Lillias White Joins Limited Engagement of Blind Lemon Blues

News   Lillias White Joins Limited Engagement of Blind Lemon Blues Tony Award winner Lillias White will be part of the cast of the Off-Broadway premiere of Alan Govenar and Akin Babatunde's musical Blind Lemon Blues, which will be presented by the York Theatre Company in February.
Lillias White
Lillias White Photo by Aubrey Reuben

As previously announced, performances of the production, which features more than 60 Blind Lemon Jefferson songs, will begin Feb. 15. The limited engagement will play through Feb. 25.

Akin Babatunde will head the cast as Blind Lemon Jefferson. He will be joined onstage by Tony winner White as well as Benita Arterberry, Cavin Yarborough, Alisa Peoples Yarbrough, Walter Fauntleroy and Liz Mikel with guitarist Sam Swank. Babatunde is also the show's director and choreographer and wrote musical arrangements with Cavin and Alisa Peoples Yarbrough.

Blind Lemon Blues, according to press notes, "celebrates the legacy of Blind Lemon Jefferson and his profound influence upon the development of American popular music. Jefferson was a blind street musician who played his guitar with a tin cup tied to its neck at the corner of Elm Street and Central Avenue in Dallas, Texas until a Paramount Records scout discovered him. Between 1926 and 1929, Jefferson made more than 80 records and became the biggest selling-down-home blues singer in America."

The musical is set in Manhattan in 1948 "at the last recording session of the legendary Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Leadbelly, and combines elements of traditional blues, gospel, rhythm and blues, soul, doo-wop, and rap to evoke the enduring legacy of Blind Lemon and his contemporaries, Blind Willie Johnson, Lillian Glinn, Hattie Hudson, Bobbie Cadillac, Lillian Miller and Leadbelly himself."

The creative team includes set designer Russell Parkman, lighting designer Steve Woods, costume designer Tommy Bourgeois and choreographic consultant Norma Miller. Prior to its York run, Blind Lemon Blues will be part of the Guggenheim Museum's Works & Process series on Feb. 11 and 12. The musical made its world premiere in 2004 at the Forum Meyrin in Geneva, Switzerland.

Lillias White, who starred in the award-winning revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, garnered a Tony Award for her work in Cy Coleman's The Life. She also starred on Broadway in Barnum and Once on This Island and as Effie in the revival of Dreamgirls. White has also appeared in the Actors' Fund of America's benefit concerts of Dreamgirls, Funny Girl and Hair and was part of the cast of the City Center Encores! production of Purlie.

The York Theatre is located at St. Peter’s at 54th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues. Tickets, priced $35, are available by calling (212) 935-5820 or by visiting www.yorktheatre.org.