Billy Strayhorn Musical LUSH LIFE to Premiere Next Month at the Matrix
CEK Productions presents the World Premiere of LUSH LIFE, book by Carole Eglash-Kosoff, musical direction and arrangements by Rahn Coleman, choreography by Cassie Crump and direction by John Henry Davis. LUSH LIFE begins previews Friday, November 11, 2016 and opens Friday, November 18 at 8pm. The production runs through Sunday, December 18 at the Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave. in West Hollywood.
It was the era of jazz, Lena Horne, big bands and the greatest music ever written. In this searing new musical, LUSH LIFE centers on the life of musical genius Billy Strayhorn and his uneasy relationships with Lena Horne, Duke Ellington, and Billy's lover, Aaron Bridgers. Set against a time of racism, homophobia, and World War II, LUSH LIFE follows a young Strayhorn from his hometown in Pittsburgh to the nightclubs of Harlem. We follow their lives through a musical songbook that sustained us during the worst of the Great Depression and the Second World War, a war in which blacks and whites served separately just as they weren't allowed to share the same bandstand. A six piece orchestra, four member dance ensemble, and eight outstanding actors bring the play to life.
THE CREATIVE TEAM AND CAST
JOHN Henry Davis (Director) is a director of theatre, opera, film, and television. He is known for directing premieres of plays and musicals in theatres all across the country, including Playwrights Horizons, The Mark Taper Forum, the Kennedy Center, The Dallas Theatre Center, The Philadelphia Drama Guild, and Baltimore Center Stage. Actors he has worked with include Oscar winner Marisa Tomei, Elizabeth Banks, Robert Sean Leonard, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, while writers and composers he has worked with include Beth Henley, Ossie Davis, and Jason Robert Brown. In television and film, he has directed Oz for HBO, The Sarah Jones Show for Bravo, and the award-winning feature film Ordinary Sinner. Recently in the Los Angeles area he directed Bagels! The Musical at NMI, Trying and End of the Rainbow at ICT, and Dr. Anonymous at the Zephyr Theatre. At UCLA's Tamkin Auditorium, Mr. Davis produced and directed Craig Lucas' Catherine Wheel as well as the world premiere of Waiting Room. In the field of historical drama, Mr. Davis directed the world premiere productions of the plays Papa and Mountain starring Len Cariou for tour and Off-Broadway, as well as Thomas Babe's Planet Fires at GEVA and The Mark Taper Forum. He also directed the world premiere of the musical Eleanor - an American Love Story at Seattle Center Theatre and subsequently directed it at Musical Theatre West. In opera, he directed the workshop production of Conrad Cumming's The Golden Gate at Rose Studio in New York as well as multiple productions of Babes in Toyland at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center. Classic plays he has directed include Hamlet at the Hudson Guild and The Cherry Orchard for LaGuardia Performing Arts Center. For many years he directed and developed new musicals for young audiences at Theatreworks USA, including the long running Lion Witch and the Wardrobe. John Henry Davis has also been a full time professor at LaGuardia Community College as well as a playwright. His writing includes Enemy of the Good and Waiting Room. Mr. Davis is the husband of Game Show Network television executive Amy Introcaso Davis, and is the proud father of Sean, Bonnie, and Christopher.
CASSIE CRUMP (Choreography) is a native of Los Angeles, California. Her interest in the performing arts began as a teenager when she went to Inner City Youth, a Performing Arts School. Her formal training was obtained from some of the area's most notable dance teachers such as Lady Walker, Paul Kennedy, Lula Washington, and Karen McDonald. Cassie was a featured dancer in the film The Naked Cage and Worlds of Curls commercial. While with the Dance Company Chester Whitmore Black Ballet Jazz she traveled around the world. She then traveled as a LA breaker. When she came back to the States, she danced and choreographed The Chocolate Nutcracker with Debbie Allen. In 2005, she debuted her choreography in the feature film Sledge starring Ben Stiller and Angelina Jolie. She choreographed and debuted in the gospel play Tell Hell I Ain't Comin, Girl He Ain't Worth It starring Shirley Murdock, Chicken Shack starring The Manhattans, and Love in All the Wrong Faces starring Miki Howard. Cassie also had a television dance show on Comcast On Demand called Get Up and Dance. Her most recent accomplishments include being a featured choreographer in the magazine All About Kids. She also choreographed and acted in the movie Revival with Chaka Khan. She just finished choreographing the play Recorded in Hollywood where she received many write ups in the LA Times, totaltheater.com, hollywoodprogressive.com, and more. Cassie also won the 2010 NAACP Theatre Award for Best Choreographer. In 2015, she won Stage Scene LA Award for Best Choreographer for Recorded in Hollywood. She was also nominated for a 2016 Scenic Award for her work in Recorded in Hollywood. Currently, she is working at Wendy Raquel Robinson's Amazing Grace Conservatory as a choreographer. She also works at Celerity Global as a The National Director of Performing Arts.
