Cleavant Derricks to Star in Seattle World Premiere of Pullman Porter Blues; Musical Play Is D.C.-Bound
By Adam Hetrick
Tony Award winner Cleavant Derricks will star in the new play-with-music Pullman Porter Blues, which will premiere in September at the Seattle Repertory Theatre, prior to a run at Arena Stage in late fall. It is authored by Play On! writer Cheryl L. West.
Lisa Peterson, who helped guide Tony Award winner Denis O'Hare's An Iliad at Seattle Rep prior to its recent Off-Broadway run at the New York Workshop, will direct the play that has been in development at Seattle Rep the past several years.
Pullman Porter Blues is a commission of Seattle Rep's New Play Program. It is the first of the organization's commissions to debut on the main stage. Pullman Porter Blues plays Seattle Sept. 27-Oct. 28 and will arrive at Arena Stage Nov. 23-Jan. 6, 2013.
According to director West, "The play is inspired by my late grandfather and his many tales of working on the postal trains as well as my first train ride as a young girl. I remember, quite vividly, being utterly enamored with the train's compulsively smiling Pullman porters. Now decades later I have the incredible opportunity through my play to illuminate the world behind the smiles of the free blacks working in one of the first occupations open to them after the Civil War."
Derricks (Dreamgirls, Brooklyn) leads a cast that also includes E. Faye Butler, Emily Chisholm, James Patrick Hill, Lamar Lofton, Felicia Loud, Larry Marshall, Warner Miller, Richard Ziman, musical director/arranger Jmichael and Seattle musical icon Chic Street Man.
Here's how Pullman Porter Blues is billed: "It's 1937, and three generations of porters are hard at work on the luxurious Panama Limited train. Midwest blues songs flavor their journey from Chicago to New Orleans as the porters confront dark secrets from their past and tough truths about their future together. This captivating coming of age story is woven with iconic blues music and features a live band."
The sets and costumes are designed by Riccardo Hernandez and Constanza Romero, respectively. Lighting is by Alexander V. Nichols, and sound is by Leon Rothenberg.
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