Written by Janet Choe, the musical will begin its run at the General Motors Theater in the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History (Feb. 5-29) before moving to Lansing in March (March 25-April 18). Both artistic directors — Gary Anderson of Plowshares and Geoffrey Sherman of BoarsHead — share directing responsibilities on this "musical journey through the lives of Jazz legends Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong."
Plowshares is a Michigan's Equity African-American theatre company. BoarsHead does new work, classics and contemporary plays in the state capital.
"The lives of these three music legends are case studies in the evolution of popular American music during the middle of the 20th century," Anderson said in the announcement. "In this wonderful play we go from the tail end of early Jazz through Swing and Big Band up to the emergence of Bebop. "It's a touching tribute to the music they made and how they made it."
Sherman said in press notes, "An exciting project like Sarah, Ella & Pops is exactly the type of theatre which I’ve always strived to be a part. Once you hear the songs, and learn about their lives, you can’t help but fall in love with these remarkable artist and their talent." The cast includes Linda Boston, William McLin, Augustus Williamson and Lydia Willis, with a guest appearance by jazz trumpeter "Armie" Armstrong, replacing the previously-announced Marcus Belgrave. The other musicians include Ibrahim Jones, Brandon Williams and Chad Hughes.
For this "company-created" work, "Plowshares and BoarsHead theatres used the format of the movie musical bio pics of the 1940s and 1950s," according to production notes. "Set between the years of 1931 and 1954, Sarah, Ella & Pops uses songs these artists made famous to chronicle their careers. This new and exciting musical will also use gospel music, blues and jazz hits of the period to help tell their individual tales."
Designers are Christopher Carothers (scenic), Mary Copenhagen (costume) and Ron Burns (lighting). Opening night is Feb. 7.