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Ashley D. Kelley & Britton Smith to Lead New Musical BELLA: AN AMERICAN TALL TALE at Playwrights Horizons; Cast Complete!


Ashley D. Kelley & Britton Smith to Lead New Musical BELLA: AN AMERICAN TALL TALE at Playwrights Horizons; Cast Complete! Playwrights Horizons has announced complete casting for BELLA: AN AMERICAN TALL TALE, the co-world premiere of a new musical with book, music and lyrics by Obie Award winner Kirsten Childs (The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin at Playwrights, Miracle Brothers).

Directed by two-time Obie Award winner Robert O'Hara (Bootycandy at Playwrights, Barbecue, In the Continuum, The Brother/Sister Plays) with choreography by Camille A. Brown (The Fortress of Solitude), the musical will be the sixth and final production of the theater company's 2016/2017 Season.

BELLA: AN AMERICAN TALL TALE was commissioned, developed and produced through the Playwrights Horizons Musicals in Partnership Initiative, with leadership support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This co-world premiere production had an initial run at Dallas Theater Center last fall.

The cast of BELLA: AN AMERICAN TALL TALE will feature Marinda Anderson (A Life, Far From Heaven at Playwrights; Every Good Girl, Sex of the Baby), Yurel Echezarreta (Bella... at Dallas Theatre Center, Aladdin, La Cage aux Folles, West Side Story, Matilda), Brandon Gill (Holler if Ya Hear Me, Neighbors, "Golden Boy"), Olli Haaskivi (Baghdaddy, I Battled Lenny Ross, Saturday Night, "Mr. Robot"), Ashley D. Kelley (title role in Bella... at Dallas Theatre Center, regionally as Dorothy/The Wiz, Mama Morton/Chicago, Mazeppa/Gypsy, Nell Carter/Ain't Misbehavin'), Kevin Massey (A Gentleman's Guide..., Tarzan, Memphis, Big River), Jo'Nathan Michael (tours of Ragtime, Dreamgirls, The Color Purple, Fame), Drama Desk Award and Audelco Award winner Kenita R. Miller (Bella... at Dallas Theatre Center, The Color Purple, Xanadu, Avenue Q, Encores! The Wild Party), Paolo Montalban (Bella... at Dallas Theatre Center, Pacific Overtures, The King and I, Cinderella, "The Blacklist," "Madam Secretary"), Gabrielle Reyes (Bella... at Dallas Theatre Center, regionally in Dreamgirls, Ragtime, Distracted, Clybourne Park), Britton Smith (Shuffle Along, After Midnight, Fortress of Solitude, Encores! The Wild Party,) and NaTasha Yvette Williams (Chicago, Porgy and Bess, The Color Purple, Show Boat).

The production will begin previews Friday, May 19 at 8PM with an Opening Night set for Monday, June 12 at 7PM at the company's Mainstage Theater (416 West 42nd Street). The limited engagement is currently scheduled to play through Sunday, July 2.

All aboard for a Western musical adventure the likes of which you've never experienced. As a wanted woman of mythic proportions looks to begin life anew out west, Bella (Ms. Kelley) takes us on the trip of a lifetime to escape her scandalous past and bounce into the arms of her awaiting Buffalo Soldier (Mr. Smith). Rowdy, wild, and hilarious, Kirsten Childs infuses this tall tale with soulful tunes and madcap antics aplenty. Giddy-up to our get-down!

The production will feature scenic design by Tony Award winner Clint Ramos, costume design by Dede M. Ayite, lighting design by four-time Tony Award nominee Japhy Weideman, sound design by Lindsay Jones, projection design by Jeff Sugg and hair, wig and makeup design by Dave Bova and J. Jared Janas. Orchestrations are by Tony Award winner Daryl Waters, vocal arrangements are by Kirsten Childs, music direction and additional arrangements are by Rona Siddiqui and music coordinator is John Miller. Production stage manager is Erin Gioia Albrecht.

The performance schedule for BELLA: AN AMERICAN TALL TALE will be Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7PM, Thursdays and Fridays at 8PM, Saturdays at 2:30 & 8PM and Sundays at 2:30 & 7:30 PM. Beginning Tuesday, April 18, single tickets, $59-89, may be purchased online via and, by phone at (212) 279-4200 (Noon-8pm daily) and in person at the Ticket Central Box Office, 416 West 42nd Street (between Ninth & Tenth Avenues).

Currently in previews at Playwrights Horizons' Peter Jay Sharp Theater is THE PROFANE, the world premiere of a new play by Zayd Dohrn, directed by Kip Fagan (opening Sunday, April 9). The 2016/2017 Season concludes with BELLA: AN AMERICAN TALL TALE.

Playwrights Horizons recently announced its 2017/2018 Season, which will feature (in season order): FOR PETER PAN ON HER 70th BIRTHDAY, the New York premiere of a new play by two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist and Tony Award nominee Sarah Ruhl, directed by Obie Award winner Les Waters, featuring three-time Obie Award winner Kathleen Chalfant in the title role, David Chandler, Ron Crawford, two-time Obie Award winner Lisa Emery, Tony Award nominee Daniel Jenkins and Keith Reddin (August 2017); THE TREASURER, the world premiere of a Playwrights Horizons commissioned new play by Max Posner, directed by three-time Lortel Award winner David Cromer (September 2017); MANKIND, the world premiere of a Playwrights Horizons commissioned new play written and directed by two-time Obie Award winner Robert O'Hara (December 2017); THIS FLAT EARTH, the world premiere of a new play by Lindsey Ferrentino, directed by Rebecca Taichman (March 2018); DANCE NATION, the world premiere of a new play by Obie Award winner Clare Barron, directed by Obie Award winner Lee Sunday Evans (April 2018); and LOG CABIN, the world premiere of a new play by Pulitzer Prize finalist JorDan Harrison, directed by Tony Award and Obie Award winner Pam Mackinnon (June 2018).


Kirsten Childs (Book, Music and Lyrics). At Playwrights Horizons: The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin. Her other musicals include Miracle Brothers (Vineyard Theatre), Fly (with Rajiv Joseph and Bill Sherman) and Funked Up Fairy Tales. For her work she has received Obie, Kleban, Larson, Richard Rodgers, Audelco, and Gilman/Gonzalez-Falla awards, as well as Lortel and Drama Desk nominations. She recently collaborated with Charlayne Woodard on the musical Grace for Inner Voices: Solo Musicals. Kirsten has written for Disney Theatricals, the American Songbook series at Lincoln Center, the New Electric Company, Works and Process at the Guggenheim Museum and City Center Encores! She is a professor in NYU's Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program, a member of both the Dramatists Guild Council and the Dramatists Guild Fund, and is proud to be a mentor in Theatre Development Fund's Open Doors program.

Robert O'Hara (Director). At Playwrights Horizons: Bootycandy (writer and director), next season's Mankind. He has received the NAACP Best Director Award, the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding New Play, two Obie Awards and the Oppenheimer Award. He directed the world premieres of Nikkole Salter and Danai Gurira's In the Continuum, Tarell McCraney's The Brother/Sister Plays (Part 2), Colman Domingo's Wild with Happy as well as his own plays, Bootycandy and Insurrection: Holding History. His new plays Zombie: The American and Barbecue world premiered last season at Woolly Mammoth Theater and The Public Theater, respectively.

Camille A. Brown (Choreographer). Playwrights Horizons debut. Broadway: A Streetcar Named Desire. Off-Broadway/New York: Fortress of Solitude (Public Theatre, Lortel Award nomination), The Box (Foundry Theatre), Encores! productions of Cabin in the Sky and tick, tick...BOOM! starring Lin-Manuel Miranda. Regional: Bella: An American Tall Tale, Stagger Lee (Dallas Theatre Center); The Winter's Tale (McCarter Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre Company); Blood Quilt (Arena Stage). Upcoming: the Broadway revivals of Once on This Island (December 2017) and Pal Joey (Spring 2019) and the world premiere of her new work Ink at The Kennedy Center (December 2017).

Marinda Anderson (Ida Lou/Aunt Dinah). Playwrights Horizons: A Life, Far From Heaven. Off-Broadway: Sex of the Baby, Every Good Girl, Macbeth. Regional: A Doll's House, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill, Intimate Apparel, Three Sisters, Fairfield, A Carol for Cleveland, Love's Labour's Lost, Doubt, Hair. TV: "Gotham." Web: "Horace and Pete," "Homegirls" (creator). BFA in musical theater, Howard University; MFA, NYU Graduate Acting Program.

