Performances of the musical based on the Gloria Naylor novel will continue at Arena's Kreeger Stage to Dec. 9. Opening is Oct. 26.
With music, lyrics and book by Drama Desk Award nominee Tim Acito (known for his musical, Zanna, Don't!), and direction by Arena artistic director Molly Smith, "The Women of Brewster Place chronicles the dreams and realities of ten diverse African American women who live in a decaying housing project on a dead-end street."
The R&B-kissed, gospel-infused musical snapshot of a tight-knit community in the 1970s started life Sept. 5 (and opened Sept. 12) at Atlanta's Alliance Theatre. Performances continued there to Sept. 30. Revisions and refinements to the production have been ongoing.
"With this inspirational new work, Tim Acito is establishing himself as a major voice in American musical theatre," stated Molly Smith. "Partnering with him through the intense creative process a musical requires has been a labor of love for us all at Arena. Teamed with this incomparable cast of women, Tim has infused music into Naylor's gritty, raw and beautiful story, and brought it to life as only musical theatre can."
Like the musical The Color Purple, which started at Alliance, this new American musical offers a feast for African-American actresses. The drama of seven women features Cheryl Alexander as Sophie, Terry Burrell as Mrs. Browne, Suzzanne Douglas as Tee, Tina Fabrique as Mattie, Harriett D. Foy as Lorraine, Eleasha Gamble as Wanda, Marva Hicks as Etta Mae, Monique L. Midgette as Kiswana, Tijuana T. Ricks as Cora Lee and Shelley Thomas as Lucielia. This reworking of the novel (also known as a TV movie) tells the characters' stories through gospel, soul, R&B and old school funk.
Acito is also the co-orchestrator and vocal arranger of The Women of Brewster Place.
The creative team also includes Kenneth L. Roberson (choreographer), Anne Patterson (set design), Paul Tazewell (costume design), Michael Gillian (lighting design), Garth Hemphill (sound design), William Foster McDaniel (musical director/co-orchestrator/conductor), Adam Larsen (projection designer), Amber Dickerson (production stage manager), Kate Olden (assistant stage manager). Production dramaturg is Otis Ramsey-Zoe.
Cheryl Alexander's Broadway credits include Caroline, or Change; It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues; Once On This Island; Sophisticated Ladies; Dreamgirls (original cast).
Terry Burrell's credits include Roundabout Theatre's The Threepenny Opera at Studio 54, plus Broadway's Thoroughly Modern Mille, Swinging on a Star, Into the Woods, Dreamgirls, Honky Tonk Nights and Eubie. She played Julie in Show Boat in London's West End.
Suzzanne Douglas appeared in Arena Stage's Hallelujah, Baby!, for which she was Helen Hayes Award-nominated. Her credits include Wit; Jar the Floor; Night in Tunisia; Lady Day; Agnes of God; Sophisticated Ladies; The Threepenny Opera; Into the Woods; It's a Grand Night; Drowning Crow; Some Men; Ruddigore; Gypsy; Cabaret and more, plus the films "School of Rock," "Tap," "How Stella Got Her Groove Back," "Jason's Lyric" and more.
Tina Fabrique appeared at the Alliance as Mother Shaw in Crowns and returns here from her successful tour of Ella, the popular regional musical about Ella Fitzgerald, for which she won the Carbonell Award. Her Broadway credits include Ragtime; Dessa Rose; Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk; How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and more.
Harriet D. Foy appeared in Broadway's Mamma Mia!, Once on This Island, Off-Broadway's Lone Star Love, Slut, Crowns (Audelco Award), Dinah Was and Reunion, Arena Stage's Polk County (Helen Hayes nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Musical); Ford's Theatre's Reunion (Helen Hayes nomination for Outstanding Supporting Performer); and Thunder Knocking on the Door (Alabama Shakespeare Festival).
Eleasha Gamble's credits include Off-Broadway's Under the Bridge, plus Hair (Perseverance Theatre); Meet John Doe (Ford's Theatre); Into the Woods (Signature Theatre); My Fair Lady, Urinetown, Follies, Grand Hotel, Gospel According to Fishman, Christmas Carol Rag, The Rink, Company (Round House Theatre); Once on This Island (Helen Hayes nomination, Olney Theatre); Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, West Side Story (Toby's Dinner Theatre); and Ragtime (Helen Hayes nomination).
Marva Hicks recently appeared in Cuttin' Up at the Alliance Theatre and in the world premiere at Arena Stage. Broadway credits include Caroline, or Change; The Lion King; Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music. Off-Broadway, she appeared in Caroline, or Change (The Public Theater); Thunder Knocking on the Door (Minetta Lane). Regionally, she acted in Thunder Knocking on the Door (Arena Stage, Helen Hayes Award), It's Better With a Band (Prince Music Theater), Elliot Ness in Cleveland (Cleveland Playhouse), and Twist (Walnut Street Theatre).
Monique Midgette completed a reading of the new musical Red Eye of Love, directed by Ted Sperling, as well as the Sundance workshop of Brewster Place and Cabaret at Arena Stage. Her Broadway credits include the original productions of The Civil War, Marie Christine, House of Flowers and Seussical the Musical.
Tijuana T. Ricks has an MFA from Yale School of Drama. Her credits include Dance the Holy Ghost: A Memory Play; The Last of the Chatterbox Wolves; Banditos; Rough Magic; Breath, Boom.
Shelley Thomas originated the role of Lucielia Turner in the workshops of The Women of Brewster Place. She most recently played the role of Micaela in the world premiere of Carmen, A New Musical at the La Jolla Playhouse, directed by Franco Dragone. On Broadway she appeared in the roles of Brooklyn, Paradice and Faith in Brooklyn. Off-Broadway, she was Kate in Zanna, Don't! (also on the cast album).
For more information, visit www.arenastage.org.