More than a year after closing on Broadway, Play On!, the Duke Ellington-scored musicalization of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, is planning a national tour. As advertised in the 1998-99 season brochure for the Stamford Center for the Arts, the road show will debut in Stamford, CT, in March of 1999. The tour will feature two major stars, said Stamford spokesperson Richard P. Pheneger, though he could not say who they were. Mitchell Maxwell, the producer of the tour, did not return phone calls by press time.
Play On! closed on Broadway May 4 after a brief run. 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. The show featured a book by Cheryl L. West and the songs of Duke Ellington, including "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."
The NY cast included Tony-nominated 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, as well as Cheryl Freeman, Larry Marshall, Yvette Cason, Lawrence Hamilton and Carl Anderson. If either De Shields or Pinkins decide to join the tour, they will already have enjoyed a brush-up on their roles: both are currently reprising their characters in a Goodman Theatre production of Play On! in Chicago.
Ellington tunes featured in Play On! 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 Broadway mounting were "Rocks In My Bed" and "I Ain't Got Nothin' But The Blues"
Play On! is scheduled to run at Stamford's Palace Theatre, Mar. 9-14, 1999. No further dates for the tour could be learned.