Tony-Winning Dreamgirls Star Among Cast of Signature's Jelly's Last Jam | Playbill

News Tony-Winning Dreamgirls Star Among Cast of Signature's Jelly's Last Jam Performances will begin in August at the Virginia venue.
Cleavant Derricks
Cleavant Derricks
The complete cast and creative team have been announced for the Signature Theatre's upcoming production of the award-winning musical Jelly’s Last Jam, which will be presented August 2–September 11 in the MAX Theatre in Arlington, VA.

The musical about famed and notorious jazz entertainer Jelly Roll Morton, which was penned by George C. Wolfe, Susan Birkenhead and Luther Henderson and features the music of Morton, will be directed by Matthew Gardiner and choreographed by Jared Grimes.

The production will star jazz pianist and vocalist Mark G. Meadows as Jelly Roll Morton, Tony winner Cleavant Derricks (Dreamgirls) as The Chimney Man and Helen Hayes Award winner Felicia Boswell (Motown the Musical, Memphis) as Anita with Elijah Mayo as Young Jelly, Iyona Blake as Gran Mimi, Guy Lockard as Jack the Bear, VaShawn McIlwain as Buddy Bolden and Nova Y. Payton, Kara-Tameika Watkins and Eben Logan as The Hunnies.

The ensemble is rounded out by Chris Broughton, DeWitt Fleming, Olivia Russell, DeMoya Watson Brown, Joseph Monroe Webb and Stephen Scott Wormley.

Jelly’s Last Jam, according to the Signature, “tells the story of one of jazz music’s pioneers with a jazz, blues, and ragtime score based on Jelly Roll Morton’s original music. Journey from the back alleys of New Orleans to the dance halls of Chicago to the stages of New York with ’he who drinks from the vine of syncopation’ in a sizzling memoir of pride, lust and a past denied.”

“George C. Wolfe and Susan Birkenhead’s musical was a game changer in the American musical theatre when in premiered on Broadway in 1992,” said director Matthew Gardiner in a statement. “It’s a musical that I’ve loved for years and it has one of the most beautifully rendered and complex characters ever written for the musical theatre in Jelly Roll Morton. When I met Mark G. Meadows, I knew I found our Jelly. A remarkable jazz pianist and vocalist from Washington DC, he is one of the most exhilarating talents I've ever encountered. I am so excited to reimagine this piece with a phenomenal jazz artist, alongside Broadway's Felicia Boswell, Cleavant Derricks and a brilliant company of actors. I’m also thrilled to collaborate with choreographer Jared Grimes, who will pull tap dance into the story in new ways. This vibrant and important story is one I can’t wait to share with Signature audiences.”

The production will also have music direction by Darius Smith; scenic design by Dan Conway; costume design by Dede M. Ayite; lighting design by Grant Wilcoxen; sound design by Lane Elms; wig design by Leah Loukas; and fight choreography by Casey Kaleba. The production stage manager is Kerry Epstein, the assistant stage manager is Taryn Friend, and the production assistant is Cris Ruthenberg Marshall. New York casting is by Laura Stanczyk Casting, CSA.

Jelly's Last Jam premiered on Broadway in 1992, earning Tony nominations for Best Book, Best Score, Best Choreography and Best Director. Stars Gregory Hines and Tonya Pinkins took home Tony Awards in the Best Actor and Best Featured Actress categories, respectively.

Single tickets are available in person at the Signature Box Office at 4200 Campbell Avenue in Shirlington, by calling (703) 820-9771 and online at

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