Yurel Echezarreta (Diego Moreno/CP Conyers) originated his roles in the Dallas Theater Center engagement of this co-world premiere production. Playwrights Horizons debut. Broadway: Aladdin, La Cage aux Folles, West Side Story, Matilda. Regional: West Side Story, Chicago, South Pacific, Songs for a New World, Grease, Cats, Children of Eden. Film: The Last Five Years.

Brandon Gill (Nathaniel Beckworth). Playwrights Horizons debut. Broadway: Holler if Ya Hear Me. New York: Neighbors. Regional: Stagger Lee, The Last Goodbye, The Recommendation, Panzee, Superior Donuts, Rabbit Hole. Film/TV: Radium Girls, Paladin, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Fourth Man Out, "Blue Bloods," "Golden Boy," "Beauty and the Beast," "Are We There Yet?," "Detroit 187," "Momma's," "Fringe."

Olli Haaskivi (Gabriel Conyers/Scooter). Playwrights Horizons debut. Off-Broadway: Baghdaddy. New York: I Battled Lenny Ross, Saturday Night. Regional: ...Spelling Bee. Film/TV: Going in Style, Freak Show, From Nowhere, The Lennon Report, Ratter, The Funeral Guest, "Orange Is the New Black," "The Detour," "The Blacklist," "Z," "Mr. Robot," "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," "Boardwalk Empire."

Ashley D. Kelley (Bella) originated the title role in the Dallas Theater Center engagement of this co-world premiere production. Playwrights Horizons debut. Regional (leading/featured roles: The Wiz; Chicago; All Shook Up; Gypsy; Ain't Misbehavin'; Nunsense; ...Spelling Bee; Kiss Me, Kate; Hairspray; Little Shop of Horrors; Avenue Q; The Full Monty; Smokey Joe's Café; La Cage aux Folles. Film: American Hustle.

Kevin Massey (Snaggletooth Hoskins). Playwrights Horizons debut. Broadway: A Gentleman's Guide..., Tarzan, Memphis, Big River. Off-Broadway/New York: Angels The Musical, Anthony and Cleopatra, Down at the Inferno, Blackamoor Angel. National tours: A Gentleman's Guide..., Tarzan, Little House on the Prairie, Big River, Grease. Regional: Bonnie & Clyde, Les Misérables, The Secret Garden, Pippin, Footloose.

Jo'Nathan Michael (Mr. Dinwiddie/Scumbucket). Playwrights Horizons debut. National tours: Ragtime, Dreamgirls, The Color Purple. International tours: Dreamgirls, Grease, Fame. TV: "The View," "Conan O'Brien," "An American Celebration."

Kenita R. Miller (Miss Cabbagestalk/Mama) originated her roles in the Dallas Theater Center engagement of this co-world premiere production. Playwrights Horizons debut. Broadway: The Color Purple, Xanadu. Off-Broadway: Working (Drama Desk Award), Langston in Harlem (Audelco Award, Drama Desk nomination), Avenue Q, The Wild Party, Merrily We Roll Along, Dessa Rose, Saturday Night. TV: "The Blacklist," "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt"

Paolo Montalban (Tommie Haw/Skeeter) originated his roles in the Dallas Theater Center engagement of this co-world premiere production. Playwrights Horizons debut. Broadway: Pacific Overtures, The King and I, Breakfast at Tiffany's. Off-Broadway: Two Gentlemen of Verona. National tour: Cinderella. TV: "The Blacklist," "Madam Secretary," "Cinderella," "Camelot." Concert work: Carnegie Hall (with Lea Salonga), Alice Tully Hall, Las Vegas.

Gabrielle Reyes (Mrs. Dinwiddie/Nurse) originated her roles in the Dallas Theater Center engagement of this co-world premiere production. Playwrights Horizons debut. Regional: Ragtime, Dreamgirls, Trojan Women, Distracted, Clybourne Park, In the Next Room..., Joseph..., Macbeth, West Side Story, A Christmas Carol. TV: "The Whitney Houston Story."

