The piece was originally written for production at Kansas City Repertory Theatre, where it played in 2005. For the Chicago Steppenwolf premiere, through April 27, it has been "significantly rewritten" with the support of Steppenwolf's New Plays Initiative.
Steppenwolf ensemble member Simonson directs his work, which has music by Darrell Leonard. Opening is March 8.
According to Steppenwolf, "It's 1935. In America, it's the middle of the Great Depression. In Kansas City, it's the peak of the city's legendary jazz era. The scene is hopping with recording deals and jam-packed clubs like Planet Mars, where life revolves around Oriole Carter, a brilliant black saxophonist who leads the house band. Oriole is falling head over heels for the white girlfriend of a local mobster just as a brand new invention called radio is threatening to make him a star."
The production features ensemble members Robert Breuler, K. Todd Freeman, Ora Jones and James Vincent Meredith, with Anne Adams, Calvin Dutton, Curtis M. Jackson, Keith Kupferer, Scott Cummins and Michael Pogue. Simonson was Tony-nominated for his direction of Steppenwolf's The Song of Jacob Zulu with Ladysmith Black Mambazo. He subsequently directed an Oscar-nominated documentary about the acclaimed South African singing group. He received an Oscar for Best Documentary Short for his film "A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin" in 2006. He has directed and adapted Steppenwolf's Slaughterhouse-Five as well as the plays Lombardi/The Only Thing, Work Song: Three Views of Frank Lloyd Wright, Moby Dick and the new opera version of The Grapes of Wrath.
The design team includes Neil Patel (sets), Karin Kopischke (costumes), Keith Parham (lights), Barry G. Funderburg (sound) and Robin McFarquhar (fight choreography). Edward Sobel is the dramaturg and Megan Shuchman is the assistant director. Malcolm Ewen is the stage manager, and Lauren V. Hickman is the assistant stage manager.
Steppenwolf Downstairs Theatre is at 1650 N. Halsted, Chicago.
For more information, visit www.steppenwolf.org.
Steppenwolf is currently represented on Broadway with August: Osage County.