Lillias White, who won a 1997 Tony Award for her performance in the musical The Life, will take over the title role of legendary blues singer Dinah Washington in the Off-Broadway hit Dinah Was Aug. 10.
She replaces Yvette Freeman, who originated the role in the WPA Theatre production that recently transferred to the Gramercy Theatre. Freeman is returning to her roles as Nurse Haleh Adams on TV's "ER" and her co-starring spot on NBC's "Working,"
White made a splash belting the "Brotherhood of Man" number in the recent How To Succeed in Business... Broadway revival and then won a Tony as Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her work in the Cy Coleman's The Life. Freeman appeared on Broadway and on tour in Ain't Misbehavin' and has worked at the Muny in St. Louis (Show Boat) and the Boston mounting of Nunsense.
Also in the cast are Adriane Lenox, Bud Leslie, Darryl Alan Reed and Vince Viverito. Designing Dinah are Michael Yeargan (set), Stephen Strawbridge (lighting), Paul Tazewell (costumes) and Laura Grace Brown (sound).
Back in 1959, Dinah Washington was one of the first black artists to cross into the all-white pop charts. With such hits as "What A Difference A Day Makes" and "Come Rain or Come Shine," not to mention her great duet with Brook Benton, "Baby, You've Got What It Takes," Washington became a legendary songstress before she died at a mere 39. Oliver Goldstick's drama with music, Dinah Was, captures the singer at the peak of her fame, telling of her battles with racism and her career in the music business. The play ran at the WPA Theatre Mar. 24 to Apr. 26. Audience interest led to an extension of the show through May 3, when the production moved to the brand new Gramercy Theatre for a commercial run.
Jean Doumanian, producer of Death Defying Acts, is producing the commercial mounting, which started performances May 28 with the same cast. No news at this point on a cast recording.
A veteran director at Chicago's Goodman Theatre (The House of Martin Guerre, Mill Fire), David Petrarca stages Dinah Was. Petrarca's New York credits include Marvin's Room and The Water Children. George Faison serves a Dinah Was' choreographer, with Lanny Hartley (Freeman's real-life husband) doing the honors as music director and Jason Robert Brown, himself a composer/lyricist (the upcoming Parade), providing the orchestrations for a six-piece band.
For tickets and information on Dinah Was call (212) 777-4900.