In a letter to the board of directors of the Pasadena Playhouse — where the musical opened Nov. 9 for a run through Dec. 9 — the attorney Mary Anne den Bok, speaking on behalf of the children, writes, "Ray Charles' family are deeply disappointed in the choices made by the writer and producers of Ray Charles Live!, currently playing at the Pasadena Playhouse. . . According to Ms. Lori-Parks herself, (whose fictional works are greatly respected), she decided to write a script based on a true story, without talking to any (except one) of the people who were important to Ray Charles, including his ex wife Della Robinson, or any of Ray Charles' children (including Ray Charles Robinson, Jr. — co-producer of the movie 'Ray') — and David Robinson, all of whom are depicted in Ms. Lori-Parks musical."
The document cites an Orange County Register interview with Pulitzer Prize winner Lori-Parks in which she mentions her talks with Charles' longtime manager, Joe Adams. "The choice to base a musical on Ray Charles' life, without consulting ANY of Ray Charles' family or any of the other people who were a part of Ray Charles' life, and relying solely on one person's perspective, unfortunately, has, in the opinion of Mr. Charles' family members, in a very one-sided perspective." (The interview also notes the playwright utilized a PBS documentary on Charles' life and two biographies as background for the musical.)
The complaint further cites specific plot points in which the family members felt Charles' character was "one dimensional" or depicted as "a buffoon."
"When Mr. Charles painstakingly worked with the writers of the movie 'Ray,' he did not shy away from the issues of drugs and women. Ray Charles would NEVER, however, have authorized the public depiction, on stage, of Ray Charles in a tacky, sexual encounter," the letter says. "Ray Charles Live!, in our opinion, is a cheap production, which does nothing but take cheap shots at Ray Charles. Ray Charles was a man who always treated others with respect. It is very sad to see him treated with such disrespect by people whose only motives seem to be profit and cheap sensationalism. Ray Charles deserves much more!"
Neither Pasadena Playhouse nor the musical's production company, Ray Musical, LLC, would comment on the letter.