Liftin' Me Higher: Melba Moore Stars in Jackie Wilson Story at NYC's Apollo April 3; Opens April 6

News   Liftin' Me Higher: Melba Moore Stars in Jackie Wilson Story at NYC's Apollo April 3; Opens April 6 The Apollo Theater in Harlem, home to the high-profile Harlem Song in 2002, will host the new musical, The Jackie Wilson Story beginning April 3, following an eight-city national tour.
Chester Gregory II as the title character in The Jackie Wilson Story.
Chester Gregory II as the title character in The Jackie Wilson Story. (Photo by Paul Natkin)

The limited run, produced by The Black Ensemble Touring Company, a joint venture of the Black Ensemble Theater Company of Chicago and Brian Kabatznick, stars Tony Award-winning actress-singer Melba Moore as the Motown crooner's mother. Jackie Taylor, artistic diector of BETC, directs. Opening is April 6, with plans to continue into April.

The new show at the famed Apollo is billed a "high-energy musical showcasing the rise and fall of legendary performer Jackie Wilson." Its world premiere was at the Black Ensemble Theater in February 2000, where it played to sold-out houses for over two years.

Chester Gregory II originated and plays the role of "Mr. Excitement," Jackie Wilson. He is joined by Black Ensemble Theater veterans Eva D., Tony Duwon, Rueben D. Echoles, Direoce Junirs, Lyle Miller, Joe Plummer, Katrina Tate, Valarie Tekosky and Robert L. Thomas, who recreate the roles of Wilson's family members and contemporaries, including Sam Cooke, Clyde McPhatter, Etta James and LaVern Baker.

The Jackie Wilson Story features a 12-member ensemble and seven musicians and showcases over 25 songs of the era, including such Wilson hits as "Lonely Teardrops," "(Your Love Keeps Liftin' Me) Higher & Higher," "Baby Workout" and "Doggin' Me Around."

Melba Moore first appeared on Broadway in the musical Hair, in which she originated the role of Dionne. During her 18 months with the show, she eventually replaced Diane Keaton, becoming the first black actress to replace a white actress in a lead role on Broadway. Immediately following that success, she was cast in the long-running musical, Purlie, for which she won the Tony Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical. Moore is known for her work on "The Melba Moore/Clifton Davis Show" and the miniseries "Ellis Island." She has had hits on the R&B and pop charts, including "This is It," "You Stepped Into My Life" and her Grammy-nominated signature song, "Lean on Me." Her 1990 recording of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" was instrumental in having the song entered into the Congressional Record as the official African American National Anthem. In 1996 she took over the role of "Fantine" in Broadway's Les Miserables, becoming the first black actress to step into a leading role in that mega-musical.

The Apollo Theater is at 253 W. 125th Street. For tickets and information, call (212) 307-7171. For groups of 10 or more call (800) 334-8457. For more information, visit thejackiewilsonstory.org.

Melba Moore as Jackie Wilson's mother in <i>The Jackie Wilson Story</i>.
Melba Moore as Jackie Wilson's mother in The Jackie Wilson Story. (Photo by Paul Natkin)