Tonya Pinkins and Andre De Shields, the original stars of the short-run Broadway musical Play On!, now star in a tour of that musical. "For now, the cast featured in Chicago will stay with the tour," producer Mitchell Maxwell told Playbill On-Line.
Play On!, the Duke Ellington scored musicalization of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, ran through Aug. 16 at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. Featured in the cast are Pinkins as Lady Liv, De Shields as the Jester, Natalie Belcon as Vy and Charles Wallach as the Duke.
From Chicago, the musical will travel to Seattle Repertory Theatre, where it will play Sept. 21-Oct. 21. Maxwell said the tour is in development but has booked road dates in San Diego, Los Angeles, Detroit and Stamford, CT, with specific information to come. More stops may be added, he said.
Play On! closed on Broadway May 4, 1997 after 61 performances. 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 Nothing' But The Blues"
-- By Robert Simonson