Stormy Weather: The Lena Horne Story Hopes for a Broadway Bow in Late 2013
By Kenneth Jones
Stormy Weather: The Lena Horne Story, the biographical musical about the stylish actress and singer, is aiming for Broadway this fall, according to participants in the project. No official announcement has been made, but star Leslie Uggams has posted on her website that the aim is Broadway this fall, and co-directors Sheldon Epps and Michael Bush — and producer Stewart F. Lane — confirmed that goal to Playbill.com.
Lane, Bonnie Comley and Armica Productions were involved in the musical's 2009 production (also starring Uggams) at Pasadena Playhouse, where Epps is artistic director. Lane told Playbill.com on Feb. 14 that following a post-California reading of the show, the cast was trimmed to about 10, and the running length is being reduced to about 90 intermissionless minutes to tell the tale as tightly and dynamically as possible. The search is on for an appropriate and available Broadway house, he said.
Stormy Weather also had a 2007 production at Prince Music Theatre (under the title Stormy Weather: Imagining Lena Horne) in Philadelphia, with Uggams and Davis Gaines. Bush was the sole director of both previous engagements. Randy Skinner (42nd Street, State Fair) remains attached as choreographer.
Tony Award winner Uggams (Hallelujah, Baby!) played a late-career Horne in the show, which borrowed songs from the American Songbook to tell the story of the groundbreaking African-American film, stage, cabaret, recording and concert singer who was also a civil rights activist. The show is conceived and written by Sharleen Cooper Cohen, and is based on the biography "Lena Horne, Entertainer." The California cast totaled 16.
Horne, who died at 92 in 2010, won a Special Tony Award in 1981 for her concert Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, which she also toured and spawned a live cast album. She also starred in the 1957 Broadway musical Jamaica, with a score by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg.
Pasadena Playhouse's extended run of the West Coast premiere of Stormy Weather was a hit for the company, breaking box-office records at the time.
The score of the show included songs by Cole Porter, Harold Arlen & Johnny Mercer, Rodgers & Hart, Billy Strayhorn and others.
In addition to Uggams, the California cast included Nikki Crawford as Young Lena; Tony Award nominee Dee Hoty as Kay Thompson; Phillip Attmore as Jivin' Jones/Louis Jones; Jordan Barbour as Teddy Jones; Yvette Cason as Edna Horne Rodriguez/Ruby/Church Lady; Dreamgirls Tony winner Cleavant Derricks as Teddy Jones, Sr.; Wilkie Ferguson as Aiken Bones/Medgar Evers/Avon Long/Building Super; Ashley Greene as Young Gail-Alternate; Bruce Katzman as L.B. Mayer/Perry Como/Barney Josephson/American; Man/Photographer/Production Assistant; Cheri McKenzie as Young Gail-Alternate; Kevyn Morrow as Billy Strayhorn; Michael Scott as Arthur Freed/Oweny Madden/Gary Cooper/Director/British Man/Drunk/Announcer Voice-Overs; Tony nominee Robert Torti as Lennie Hayton; Toni Trucks as Gail Jones Lumet/Amanda Gerrard/French Woman/Wardrobe Lady; Diane Vincent as Loreen Hall/Hostess/Wardrobe Lady/American Woman/Production Assistant/Waitress.
According to earlier Pasadena Playhouse notes, "With glamour, grace and an inner fire that blazed a trail for generations, the legendary Lena Horne has never failed to amaze. Taking both Hollywood and the music industry by storm, her voice has resonated throughout the decades, not only through her incredible vocal talent but also through her determination to fight for what she believed. This new musical extravaganza takes us on the sometimes stormy, always extraordinary journey of an American icon."
The creative team in 2009 included Randy Skinner (choreographer/dance arrangements), Linda Twine (music director/conductor), James Noone (scenic design), Martin Pakledinaz (costume design), Paul Gallo (lighting design), Lewis Mead (sound design), Paul Huntley (principal wig design), Carol F. Doran (wig and hair design), Gordon Goodwin (orchestrations), Michael Donovan and Liz Lewis (casting) Lisa Dozier (assistant director), Jeremy Benton (associate choreographer), Lurie Horns Pfeffer (production stage manager) and Lea Chazin (assistant stage manager).
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