Rahn Coleman (Musical Direction/Arrangements) has served as musical director, arranger, vocal coach and pianist for many notable singers, including: Aretha Franklin, Freda Payne, Nichelle Nichols, Michael Feinstein, Gladys Knight, Barry White, The Ojays, The Temptations, Tina Turner, Ray Charles, Ben Vereen, Marilyn McCoo, Billy Davis Jr., and Sarah Vaughan. He conducted the NBC Studio Orchestra, the Philadelphia Philharmonic, the "1993 Clinton Presidential Inaugural Orchestra" and was featured on Dick Clark's "American Bandstand 20th Anniversary Special." Coleman has toured internationally with Lou Rawls, Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle, Joe Cocker, Marlena Shaw, Marvin Gaye, Tom Jones, Seals and Crofts, and Sammy Davis Jr. He has served as musical supervisor, musical director, arranger, orchestrator, and pianist for productions of Sammy, Ain't Misbehavin, The Wiz, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill, the Broadway production of Baby It's You, and the West Coast premiere of Breath and Imagination. He began collaborating with Sheldon Epps in 1991 as Music Director for Blues in the Night at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. Subsequent collaborations with Epps include: Ray Charles Live! A New Musical, Play On, and Purlie. His theater credits include work at: The Broadhurst Theatre (New York); The Colony Theater Company (Burbank); International City Theatre (Long Beach); The Old Globe Theatre (San Diego); Pasadena Playhouse; Los Angeles Theatre Center; Post Street Theater (San Francisco); The Syracuse Stage; Goodman Theater (Chicago); Phoenix Theater; National Black Theater Festival (Winston-Salem, NC); Indiana Repertory Theater; Seattle Repertory Theater; Santa Barbara Civic Light Opera; and the Ojai Playwrights Conference.
CAROLE EGLASH-KOSOFF (Playwright/Executive Producer) lives in Valley Village, California. Lush Life is her third play, and her most ambitious production. She has also published five books and wrote and directed an award-winning short documentary, The Life & Art of David Labkovski. In 2006 following the deaths of her husband, mother, and brother in a single month, she traveled to South Africa to teach in the black townships and pen her first book, The Human Spirit - Apartheid's Unheralded Heroes. Later produced as a play at the Odyssey Theatre, it garnered favorable reviews. Her second novel, When Stars Align, a historical fiction novel, dealt with the love of a mixed-race boy and a white girl in the turbulent era after the Civil War. It also became her second play. Winds of Change, her third novel, continued that saga. Sex, Drugs, & Fashion, her next book, fictionalized the decades she spent working in the apparel industry. Her fifth book, By One Vote, is dramatized non-fiction, telling twelve true stories of events in American history, shaped by a single vote. Carole graduated from UCLA, has visited more than seventy countries and oversees the A Better Way Scholarship program that grants scholarships to graduating high school seniors.
LEIGH FORTIER (Producer) Her productions have garnered over 20 LA Weekly Awards (including LA Weekly best musical, Medea, the Musical), over 10 NAACP Awards (16 Nominations), three of the five GLAAD Media Awards nominations for Best Play in one season (including award recipient Medea, the Musical), and numerous BackStage West Awards. Highlights include multiple award winning plays The Talented Tenth directed by Oz Scott and starring Robert Guillaume, Up The Mountain by Kevin Arkadie (numerous producer awards and LA Times 10 Best), and Kathy and Mo: The Dark Side starring Kathy Najimy and Mo Gaffney (co-produced with Jimmy Nederlander at the Henry Fonda Theatre). Along with Burn This (directed by Jessica Kubzansky at the Odyssey Theatre), The New Bozena (directed by Rainn Wilson), Walking the Blonde (presented by Kathy Bates and Sharon Gless), Snakebit by David Marshall Grant (nominated for GLAAD Media Award), and Pope Joan for Broadway producer Michael Butler (HAIR), Leigh produced and co-created (with multiple award-winning playwright Claudia Allen) the hit musical A Gay Christmas Carol (GLAAD Media Award nomination for Outstanding Production), and produced the award winning smash hit The Very Worst of Varla Jean Merman, and Streamers, both at the Hudson. Leigh also produced Room 105 (about Janis Joplin) starring Sophie B Hawkins and Emily's Song (written and directed by New York Times best-selling author Chet Holmes). Other recent productions include critically-acclaimed award-winning Serrano The Musical (directed by Joel Zwick) at the Matrix Theatre, When Stars Align (written by Carole Eglash-Kosoff and John Henry Davis) at the Odyssey theatre, and Gruesome Playground Injuries for Sara and Frank Darabount at the Hudson Theatre and Hillary and Monica directed by Joel Zwick at the Odyssey Theatre
The Cast of LUSH LIFE features: Frank Lawson as Billy Strayhorn (Hudson; Recorded In Hollywood, Celebration; Songs from an Unmade Bed), Michole Briana White (Off Broadway; Jitney, Goodman; Radio Golf) as Lena Horne, Gilbert Glenn Brown (Ebony Repertory Theatre Company; Gospel at Colonus, Fountain Theatre; Live from Death Row... The Scottsboro Boys) as Aaron Bridger, Boise Holmes ("Kiss the Girls" with Morgan Freeman, "Chicago Fire") as "The Duke," India R. McGee ("The Get Down" on Netflix, "The Wiz Live") as Trixie and in the ensemble; Brad Light, Michael Covert, Katherine Washington, Chris Smith and Archie Derian.
The LUSH LIFE Design Team features: Set Design by Se Hyun Oh. Lighting Design by Leigh Allen. Sound Design by Christopher Moscatiello. Costume Design by Michael Mullen. Casting by Michael Donovan, CSA. The Production Stage Manager is Debbie Blount. LUSH LIFE is produced by Leigh Fortier.
Previews begin Thursday, November 11, 2016. Performances begin Friday, November 18 at 8pm and run through Sunday, December 18 at the Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave. in West Hollywood. Friday and Saturday performances are at 8:00pm; Sundays at 3:00pm. Ticket prices are $34.00 for all performances. $20.00 for Previews. Tickets are available online at www.plays411.com/lushlife or by calling 1-323-960-7776.