My Dear Ol' Suwanee: Musical Biography, Jolson and Company, Plays Florida Feb. 17-March 7

News   My Dear Ol' Suwanee: Musical Biography, Jolson and Company, Plays Florida Feb. 17-March 7 Jolson and Company, the three-actor musical biography of the life and times of Al Jolson, seen Off Broadway in two separate engagements, resurfaces Feb. 17 with two-thirds of the New York cast, at Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami.
Stephen Mo Hanan as Al Jolson
Stephen Mo Hanan as Al Jolson Photo by Rahav Segev

Stephen Mo Hanan originated the part and co-devised the work, in which Jolson — arguably the most important American entertainer in the 20th century — is seen from age 10 to a year before his death.

*

On Broadway, Hanan played Captain Hook to Cathy Rigby's Peter Pan and was Tony-nominated for creating Asparagus/Growltiger in Cats. In London he played the innkeeper Thenardier in Les Miserables.

Also from the original Off-Broadway cast, Robert Ari, who appeared earlier in the Coconut Grove Playhouse season in The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, plays an array of characters, ranging from Columbia Pictures mogul Harry Cohn to Col. Webster, famous for organizing the USO.

The third player in the musical is Garrett Long, remembered for playing the lead in the Off-Broadway musical, The Spitfire Grill (her work is preserved on the New York cast album). In Jolson and Company she plays the many women in Jolson's life, among them film and theatre star Ruby Keeler (one of Jolson's four wives) and the saucy Mae West. Jay Berkow, who co-wrote the musical play with Hanan, directs the production, as he did Off-Broadway. Berkow and Hanan first collaborated on a Jolson show in South Florida several years ago, where it originated as a one-man show. For its 2000 New York premiere the musical was transformed to include three actors playing a total of 17 roles, accompanied by a band of four musicians heard in more than 15 numbers, including classics such as "California Here I Come," "Swanee," "When the Red, Red Robin…," "Mammy," and "Sonny Boy."

Jolson and Company's creative team also includes music director Peter Larson and designers James Morgan (sets), Gail Baldoni (costumes), Annmarie Duggan (lighting) and Steve Shapiro (sound).

According to production notes, "As the play opens, it is 1949 and Al Jolson is being interviewed on the radio from the stage of the Winter Garden Theatre, his home-away from-home throughout most of his career. In a series of flashbacks, the musical dramatizes key moments from Jolson's turbulent public and private life and recreates many of the extraordinary musical performances that made him one of the first superstars of Broadway and Hollywood. His career spanned nearly five decades. He scored hit after hit in a string of hugely entertaining, although now mostly forgotten, Broadway musicals. Perhaps most famously, as the star of 1929's 'The Jazz Singer,' the first talking picture released in movie theatres, he defined one of the most momentous creative and technological breakthroughs in cinematic history. With that one film, which brought his signature go-for-broke singing and acting to worldwide audiences, Jolson forever changed the way people experienced popular entertainment."

Performances continue to March 7. Tickets are $35-$45. For information, (305) 442-4000 or visit www.cgplayhouse.org.

Today’s Most Popular News: