CHICAGO -- Goodman Theatre's local premiere of Play On!, Sheldon Epps' adaptation of Twelfth Night that moves the action to 1940s Harlem and adds Duke Ellington's songs, will play its last show on Aug. 16. The show opened June 29 and was, at first, scheduled to run through July 25. Ticket demand was so high, even before the show opened the Goodman extended Play's run to Aug. 9, and, later, to Aug. 16.
In this Twelfth Night update by Cheryl L. West (author of Jar the Floor), we follow Vy as she takes the "A" train to Harlem to write songs for the Duke, the greatest band leader of his time. But to be taken seriously, she must don a pin-striped suit and become "Vy-man."
Natalie Belcon, who appeared in the national tour of Once on This Island, sings Vy, while Andre De Shields reprises his Tony-nominated role of the Jester from the Broadway production. Tony-winner Tonya Pinkins (of Jelly's Last Jam fame) recreates her Broadway role as Lady Liv, the great love of the Duke, who is played by Charles Wallace, seen in the national tour of Miss Saigon.
For information on Play On! at the Goodman Theatre, 200 South Columbus Dr., call (312) 443-4940.
* In other news, Tonya Pinkins and Andre De Shields, the original stars of the short-run Broadway musical Play On!, will star in a tour of that musical. "For now, the cast featured in Chicago will stay with the tour," producer Mitchell Maxwell told Playbill On-Line.
From Chicago, the musical will travel to Seattle Repertory Theatre, where it will play Sept. 21-Oct. 21. Maxwell said the tour is in development but has booked road dates in San Diego, Los Angeles, Detroit and Sta ÝT, with specific information to come. More stops may be added, he said.
Play On! closed on Broadway May 4, 1997 after 61 performances. Sheldon Epps conceived and directed the piece, which transposed the basic gender bending plotline of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night to "the jazz center of the world," 1940's Harlem. The show featured a book by Cheryl L. West and the songs of Duke Ellington, including "Take the A Train," "It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing," and "I'm Just a Lucky So-and So."
The NY cast included Tony-nominated Andre De Shields (Ain't Misbehavin' and the original Wiz in The Wiz) and Tonya Pinkins, a Tony Award-winner for Jelly's Last Jam, as well as Cheryl Freeman, Larry Marshall, Yvette Cason, Lawrence Hamilton and Carl Anderson. If either De Shields or Pinkins decide to join the tour, they will already have enjoyed a brush-up on their roles: both are currently reprising their characters in a Goodman Theatre production of Play On! in Chicago.
Ellington tunes featured in Play On! include "Take The A Train," "It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing," and "I'm Just A Lucky So and So," as well as some "rarely heard treasures." Audience favorites in the Broadway mounting were "Rocks In My Bed" and "I Ain't Got Nothing' But The Blues"