Emmy Winner Wayne Brady to Star Opposite Merle Dandridge in KISS ME, KATE at Pasadena Playhouse
The Pasadena Playhouse announced today that Wayne Brady will star as Fred/Petruchio in the Cole Porter Broadway musical KISS ME, KATE. The multi-Emmy Award winning Brady will head a cast of 17. Epps will direct the 2014-2015 Season opener, which will run from September 16- October 12, 2014 with the official press opening on September 21. The production also stars Merle Dandridge (Broadway's Spamalot and Tarzan) as Lily/Kate.
"It is said that a huge percentage of a director's work is done in the casting process (and I believe that to be true). By this maxim, I know that the cast that we have blessedly brought together for this wonderful show will make my job a joy, and bring genuine electricity to our stage. It has long been my hope to work with Wayne, and he is perfectly suited to this role," said Sheldon Epps. "And I am thrilled that we will have the bountiful visual and musical delights that Merle embodies on our stage once again. I know that this incredibly gifted pair will lead our wonderful company splendidly. It will indeed be 'Too Darn Hot' at each and every performance!"
KISS ME, KATE represents the legendary Cole Porter at his very best. It is without a doubt one of the great classics of the American musical theatre, celebrating Shakespeare and the joys, madness, and the rewards of working in the theatre- - both onstage and off. The Pasadena Playhouse production will view the work through a new lens, - using the wonderful material of this celebrated production to showcase the trailblazing African- American touring troupes of the early 20th century. Those "groups of traveling players" that brought the work of the Bard not just to New York City, but to theatres all over the country. Many of the most famous actors of our time owe much to those pioneers, who included such as Hattie McDaniel, Paul Robeson, Earle Hyman, Jane White, and Dorothy Van Eangle. Those brave actors such as those brought literal "color" to great classical roles, opened doors for others, and represent the high style and theatricality that have always been embodied in Porter's masterpiece.
The Pasadena Playhouse production will view the work through a new lens, using the wonderful material of this celebrated production to showcase the trailblazing African-American actors and entertainers of the early 20th century.
Emmy Award winning Wayne Brady is one of the most versatile performers in show business today, entertaining audiences with his acting, improv, singing and dancing on television, film and the stage. He became well known for his improvisational skills on "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" for which he won an Emmy Award and earned two Emmy Award nominations.
Brady went on to host his own syndicated talk/variety show, "The Wayne Brady Show," for two years. Brady picked up two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Talk Show Host and the show won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Talk Show. He currently is the host of "Let's Make a Deal" on CBS. Brady's additional television credits include "The Dave Chappelle Show," "30 Rock," "Dirt" and "Everybody Hates Chris," as well as "How I Met Your Mother," on the Network. Also, Brady hosted "Don't Forget the Lyrics."
Recently, Brady provided his voice for the upcoming animated feature, "Foodfight!" He starred in numerous feature films including, Crossover, and the independent feature The List, a romantic comedy with Sydney Tamiia Poitier and Illeana Douglas. Brady was also featured in Roll Bounce.
Brady earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance for his single "A Change is Gonna Come" off his debut musical album, "A Long Time Coming." In 2005, he completed a run playing Billy Flynn in the Broadway production of Chicago. Also, he has made a big splash in Vegas with his stage show, Makin' It Up.
Merle Dandridge was born in Okinawa, Japan to a mother of Korean and Japanese descent and a Memphis bred African-American father. After moving to the states, they settled at the Strategic Air Command (Offutt Air Force Base) in Bellevue, Nebraska. She attended Roosevelt University in Chicago on a full ride scholarship, then moved to New York where she began her career with leading roles in Broadway shows such as Spamalot (Lady of the Lake), Rent (Joanne), Aida (Aida), Tarzan (Kala-Original Cast Recording) and Jesus Christ Superstar. Merle has toured the U.S. and Europe with Smokey Joe?s Cafe, Ain?t Misbehavin?, Rent, Aida, Spamalot and as Hugh Jackman?s sidekick in his touring concert show.
Regionally she has been featured at The Pasadena Playhouse (Jerry Herman?s Showtune), Williamstown (Lady Capulet in The Last Goodbye), La Jolla (Elizabeth in Most Wanted), and The Geffen Playhouse (Cleo in Atlanta and Anna Mae/Afua Assata Ejobo in By The Way, Meet Vera Stark). Television credits include recurring roles on "Stalker," "Star-crossed," "Sons of Anarchy" and "Newsroom"; and guest starring on "Drop Dead Diva," "Perception," "The Mentalist," "Nikita," "Criminal Minds," "Ringer," "Lie to Me," "Love Bites," "CSI: Miami," "The Deep End," "24," "Third Watch," "NCIS," "Angel" and several network pilots.
In her free time, Merle performs her solo act and with her "Disney on Broadway" family all over the world, is on staff at Lachey Arts along side her dear friends Drew and Lea Lachey, serves at her local church and cheers on Nebraska Cornhusker Football with reckless abandon. Merle is also known in the gaming world for her award-winning voice work as Alyx Vance in the Half Life 2 series, as Marlene in The Last of Us and Legion Commander/Winter Wyvern in Dota2.
Joining Brady and Dandridge are KISS ME, KATE principal cast members: Joanna A. Jones as Lois/Bianca, Terrance Spencer as Bill/Lucentio, Jenelle Lynn Randall as Hattie, Rogelio Douglas, Jr. as Paul, David Kirk Grant as Thug #1, Danny Stiles as Thug #2, Pat Towne as General Howell, and Jay Donnell as Baptista.
The ensemble features Eric B. Anthony, Shamicka Benn-Moser, Theresa Murray, Saudia Rashed, Carlton Wilborn, Armando Yearwood, and Kimberly Moore.
The creative team for KISS ME, KATE also includes: Jeffrey Polk as choreographer, Rahn Coleman as musical director, John Iacovelli as scenic designer, David K. Mickelsen as costume designer, Steven Young as lighting designer, Jon Gotlieb and Jonathan Burke as sound designers, Michael Donovan as casting director, and Lurie Pfeffer as production stage manager.
KISS ME, KATE will play September 16, 2014 through October 12 with the official press opening on September 21. The Pasadena Playhouse is located at 39 South El Molino Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101. The performance schedule is Tuesday through Friday at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday at 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Tickets, priced from $47.00 to $87.00, plus premium seats at $125.00, are available online at PasadenaPlayhouse.org; by calling The Pasadena Playhouse at 626-356-7529; or visiting The Pasadena Playhouse Box Office, Tuesday - Sunday from 1:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. during non-performance dates. On performance dates the Box Office is open Tuesday - Saturday from 1:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, visit PasadenaPlayhouse.org.