Britton Smith (Aloysius T. Honeycutt). Playwrights Horizons debut. Broadway: Shuffle Along, After Midnight. Off-Broadway: Encores! The Wild Party and Cotton Club Parade, Fortress of Solitude (also Dallas Theatre Center), For the Last Time. Regional: Damn Yankees, Seussical The Musical, Hairspray, Ragtime, Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story.

NaTasha Yvette Williams (Grandma/Spirit of the Booty). Playwrights Horizons debut. Broadway: Chicago, Porgy and Bess, The Color Purple, A Night with Janis Joplin. Off-Broadway/New York: Show Boat (NY Philharmonic), Storyville, Dessa Rose. London: Gone with the Wind. National tours: Xanadu, The Drowsy Chaperone, All Shook Up, Seussical The Musical, Cinderella, Parade, The Goodbye Girl, Mahalia. TV: "Orange Is the New Black," "The Wiz Live!"

Playwrights Horizons is dedicated to cultivating the most important American Playwrights, composers and lyricists, as well as developing and producing their bold new plays and musicals. Under Artistic Director Tim Sanford and Managing Director Leslie Marcus, Playwrights builds upon its diverse and renowned body of work, counting 400 writers among its artistic roster. In addition to its onstage work each season, Playwrights' singular commitment to nurturing American theater artists guides all of the institution's multifaceted initiatives: our acclaimed New Works Lab, a robust commissioning program, an innovative curriculum at its Theater School and more. Playwrights has been recognized with numerous awards and honors, including six Pulitzer Prizes, 13 Tony Awards and 39 Obie Awards. Prior artistic directors include André Bishop and Don Scardino. Robert Moss founded Playwrights Horizons in 1971 and oversaw its first decade, cementing the mission that continues to guide the institution today.

Notable productions include six Pulitzer Prize winners - Annie Baker's The Flick (2013 Obie Award, 2013 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize), Bruce Norris's Clybourne Park (2012 Tony Award, Best Play), Doug Wright's I Am My Own Wife (2004 Tony Award, Best Play), Wendy Wasserstein's The Heidi Chronicles (1989 Tony Award, Best Play), Alfred Uhry's Driving Miss Daisy and Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Sunday in the Park with George - as well as Ms. Baker's Circle Mirror Transformation (three 2010 Obie Awards including Best New American Play); Lisa D'Amour's Detroit (2013 Obie Award, Best New American Play); Samuel D. Hunter's The Whale (2013 Lortel Award, Best Play); Kirsten Greenidge's Milk Like Sugar (2012 Obie Award); JorDan Harrison's Marjorie Prime (2015 Pulitzer finalist); Lucas Hnath's The Christians (2016 Obie Award, 2016 Outer Critics Circle Award, 2015 Kesselring Prize); Robert O'Hara's Bootycandy (two 2015 Obie Awards); Adam Bock's A Life and A Small Fire; Taylor Mac's Hir; Danai Gurira's Familiar; Anne Washburn's Mr. Burns, a post-electric play; Sarah Ruhl's Stage Kiss and Dead Man's Cell Phone; Gina Gionfriddo's Rapture, Blister, Burn; Dan LeFranc's The Big Meal; Amy Herzog's The Great God Pan and After the Revolution; Bathsheba Doran's Kin; Edward Albee's Me, Myself & I; Melissa James Gibson's This (2010 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize finalist); Doug Wright, Scott Frankel and Michael Korie's Grey Gardens (three 2007 Tony Awards); Craig Lucas's Prayer For My Enemy and Small Tragedy (2004 Obie Award, Best American Play); Adam Rapp's Kindness; Lynn Nottage's Fabulation (2005 Obie Award for Playwriting); Kenneth Lonergan's Lobby Hero; David Greenspan's She Stoops to Comedy (2003 Obie Award); Kirsten Childs's The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin (2000 Obie Award); Richard Nelson and Shaun Davey's James Joyce's The Dead (2000 Tony Award, Best Book); Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's Assassins; William Finn's March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland; Christopher Durang's Betty's Summer Vacation and Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You; Richard Nelson's Goodnight Children Everywhere; Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty's Once on This Island; Jon Robin Baitz's The Substance of Fire; Scott McPherson's Marvin's Room; A.R. Gurney's Later Life; Adam Guettel and Tina Landau's Floyd Collins; and Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley's Violet.

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