Jubilant Sykes, Kecia Lewis-Evans and Bob Stillman Star in Hartford Stage's 'BREATH & IMAGINATION', 1/11-2/3

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Internationally-celebrated classical and gospel vocalist Jubilant Sykes, Broadway veteran Kecia Lewis-Evans, and two-time Tony Award nominee Bob Stillman will star in the world premiere of Daniel Beaty's Breath & Imagination - The Story of Roland Hayes, directed by Darko Tresnjak, on stage from January 11 through February 3. Press Night: 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 16. Opening Night: 8 p.m. on Friday, January 18.

A classically-trained American baritone, JubilantSykes will portray Roland Hayes, considered to be the first African-American male concert artist to garner wide international acclaim. Californian Sykes' career includes acclaim in classical, pop, and gospel music (Sacred Music USA's Vocalist of the Year). He performed the role of Celebrant in the 2009 Grammy Award-nominated recording of Leonard Bernstein's Mass, in addition to soloing on tour with orchestras, such as The Boston Pops and Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Sykes' career includes recordings with classical guitarist Christopher Parkening; jazz trumpeter Terence Blanchard; and classical conductors Lorin Maazel, Christoph Eschenbach, and Marin Alsop. He has appeared at the Metropolitan Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, London's Barbican Centre, Apollo Theater, Hollywood Bowl, and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, among many others.

Before Marian Anderson and Paul Robeson, there was Roland Hayes - the first world-renowned African-American classical vocalist. Born the son of a slave, Roland discovered his voice as a young boy singing spirituals in church. This world premiere, musical play, Breath & Imagination - The Story of Roland Hayes, chronicles his amazing journey from a plantation in Georgia, to singing before kings and queens in Europe. At the heart of the story is Roland's loving, yet complex relationship with his mother - his Angel Mo'. Breath & Imagination - The Story of Roland Hayes explores the life of an American pioneer through words, movement, spirituals and classical music.

Kecia Lewis-Evans will portray Roland Hayes' mother, Angel Mo', in Breath & Imagination - The Story of Roland Hayes. On Broadway, her credits include 2012 Tony Award-nominee Leap of Faith, The Drowsy Chaperone, Chicago, Ain't Misbehavin', Big River, and Once on This Island. She's appeared in the off-Broadway productions of Langston in Harlem, From the Mississippi Delta and received a Drama Desk Nomination for her performance in Dessa Rose.

Bob Stillman will portray The Accompanist and other roles in Breath & Imagination - The Story of Roland Hayes. He is a writer, musician and actor and has been nominated for two Tony awards; first as actor, composer and onstage pianist in Dirty Blonde, and later as one of the songwriters for Urban Cowboy. Other Broadway credits include Grand Hotel, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Souvenir and Grey Gardens.

Annastasia Victory (Broadway's Nice Work If You Can Get It and Billy Elliott) will serve as music director. The production also features set design by David P. Gordon; costume design by Fabio Toblini; lighting design by York Kennedy; and sound design by Jane Shaw.

Breath & Imagination - The Story of Roland Hayes is produced in association with City Theatre in Pittsburgh. Principal production support for Breath & Imagination - The Story of Roland Hayes by Travelers, with additional support from Robinson & Cole, LLP and Fairview Capital.

Tickets for Breath & Imagination - The Story of Roland Hayes are available by calling the Hartford Stage box office at 860-527-5151 or by visiting www.hartfordstage.org.

Hartford Stage, since its founding in 1963, has been known for innovative revivals of classics and the development of important new works, including 65 World or American premieres. Recent work includes Quiara Alegria Hudes'Water by the Spoonful, winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama; Horton Foote'sThe Orphans' Home Cyclewhich had a celebrated run at the Signature Theatre in New York during the 2009-2010 season; a landmark production of Harper Lee'sTo Kill a Mockingbird;the premieres of Michael Kramer'sDivine Rivalry;and Daniel Beaty'sResurrection (later retitledThrough the Night,which had a successful run off-Broadway during the 2010-11 season). In 1998 the theatre launched an unprecedented ten-year retrospective of Tennessee Williams, which included the premiere of three plays. Other new work includes the premieres of Eve Ensler'sNecessary Targets, Edward Albee'sAt Home at the Zoo,Matthew Barber'sEnchanted April(which transferred to Broadway), Matthew Lombardo'sTea at Five, and many others. The theatre has earned numerous distinguished honors, including a Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre, the Margo Jones Award, OBIE awards, New York Critics Circle and Drama Desk awards. In 2005 Hartford Stage was awarded The Hartford Courant's Tapestry Award recognizing its outstanding work in diversity, and in 2008 it was awarded the Bank of America Neighborhood Builder's Award recognizing its excellence in building community in Greater Hartford. Hartford Stage is currently under the leadership of Artistic Director Darko Tresnjak and Managing Director Michael Stotts.

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