The Broadway musical Play On!, which updated Shakespeare's Twelfth Night to 1940s Harlem with a score of Duke Ellington standards, will release its original cast album May 20 on the Varese Sarabande label.
The show closed May 4, but the recording preserves Tony-nominated performances by Andre De Shields (Ain't Misbehavin' and the original Wiz in The Wiz) and Tonya Pinkins, a Tony Award winner for Jelly's Last Jam.
Sheldon Epps conceived and directed the piece, which transposed the basic gender-bending plotline of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night to "the jazz center of the world," 1940's Harlem, alive with the sounds of swing. With a book by Cheryl L. West and featuring the songs of Duke Ellington, the musical fantasy recreated a rarely-seen slice of pre-war and wartime New York.
Choreographing their jumps was Mercedes Ellington, granddaughter of Duke. Luther Henderson (Ain't Misbehavin') did the orchestrations.
Ellington tunes making their appearance include "Take The A Train," "It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing," and "I'm Just A Lucky So-and-So," as well as some "rarely heard treasures." Audience favorites in the show include "Rocks In My Bed" and "I Ain't Got Nothin' But The Blues"
Along with De Shields and Pinkins, those delivering the songs are (Jelly's Last Jam), Cheryl Freeman, Larry Marshall, Yvette Cason, Lawrence Hamilton and Carl Anderson, who originated the role of Judas in the Broadway national tour and film version of Christ Superstar. Ensemble members include Crystal Allen, Cadet Bastine, Jacquelyn Bird, Wendee Lee Curtis, Byron Easley, Frantz G. Hall, Bryan S. Haynes, Gil P., Lacy Phillips, Stacie Precia, Lisa Scialabba, Erika Vaughn and William Wesley.