelly Roll Morton, acclaimed pianist and self-proclaimed inventor of jazz," according to Alliance. "Jelly's Last Jam is an extremely entertaining and provocative journey through Jazz, from New Orleans to Harlem, with 18 soulful songs and plenty of rhythmic tap and dance exploding from all corners of the stage."

The musical was written by Tony Award-winning director and playwright George C. Wolfe, with music by Jelly Roll Morton and lyrics by Susan Birkenhead. The production opened on Broadway April 1992 and ran more than 500 performances before it closed September 1993. A cast album preserves the score.

(Gregory Hines, Tonya Pinkins and lighting designer Jules Fisher won Tony Awards for their work on the Broadway production.)

The musical adaptation and original music was composed by Luther Henderson from the original Jelly Roll Morton songs. A grant was awarded for an orchestral reduction of the score. Musical director Darryl G. Ivey worked on it, and will also conduct the seven-member orchestra for the Alliance Theatre production.

The cast features Eric B. Anthony as Young Jelly, Rodrick Covington, Karole Foreman, Lavon Fisher, J.D. Goldblatt as Jelly Roll Morton, Dell Howlett, Billy Porter as The Chimney Man, Alecia Robinson, Ken Robinson, Alexis Sims, Allison Upshaw Spragin, Andre Ward, Andrea Washington, Daniel J. Watts, Laurie Williamson and Melissa Lola Youngblood.

The musical numbers include "Dr. Jazz," "Michigan Water," "That's How You Jazz," "The Chicago Stomp," "Lovin' is a Lowdown Blues" and "King Oliver Stomp."

The creative team includes Emily Beck (set designer); William H. Grant III (lighting designer); Austin K. Sanderson (costume designer); Clay Benning (sound designer); and Celise Kalke (dramaturg).

Goldblatt (who plays Jelly Roll, a role created by Gregory Hines in the Broadway production) appeared in Two Gentlemen of Verona with the Acting Company and the in-development The 60s Project (directed by Richard Maltby), as well as Once on This Island at Centerstage (directed by Ken Roberson), Hair at Barringston Stage, Servant of Two Masters at the Pittsburgh Public (Young Company).

Billy Porter's Broadway work includes Miss Saigon, Five Guys Named Moe, Grease, Smokey Joe's Café, Dreamgirls and Hair.

For ticket information, call (404) 733-5000 or online at www.alliancetheatre.org.

From Left: Director Kent Gash with Eric B. Anthony during a rehearsal for <i>Jelly's Last Jam</i>.
From Left: Director Kent Gash with Eric B. Anthony during a rehearsal for Jelly's Last Jam. Photo by Robert Saxon