Monday, April 09, 2007

Ray Charles at the Playhouse!

Pasadena Playhouse announced today that RAY CHARLES LIVE! – A New Musical, featuring music by Ray Charles and book by Suzan-Lori Parks (Topdog/Underdog), is the last show scheduled for the 2007 season. Sheldon Epps (Play On!), Pasadena Playhouse Artistic Director, is set to direct the word premiere musical about the life and music of the legendary Ray Charles. Performances begin October 31st with an official press opening on November 9, 2007. RAY CHARLES LIVE! – A New Musical coincides with Pasadena Playhouse’s celebration of Epps’ 10th Anniversary as Artistic Director of the theatre.

MATTER OF HONOR, a new play by Michael J. Chepiga (Getting and Spending), will replace the previously announced On Golden Pond. Performances begin August 24th with an official press opening on August 31, 2007. Directed by Scott Schwartz (Golda’s Balcony, Tick Tick Boom and Bat Boy: The Musical), the new play tells the moving story of a cadet’s struggle for truth, honor and redemption.

"These two wonderful projects are a tremendous addition to an already hugely successful and rewarding season. I am very proud that the Playhouse is sustaining its reputation as a major theatrical institution that is ‘giving birth’ to new plays and musicals that are intended to have an ongoing life in the Broadway arena and at major theatres throughout the country,” said Pasadena Playhouse Artistic Director Sheldon Epps. “I look forward with tremendous anticipation and excitement to having both of these world premieres on our stage at the end of this year."


RAY CHARLES LIVE! – A New Musical is presented by special arrangement with producing partners Stuart Benjamin and Howard and Karen Baldwin and Steve Markoff, along with Ray Charles’ longtime manager Joe Adams. The world premiere musical features the music of Ray Charles and the book by Suzan-Lori Parks. Directed by Sheldon Epps, RAY CHARLES LIVE! – A New Musical plays October 31 – December 9 with an official press opening on November 9.

"Suzan-Lori Parks is one of the finest writers currently working in the American theatre. I am honored and excited to begin a collaboration with her,” said Epps, “We face the challenge of bringing the dynamic energy, musical genius, and tremendous soul of Ray Charles to theatrical life by creating this new musical.” He added, “Suzan-Lori has conceived a way into this incredible material that promises that we can meet this challenge. It will be a joy for me to spend the next months working with her and an incredible production team to bring her vision to the stage, and to honor Ray Charles. I could not be happier that our producing partners are trusting me and the Playhouse with the joyful task of bringing this material to the stage for the first time."

The strength, the humor, the musical genius, and the event-filled life of the man are all dynamically explored in RAY CHARLES LIVE! – A New Musical. Suzan-Lori Parks has written a book, which weaves together tales from his past as Ray Charles is depicted in his last live recording session. That session uses the great music of his career to tell the "in studio" audience the story of his life with all of the good, the bad, the ugly, and the sublime. Parks' approach to these stories, to the characters who shaped his character and his musical sound, and to this incredibly wide ranging array of musical material, brings the man and his music to theatrical life in a way that is compelling and original.

Ray Charles touched perhaps more bases than any other performer in American musical history, mastering everything from rhythm and blues, to gospel, to jazz, to country music and pop-delivering them all with equal expertise. The musical will bring to the stage this incredible variety of musical styles capturing the energy, the hard driving musicality, and the excitement and electricity of Charles live onstage. Beyond that it will examine the emotional forces which shaped the man who made the music, and depicts his struggles and challenges, the fascinating people in his life, as well as his incredible triumphs and his joy. As he forces himself to dig deeper and deeper over the course of this momentous recording session, it will allow us to reveal not just his story, but the true soul of the man whose life and music actually helped to define soul.

RAY CHARLES LIVE! – A New Musical features many of Charles’ hits including:
“Georgia on My Mind,” “What’d I Say,” “Mess Around,” “Hit The Road, Jack,” “Unchain My Heart,” “I Got a Woman” and “Hallelujah, I Love Her So.”

Joining the creative team with Parks and Epps are Ken Roberson, choreographer; Rahn Coleman, musical supervisor; Riccardo Hernandez, set designer; Paul Tazewell, costume designer; Donald Holder, lighting designer; Harold Wheeler, orchestrations; and Michael Clark, projections and visual elements.

Stuart Benjamin and Howard and Karen Baldwin produced the Academy Award-winning film Ray starring Jamie Foxx.


Michael J. Chepiga’s MATTER OF HONOR will be the fifth production of Pasadena Playhouse’s 2007 season, replacing the originally scheduled On Golden Pond. Performances run August 24 – September 30 with an official press opening on August 31, 2007. Scott Schwartz will direct the world premiere. MATTER OF HONOR is presented by special arrangement with Richard Willis, Janice Montana and Martin Markinson.

West Point Military Academy was established in 1802 to educate and inspire military leaders of the future with such notable graduates as Robert E. Lee in 1829, Douglas MacArthur in 1903 and Norman Schwarzkopf in 1956. The first African-American cadet Henry Flipper graduated from West Point in 1877. His roommate Johnson Whittaker, another African-American cadet, never had a chance. MATTER OF HONOR tells the moving story of Whittaker’s trials at West Point, which became the stuff of legend, remaking hidden practices at the venerable institution.

“The discipline which makes the soldiers of a free country reliable in battle is not to be gained by harsh or tyrannical treatment.” – West Point Military Academy’s Superintendent John M. Schofield’s Definition of Discipline, 1879.

The design team for MATTER OF HONOR includes: Robert Brill, set designer; Candice Cain, costume designer; and Mark Bennett, sound designer.

Group and subscribers can purchase tickets to RAY CHARLES LIVE! – A New Musical and MATTER OF HONOR beginning April 10, 2007. A special four-play discounted subscription package is now available. Single tickets for MATTER OF HONOR go on sale to the general public on May 20, 2007 and RAY CHARLES LIVE! – A New Musical on July 8, 2007.


AUGUST 24 – SEPTEMBER 30, 2007

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