On November 29, 1998 the musical Dinah Was will celebrate its 200th performance.
The musical about the life of Dinah Washington is currently playing at the Gramercy Theatre, and recently began advertising its "final weeks." Although no closing date has been announced, the Off-Broadway production will end its run before the end of December, said Gramercy general manager Stephen Levy, "most likely Dec. 7."
Advertisements for Dinah Was now mention a national tour to follow the New York engagement, but no information has yet been released about touring plans or casting.
News of the imminent closing came shortly after rumors began circulating about the Roundabout Theatre Company working out a one-year lease on the Gramercy, beginning January 1999, with an option to stay another year. These rumors were confirmed to PBOL by Roundabout press rep Erin Dunn and Levy, last week. The long-awaited American premiere of Harold Pinter's Ashes To Ashes will be the first tenant at the Gramercy after Dinah Was.
Back in 1959, Dinah Washington was one of the first black artists to cross into the all-white pop charts. With such hits as "What A Difference A Day Makes" and "Come Rain or Come Shine," not to mention her great duet with Brook Benton, "Baby, You've Got What It Takes," Washington became a legendary songstress before she died at a mere 39. Oliver Goldstick's drama with music, Dinah Was, captures the singer at the peak of her fame, telling of her battles with racism and her career in the music business.
Currently staring as Washington is Lillias White who made a splash belting the "Brotherhood of Man" number in the recent How To Succeed in Business... Broadway revival and then won a Tony as Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her work in the Cy Coleman's The Life. White replaced Yvette Freeman, who originated the Dinah Washington role in the WPA Theatre production before it transferred to the Gramercy. Freeman returned to her roles as Nurse Haleh Adams on TV's "ER" and her co-starring spot on NBC's "Working." She also appeared on Broadway and on tour in Ain't Misbehavin' and has worked at the Muny in St. Louis (Show Boat) and the Boston mounting of Nunsense.
The play opened at the WPA Theatre Mar. 24 after starting previews Mar. 11 for a run through Apr. 26. Audience interest led to an extension of the show through May 3 and then to the Gramercy run. Dinah Was opened the Gramercy as a legit house on May 28.
For tickets and more information on the remaining performances of Dinah Was at the GramercyArts Theatre, call (212) 777-4900.