Stormy Weather, Musical of Horne's Life, Starring Uggams, Begins West Coast Premiere

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21 Jan 2009

<I>Stormy Weather</I> star Leslie Uggams
Stormy Weather star Leslie Uggams
Stacie Isabella Turk
Stormy Weather, a new musical biography of entertainer Lena Horne, starring Tony Award winner Leslie Uggams as the older actress and Nikki Crawford as Young Lena, begins Jan. 21 at the Pasadena Playhouse in California.

The musical was conceived and written by Sharleen Cooper Cohen (based on the book "Lena Horne Entertainer," published by Chelsea House) and features direction by Michael Bush and choreography by Randy Skinner (White Christmas, 42nd Street). Its score borrows from the Great American Songbook, including such writers as Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer, Rodgers & Hart, Billy Strayhorn and more.

Stormy Weather is produced by special arrangement with Stewart F. Lane, Bonnie Comley and Armica Productions. Opening night is scheduled for Jan. 30. Performances continue to March 1.

Joining Uggams are Tony nominee Dee Hoty (Footloose, Will Rogers Follies) as Kay Thompson; Phillip Attmore as Jivin' Jones/Louis Jones; Jordan Barbour as Teddy Jones; Yvette Cason as Edna Horne Rodriguez/Ruby/Church Lady; Tony winner Cleavant Derricks (Dreamgirls) 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; Jeffrey Rockwell as Arthur Freed/Oweny Madden/Gary Cooper/Director/ British Man/Drunk/Announcer Voice-Overs; Tony nominee Robert Torti (Starlight Express) as Lennie Hayton; Toni Trucks as Gail Jones Lumet/Amanda Gerrard/French Woman/Wardrobe Lady; and Diane Vincent as Loreen Hall/Hostess/Wardrobe Lady/American Woman/Production Assistant/Waitress.

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Pasadena Playhouse artistic director Sheldon Epps said in a statement, "It is a great pleasure to open our 2009 season with the West Coast premiere of Stormy Weather. Not surprisingly, I am a long time fan of Lena Horne, the icon at the center of this new musical, and it will be a great honor to have that lady and her music presented on our stage. I am also a huge admirer of our trio of leading ladies. It has been my great pleasure to work with both Leslie and Nikki many times in the past. I am thrilled that they will bring their sparkling theatrical magic to the Playhouse once again. And I welcome Dee to our stage with great enthusiasm. I am quite sure that this divine trio of dynamic women will electrify the rest of a terrific company. Our audiences will be the lucky recipients of all of this theatrical and musical magic."

The creative team includes 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), Lisa Dozier (assistant director), Jeremy Benton (associate choreographer), Lurie Horns Pfeffer (production stage manager) and Lea Chazin (assistant stage manager).

Here's how Pasadena Playhouse bills Stormy Weather: "Style. A glorious voice. Grace. Brains and beauty, talent and presence. All these were still not enough to make Lena Horne one of the world's greatest entertainers. Above all, she needed grit and courage and tenacity. She battled racism and blazed a trail for African American artists over a 40-year career with many firsts: first African American movie star, first black woman on a national magazine cover. Blacklisted and suspended by M-G-M, Lena Horne faced professional and personal tragedies that nearly ended her career."

The world premiere of Stormy Weather was produced by Prince Music Theater in Philadelphia in 2007, following a 2003 New York City workshop presented by Amas Musical Theater.

Pasadena Playhouse is located at 39 South El Molino Avenue in Pasadena, CA. For more information visit www.Pasadenaplayhouse.org.