Tony Award winner Leslie Uggams, who recently starred in the short-lived Off-Broadway musical Thunder Knocking on the Door, will headline the Paper Mill production of Blue this winter. A spokesman for Paper Mill: State Theatre of New Jersey confirmed the casting.
Charles Randolph-Wright's Blue, which was produced at Off Broadway's Gramercy Theatre in June 2001, is billed as a play with music. The jazz-flavored tunes feature music by Nona Hendryx and lyrics by Hendryx and Randolph-Wright. Uggams will play the role of Peggy Clark (Phylicia Rashad portrayed Clark at the Gramercy), a woman who follows the career of jazz singer Blue Williams. Uggams' character is the mother of a well-off African-American family who run a funeral-home business in South Carolina.
A co-production with the Coconut Grove Playhouse, Arizona Theatre Company and the Pasadena Playhouse, the play will be directed by Sheldon Epps, who helmed the Off-Broadway mounting. Michael McElroy, who was part of the Off-Broadway cast, will re-create his role for this production. Blue begins performances at the Paper Mill on Jan. 8, 2003, and runs through Feb. 9.
Leslie Uggams received a 2001 Tony Award nomination for her work in August Wilson's King Hedley II, and she nabbed the award for her performance in Hallelujah, Baby!. Uggams' other theatrical credits include Master Class, Play On!, The Old Settler, Her First Roman, Jerry's Girls, Blues in the Night and Anything Goes. Her TV credits include "Roots" (Critics Choice Award, Emmy and Golden Globe nominations), "Backstairs at the White House" and "Sizzle"; Uggams was the co-host of "Fantasy" (Emmy Award) and headlined her own variety series, "The Leslie Uggams Show."
Tickets for Blue are now on sale and are available by calling the theatre's box office at (973) 376-4343. Paper Mill: State Theatre of New Jersey is located on Brookside Drive in Millburn, NJ. For more information, go to www.papermill.org —By Andrew Gans and Robert Simonson