Leslie Uggams Heads Paper Mill's Blue, Jan. 8-Feb. 9;

News   Leslie Uggams Heads Paper Mill's Blue, Jan. 8-Feb. 9; Tony Award winner Leslie Uggams will head the cast of the Paper Mill production of Blue, which begins performances at the New Jersey theatre Jan. 8.

Uggams will star as the matriarch of a prominent South Carolina family in Charles Randolph-Wright's play, which features music by Nona Hendryx and casts Michael McElroy as singer Blue Williams. The company also includes Chris Butler, Willie C. Carpenter, Amentha Dymally, Jovun Fox, Jacques C. Smith and Felicia Wilson.

A co-production with the Coconut Grove Playhouse, Arizona Theatre Company and the Pasadena Playhouse, the play will be directed by Sheldon Epps, who helmed the 2001 Off-Broadway mounting at the Gramercy Theatre. McElroy, who was part of the Off-Broadway cast, will re-create his role for the Paper Mill mounting, which runs through Feb. 9. Uggams plays the role of Peggy Clark, portrayed Off-Broadway by Phylicia Rashad.

A comedic drama, Blue concerns the Clark family, proprietors of a funeral home in South Carolina. The play is "a celebration of the American family abounding with tenderness, acceptance and, ultimately, the search for unconditional love." The creative team comprises James Leonard Joy (set design), Debra Bauer (costume design), Michael Gilliam (lighting design) and Francois Bergeron (sound design).

Leslie Uggams, who recently starred in the short-lived Off-Broadway musical Thunder Knocking on the Door, received a 2001 Tony Award nomination for her work in August Wilson's King Hedley II, and she nabbed the award for her performance in Hallelujah, Baby!. Uggams' other theatrical credits include Master Class, Play On!, The Old Settler, Her First Roman, Jerry's Girls, Blues in the Night and Anything Goes. Her TV credits include "Roots" (Critics Choice Award, Emmy and Golden Globe nominations), "Backstairs at the White House" and "Sizzle"; Uggams was the co-host of "Fantasy" (Emmy Award) and headlined her own variety series, "The Leslie Uggams Show."

Michael McElroy's New York theatre credits include The Wild Party, Rent, The Who's Tommy, Miss Saigon, Patti LuPone on Broadway and High Rollers. Tickets, priced between $30 and $62, are available by calling (973) 376-4343 or by going on-line to www.papermillorg. Paper Mill: State Theatre of New Jersey is located on Brookside Drive in Millburn, NJ.