CROSS THAT RIVER, Musical Celebrating Black Cowboys of the American West, Opens Tonight Off-Broadway

CROSS THAT RIVER, Musical Celebrating Black Cowboys of the American West, Opens Tonight Off-Broadway

59E59 Theaters hosts Cross That River, a new musical composed by renowned jazz artist Allan Harris, with a book by Mr. Harris & Pat Harris, and directed by Regge Life. Produced by Love Productions Records, Cross That River began performances on Thursday, November 30 for a limited engagement through Sunday, December 31. Press Opening is tonight, December 6 at 7:15 PM.

The unsettled West of the 1860s provides a new life and new dreams for Blue, a runaway slave who escapes to Texas to become one of America's first Black Cowboys. This compelling tale of freedom integrates fiction with historical fact, and each song presents a different page in this complicated chapter of American History.

CROSS THAT RIVER had a brief run at the New York Musical Theater Festival in 2009. Extensively rewritten and featuring a new cast, this concert presentation of the glittering story of the Black West features an extraordinary score that mixes jazz, blues, country, and R&B.

The "smooth-voiced and charismatic" (The New York Times) renowned jazz composer, musician, and singer Allan Harris (Café Society Swing) returns to 59E59 to star as Blue. Joining Mr. Harris in the cast are a mix of accomplished music artists and actors including Maya Azucena, Alan Grubner, Miki Hayama, Seth Johnson, Carolyn Leonhart, Jeffery Lewis, Shirazette Tinnin, and Jay White.

The performance schedule is Tuesday - Thursday at 7:15 PM; Friday at 8:15 PM; Saturday at 2:15 PM & 8:15 PM; and Sunday at 3:15 PM. Performances are at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues). Single tickets are $35 ($24.50 for 59E59 Members). To purchase tickets, call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 or visit www.59e59.org.

Allan Harris (book writer and composer) has reigned supreme as the most accomplished and exceptional jazz singer of his generation. Aptly described by the Miami Herald as an artist blessed with, "the warmth of Tony Bennett, the bite and rhythmic sense of Sinatra, and the sly elegance of Nat 'King' Cole," the ample and aural evidence of Harris' moving and magisterial artistry can be heard on his ten recordings as a leader; his far-flung and critically-acclaimed concerts around the world, and his numerous awards, which include the New York Nightlife Award for "Outstanding Jazz Vocalist" - which he won three times - the Backstage Bistro Award for "Ongoing Achievement in Jazz," the DownBeat Critic's Poll Award for "Rising Star Jazz Vocalist," the Hot House Jazz Magazine "Jazz Vocalist of the Year Award" for both 2015 and 2016, and the Harlem Speaks "Jazz Museum of Harlem Award."

Harris' mother, Johanna Chemina Ingram-Harris, was a concert pianist and was a graduate of the first class of New York's legendary High School for the Performing Arts. Growing up, Harris went to Apollo Sunday afternoon matinees, and he visited his aunt Kate Ingram's famous soul food restaurant, Kate's Home Cooking; located behind the Apollo Theater, featured on the cover of organist Jimmy Smith's 1960 Blue Note LP, Home Cookin'. In this soulful setting, Harris would meet many jazz and R&B stars who worked at the Apollo and came by the restaurant to eat and hang out. Another aunt, Theodosia Ingram, won the Apollo Theater's Amateur Night Competition and performed at a number of Manhattan clubs, including The Lenox Lounge under her stage name, "Phoebe." It was through her, that Harris would meet and be mentored by a seminal jazz figure, Clarence Williams: a pioneering African-American composer, sideman and manager of Louis Armstrong and businessman, who owned the Harlem Thrift Shop, and hired Phoebe when she was twenty years old.

Harris has steadily developed his reputation as one of the finest vocalists of his era. He has also performed in several theatrical productions such as Cafe Society Swing at 59E59 Theaters, Maxies (directed by Maurice Hines) at the York Theater, Search Paul Clayton at the Triad, and his own musical Cross That River at the New York Musical Theater Festival. Brooklyn-born and Harlem-based, he has forged his sterling credentials through ten previous albums, covering a broad range of contexts, all netted together within the rich territory of the jazz tradition.

Pat Harris (book writer) has been primarily directing the careers of jazz artists since 1994. She became a co-writer of Cross That River after doing extensive research on the Black West and has been working on the book for this show, along with her husband Allan Harris, for the past ten years. She has presented both the concert version and the full book version of Cross That River for Chamber Music America, the San Angelo Cultural Affairs Department, the Kennedy Center, the O'Neill Theatre, Theatre Aspen, ASCAP Musical Theatre Festival, NYMF, and numerous schools throughout the country.

Regge Life's (director) recent credits include Dishwasher Dreams at the Castillo Center and PS 21 in Chatham, New York. He directed God of Carnage and the widely acclaimEd Kaufman's Barbershop at Shakespeare & Company. He has directed across the country with credits that include I Just Stopped by to See the Man for Milwaukee Rep; Yellowman and Gem of the Ocean for Pittsburgh Public Theater; Ghosts for the Pearl Theater; Piano Lesson for Virginia Stage Company; A Walk in the Woods at Capital Rep; Rebel Armies into Deep Chad, Laurence Fishburne's Riff Raff and Arthur Miller's The American Clock for the Juilliard School; as well as Living in the Wind and Do Lord Remember Me at The American Place Theatre.

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