By Kenneth Jones
12 Jul 2004
Set in New York City, From My Hometown, according to the announcement, "is a rags to riches tale of three young men, played by Kevin R. Free, André Garner and Rodney Hicks, just off the bus from Philadelphia, Detroit and Memphis — with a song on their lips, style in their steps and big dreams in their hearts of performing at the world famous Apollo Theatre. But can they rock the audition, become friends for life and still have time to top the R&B charts?"
Free plays Memphis, Garner Detroit and Hicks Philly. Opening at the Gramercy, 127 E. 23rd Street, is July 22.
Conceived by Lee Summers, the show is produced by Summers in association with Leonard Soloway and Steven M. Levy. It features a book by Summers, Ty Stephens and Herbert Rawlings, Jr. with original music by Summers, Stephens and Will Barrow. The show is directed and co choreographed by Kevin Ramsey.
The score includes original music plus three decades of Top-40 hits such as "Dock of the Bay," "Land of a Thousand Dances," "Chain Gang," "Working in a Coal Mine" and "Have You Seen Her?"
Songs originally performed by James Brown ("I Feel Good"), Otis Redding ("Try A Little Tenderness"), Lou Rawls ("Tobacco Road") and Jackie Wilson ("Lonely Teardrops") are part of the mix.
From My Hometown had its world premiere at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater in 1998 and was first presented in New York by Ben Blake and Lee Summers, in association with Amas Musical Theatre, in a developmental staging in 2003.
The creative team also includes Leslie Dockery (co choreographer), Robert Fowler (associate choreographer), Jo Lynn Burks (vocal arranger and musical director), Matthew Myhrums (set and projection designer), Deborah A. Cheretun (costume designer), Aaron Spivey (lighting designer) and Ryan Powers (sound designer).
Performances play Mondays through Saturdays at 8 PM, Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2:30 PM. Tickets are $66, $46 and $21 and may be purchased at the box office (212) 777-4900 or by calling Ticketmaster at (212) 307-4100 (www.ticketmaster.com). For more information visit www.frommyhometown.net.
Lee Summers (concept, book, music, lyrics and producer) is the recipient of a 2003 Gilman & Gonzalez-Falla Commendation Award for his work in musical theatre. His works include Yo' Alice, Ella Fitzgerald, First Lady of Song, If These Shoes Could Talk, The Funketine Rapture, A Tribute to Women in Jazz (featuring Nancy Wilson), The System, Xaviers Cross, The House that Nat Built and Woman of the World. From My Hometown earned eight 2003 Audelco nominations including Best Musical Production.
As a performer his credits include the original Dreamgirls, the Dreamgirls 20th Anniversary Concert, Little Ham, Five Guys Named Moe, Hair and Porgy and Bess.
Stephens (co-author, music and lyrics) has appeared on Broadway in featured/starring roles in the original companies of Sophisticated Ladies and Marilyn, an American Fable. Visit www.tystephens.com.
Rawlings (co-author) appeared on Broadway in Dreamgirls (Drama Desk nominee) and in the 1983 revival of Porgy & Bess. He created the role of Detroit in the original workshop of From My Hometown.
Barrow (co-composer) was a musical director and pianist for the national tours of The Civil War, 5 Guys Named Moe and Nat King Cole and Me.
Director Ramsey appeared on Broadway in the Cy Coleman musical The Life, which garnered him an Outer Critics Circle nomination. Ramsey directed/co choreographed the original workshop presentations of From My Hometown, as well as its critically acclaimed first-run production at the Milwaukee Rep.