Funeral Service Announced for Broadway Actor James Stovall

News   Funeral Service Announced for Broadway Actor James Stovall
 
Friends will gather Sept. 29-30 to say goodbye to James Stovall, the Broadway actor recently seen in Finian's Rainbow, who died Sept. 26 at a hospital in Manhattan.

James Stovall
James Stovall Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Stovall worked with Bob Fosse and acted in the original production of Ragtime. He had been suffering from heart problems recently.

A wake will be held 3-8 PM Sept. 29 at Owens Funeral Home, 216 Malcolm X Blvd. at 121st St. A gathering 6-7 PM Sept. 30 will precede a 7 PM funeral at New Mount Zion Baptist Church, 171 W. 140th Street at Adam Clayton Powell.

In the 2009-10 revival of Finian's Rainbow, Stovall was a preacher and a "Begat" singer. Finian's Rainbow director-choreographer Warren Carlyle told Playbill.com on Sept. 27, "From the moment James auditioned for Finian's Rainbow he radiated joy. There was no doubt in my mind that he would play a big part in the community of Rainbow Valley. He sang the preacher's solo at the climax of Act One and blew the roof off every night, not only inspiring audiences to cheer and applaud but also his fellow cast members to sing and dance that little bit harder. Each and every moment spent with him was bright, easy and fun. We will all miss him greatly."

Stovall's first Broadway job was as a standby for several roles in Big Deal, Bob Fosse's ill-fated 1986 musical based on the film "Big Deal on Madonna Street." Later that year, he joined the cast of Fosse's revival of Sweet Charity, eventually taking on the role of Big Daddy. Stovall, a handsome man with large eyes and a wide smile, frequently stepped into lead roles in established productions, including 1990's Once on This Island; The Life, in which he went from understudy to take over the Chuck Cooper's part of the menacing pimp Memphis (he also shadowed Cooper in Finian's Rainbow); and the original 1998 staging of Ragtime, in which he assumed the leading role of Coalhouse Walker Jr., having already played the part in Chicago.

Off-Broadway, Stovall performed in Dessa Rose, Stars in Your Eyes, Sugar Hill and Romance in Hard Times. He also acted in the national tour of Once on This Island. As a writer, he and Hattie Winston wrote Nativity, an adaptation of the Christmas story that played annually in various spaces throughout New York.

James Stovall was born in Baltimore to Ella and James Stovall, Sr. He studied piano and voice at the Peabody Conservatory. At age 13, he joined the Urban Musical Theater, based at Morgan State University, where his first dance teacher was Debbie Allen. (He would later act with Allen in Sweet Charity.) While a sophomore at Morehouse College in Atlanta, he gained his Equity card while working in an Alliance Theatre production. When he was cast in Big Deal, he moved to New York and gave up a job at Bear Stearns.

Stovall posted biographical information on his website, jamesstovall.com.

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