Thanks to the musical Hamilton and live TV performance of classics like Hairspray, musicals have become hip again and are back in a big way! Outside of the classics, like Cats, A Chorus Line and Annie, musicals have become much more accessible. The format of telling a segment of history by adapting historical figures and time periods to toe-tapping, catchy beats is something that everyone can enjoy. Introducing When Jazz Had the Blues…
When Jazz Had the Blues is a perfect Hamilton alternative
Did you miss the boat (like I did) on buying your ticket to Hamilton? Are you waiting until 2020 to get one? Have no fear, the musical When Jazz Had the Blues is here… and it’s just as awesome! It’s a truly exciting way to journey through the history of big band jazz in an hour and a half.
When Jazz Had the Blues is a brand new musical based on the book by Carole Eglash-Kosoff. The musical is directed by John Henry Davis. It’s set during the era of jazz and big bands in a time of racism, homophobia and World War II.
When Jazz Had the Blues takes us through the music and history of 1935-1955. It centers on the life of composer Billy Strayhorn.
When Jazz Had the Blues takes us through 1935 to 1955 and centers on the life of the gay musical genius and quiet composer, Billy Strayhorn and his uneasy relationships with Lena Horne (who was in love with him) and Duke Ellington (who wanted to keep him in his shadow), as well as with his gay lover, Aaron Bridgers. Yes, there was even love triangle drama back in the day before reality TV came along, which makes it all the more interesting to see.
Do you love the catchy classics like “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got that Swing,” or “In a Sentimental Mood,” or “Take The ‘A’ Train?” … well this musical has all of those and many more hot jazz classics and dance numbers for you to enjoy. With a live 6-piece jazz band on stage, a four-member dance ensemble and eight outstanding actors, the audience gets to participate in the era of the Cotton Club and follow Horne, Strayhorn and Ellington through history around Manhattan and in Harlem nightclubs as if we were actually there.
Feel like you’re in the Cotton Club when you’re watching the new musical, When Jazz Had the Blues.
Playwright and executive producer, Carole Eglash-Kosoff grew up with the music of the big bands filling her home. The writer of five books and director of one award-winning documentary, Eglash-Kosoff stated, “This was my most ambitious production to date. The vocals of Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne and Peggy Lee were sweet sounds to me growing up. I put a lot of historical research into developing the play. I just felt that this story and music is all our history and it needed to be told.”
The talent is top-notch. Frank Lawson as Billy Strayhorn captures the quiet essence of the legend as well as his hopes, doubts, fears and amazing musical talent. Whether Lawson’s at the piano or interacting with Strayhorn’s lover, Aaron Bridgers (played by Gilbert Glenn Brown) the casts’ on-stage chemistry engages and fully holds your attention throughout the comedic and dramatic scenes. Michole Briana White truly shines as Lena Horne. Her amazing voice does not let you down as she sings some of Horne’s most cherished jazz numbers like “Stormy Weather” and “The Man I Love.” Boise Holmes is a dead ringer for Duke Ellington and completely draws you in as the legendary figure trying to keep Strayhorn in his shadow and having an ongoing affair with his wise cracking mistress, Trixie.
See it before it’s too late!
If you are in Los Angeles, run to see When Jazz Had the Blues before it closes on December 17, 2016 at The Matrix theatre. Due to such overwhelming response and rave reviews they are trying to extend performance dates in Los Angeles and other cities. Please visit their Kickstarter campaign page to support this project.