A mix of new songs and songs made famous by singer Nat King Cole enlivens Nat King Cole & Me: A Musical Healing, a world premiere musical by the Tony Award-honored Denver Center Theatre Company, May 13-June 5.
Conceived by Gregory Porter and Randal Myler, with new songs by Porter, Nat King Cole & Me is an autobiographical tale (featuring Porter) about a boy who makes a spiritual connection with the old songs of made famous by Nat King Cole — finding a "father, hero and friend he had always wanted."
Randal Myler directs at DCTC's Stage Theatre, with musical direction by Kamau Kenyatta. Eloise Laws plays Mother, Lloyd C. Porter (Gregory's brother) plays Father and Tyriq J. Swingler as Young Gregory. Opening is May 20.
"Gregory Porter grew up during the 1980s in Southern California," according to the announcement. "He was raised by his hard-working mother, who gave him a strong sense of family and self worth, [and had] an absent father he hardly knew. Young Gregory made a spiritual connection while listening to old Nat King Cole albums and found the father, hero and friend he had always wanted."
Porter later became an original Broadway cast member of the Tony-nominated musical It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues (a 1994-95 Denver Center world premiere), and joined the national tour of The Civil War and recently recorded with famed flutist Hubert Laws. "While working together on subsequent productions of It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues, the Tony nominated director-playwright Randal Myler and the young actor-singer-writer-composer began collaborating to bring Nat King Cole & Me: A Musical Healing to the stage with Myler (The Immigrant and Almost Heaven: Songs and Stories of John Denver) directing," according to production notes. "The lyrics of 'Unforgettable,' 'Smile,' 'Sweet Lorraine,' 'Dance Ballerina Dance' and 'When I Fall in Love' take on new meaning in the context of this young man's personal search."
Porter also has written the music and lyrics to six original songs for Nat King Cole & Me A Musical Healing. He portrays himself in the show.
Musical director Kamau Kenyatta has assembled five jazz musicians for the project: Conductor and pianist Will Barrow (Five Guys Named Moe and two national touring companies of The Civil War), drummer Craig Dawson, Calvin Jones on Bass (Broadway and touring companies of Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk and It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues), Jacques Lesure on guitar and Raphael Levon Price on violin and flute.
Designers are Michael Brown (set), Kevin Copenhaver (costumes), Don Darnutzer (lighting) and Matthew C. Swartz (sound).
Denver Center Theatre Company artistic director is Donovan Marley.
Tickets range $16-$43. For information, call (303) 893 4100 or (800) 641-1222 or visit www.denvercenter.org.