Donna Trinkoff, producing artistic director of Amas Musical Theatre, announced the company will stage its third star-filled "Blast From the Past" benefit concert Nov. 14, reimagining the Faust-inspired show that gave us "Heart" and "Whatever Lola Wants." The evening will also see actress Leslie Uggams honored with an Amas award.
A 90-minute concert presentation of Damn Yankees at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in Greenwich Village sets the show in the world of the Negro Baseball Leagues, which thrived in the bad old days before the color barrier was broken in major league ball.
Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj will direct and choreograph, with music direction by Charles Creath. The cast will include Tony Award winner Sara Ramirez (Spamalot) and Tamara Tunie (Julius Caesar, "As the World Turns") as dueling Lolas; Alton F. White (Ragtime, The Lion King) as the devilish Mr. Applegate; Rodney Hicks (Rent) as Joe Hardy; Tony winner Chuck Cooper (The Life, Caroline, Or Change) as the Coach; Ken Primus as Older Joe; Vivian Reed (Marie Christine, Bubbling Brown Sugar) as his wife Meg, Tina Fabrique as Sister and Rob Evan (Jekyll and Hyde, Little Shop of Horrors) as Mr. Welch, with Wayne W. Pretlow, Raun Ruffin, Eric Anthony, Carmen Ruby Floyd, Rob Evan, Stacey Sargeant, Christine Clemons, Amber Efe, Britton Jones, Kevin Anthony, Michael Blackman and Delance Minefee.
This is thought to be the first time the show, written by songwriter Jerry Ross and Richard Adler and book writers George Abbott and Douglas Wallop, has been placed in the context of the black baseball world. The original production opened on Broadway in 1955 and starred Gwen Verdon as Lola.
"Setting our concert version of Damn Yankees in the Negro Baseball Leagues is a fresh and unique interpretation of this classic tale of baseball, temptation, second chances, and the power of the human spirit," Trinkoff said in a statement. "No text has been altered except the Washington Senators are now called the 'Black' Washington Senators, and the musical arrangements and dance numbers are unmistakably influenced by African American and Caribbean music of the era. As conceived and directed by our artist-in-residence Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj, this is a show that both breaks new ground and pays homage to the past." At the concert, Amas will present the "Rosie" Awards (named for Amas founder Rosetta LeNoire) to Tony Award-winner Leslie Uggams (Hallelujah, Baby!, Thoroughly Modern Millie, King Hedley II) and to The JPMorgan Chase Foundation, and will present The Ossie Davis Award for Inspirational Leadership to Brian Cashman, senior vice president and general manager of the New York Yankees. The Rosie Award is given to individuals who demonstrate extraordinary accomplishment and dedication in the theatrical arts and to corporations that work to promote opportunity and diversity.
The late Ossie Davis and his wife Ruby Dee, were recipients of the 2003 Rosie Award. This year's presentation to Brian Cashman marks the first Ossie Davis Award, "given to a key leader of an organization, in any industry, that epitomizes the color-blind search for excellence that has characterized the Amas mission since its founding."
Director, choreographer and performer Maurice Hines will present the awards to this year's honorees.
The Blast from the Past Gala Benefit evening begins at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher Street, at 7 PM, followed by a buffet dinner, auction and raffle at The Garage (99 Seventh Avenue South).
Benefit ticket prices range from $125 (performance only) to $500 (cocktails, premium performance seats and buffet dinner). For tickets, call (212) 563-2565.
During the benefit evening, the third Rosetta LeNoire Scholarship will also be presented to a deserving college-bound student attending Amas’ arts education program, The Rosetta LeNoire Musical Theatre Academy.
The Amas Blast from the Past Benefit is an annual event held to raise funds in support of Amas Musical Theatre’s ongoing theatre and arts education programs.