The Pasadena Playhouse will celebrate Duke Ellington's 100th birthday with a production of Play On!, a musical conceived and directed by artistic director Sheldon Epps, book by Cheryl L. West, and featuring the Ellington's songs.
A co-production with Arizona Theatre Company, Play On! opens July 18 for a one-month run. The score includes such Ellington classics as "Take the A Train," "Moon Indigo," "Drop Me off in Harlem" and "Don't Get Around Much Anymore." The story is set in Harlem in its glory days, when people are literally dancing in the streets. It is loosely based on Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, a comedic tale of mistaken identity and misplaced affections.
The Pasadena Playhouse production features the original design team that created the 1997 Broadway production, including director Epps, choreographer Mercedes Ellington, scenic designer James Leonard Joy, lighting designer Michael Gilliam and costume designer Marianna Elliott.
The cast includes Richard Allen, Natalie Venetia Belcon, Clinton Derricks-Carroll, Yvette Carson, Shirley Claudia Charles, Nikki Crawford, Raun Ruffin (The Civil War) and Kevin Ramsey.
Belcon, reprising the role she played in Seattle and Chicago, stars as Vy/Vy-Man. Ramsey, Outer Critics Circle nominated for his role as in The Life, also appeared on Broadway in Five Guys Named Moe, Oh Kay! and Black and Blue, garnering a Theatre World Award and the Fred Astaire Award for Best Performer on Broadway. Ramsey plays Jester. The Pasadena Playhouse is located at 39 S. El Molino Ave. Call (800) 233-3123 for information. For online information, contact www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.
-- By Willard Manus
Southern California Correspondent