Passing Strange Star Rebecca Naomi Jones Joins THIS BEAUTIFUL CITY March 7
Rebecca Naomi Jones, most recently seen at The Vineyard Theatre in WIG OUT! and on Broadway in the Tony Award-winning PASSING STRANGE, is set to join the cast of The Civilians' THIS BEAUTIFUL CITY on Saturday, March 7 at The Vineyard Theatre (108 East 15th Street) where the hit play's New York premiere runs through March 15, presented by The Vineyard Theatre, in a co-production with Los Angeles' Center Theatre Group. Steven Cosson directs.Created by The Civilians, written by Steven Cosson and Jim Lewis, with music and lyrics by Michael Friedman, THIS BEAUTIFUL CITY is a provocative new play with music about the growth of the evangelical movement in Colorado Springs, created by the documentary theatre company The Civilians.One of The Fates 3 in The Vineyard's recent production of Tarell Alvin McCraney's WIG OUT!, Rebecca Naomi Jones' credits include the original Broadway and Off-Broadway cast of PASSING STRANGE, Playwrights Horizons' HOW IS LOVE SPELT, national tours of CAROLINE, OR CHANGE and RENT, as well as the films MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA and PASSING STRANGE, directed by Spike Lee. Ms. Jones replaces Marsha Stephanie Blake, who leaves the production to join the cast of the Broadway-bound revival of August Wilson's Joe Turner'S COME AND GONE.In addition to Ms. Jones, the cast of THIS BEAUTIFUL CITY includes Emily Ackerman, Brad Heberlee, Brandon Miller, Stephen Plunkett and Alison Weller, along with musicians Chris Biesterfeldt, Benjamin Campbell and Richard Huntley. Music direction is by Erik James.THIS BEAUTIFUL CITY opened on February 22 to strong reviews: In the New York Times, Charles Isherwood called it "an engaging, inquisitive and evenhanded work of theatre about the transformation of an American City." Marilyn Stasio of Variety deemed The Civilians as "wicked-smart," adding that their play is "admirably open and remarkably honest." Michael Kuchwara of the Associated Press described the work as "a lively docudrama with a generosity of spirit." In Backstage, Adam Perlman called it a "striking new piece... compassionate and admirable." And in his New York Post review, Frank Scheck called the play "entertaining and thoughtful," adding "The Civilians hit the jackpot when they went to Colorado Springs!" THIS BEAUTIFUL CITY was created from interviews by Emily Ackerman, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Brad Heberlee, Stephen Plunkett, Alison Weller and the authors with actual persons over the course of 10 weeks in Colorado Springs. Every leading church in the area participated in the project, as did numerous civic organizations, progressive activists, and individuals from all walks of life.The production has set design by Neil Patel, costume design by Alix Hester, lighting design by David Weiner, sound design by Ken Travis, and projection design by Jason Thompson. Choreography is by John Carrafa.Since its founding in 2001 by Artistic Director Steven Cosson, The Civilians have created seven original shows: CANARD, CANARD, GOOSE?; THE LADIES; PARIS COMMUNE; GONE MISSING; (I AM) NOBODY'S LUNCH; SHADOW OF HIMSELF; and THIS BEAUTIFUL CITY. The Civilians' work has produced throughout New York and at theaters nationally including A.R.T., La Jolla Playhouse, HBO's US Comedy Festival, and Actors Theatre of Louisville. The company has also toured nationally and internationally to universities, arts presenters and festivals. The Civilians received an Obie in 2004 in recognition of its accomplishments in its first two seasons of work. The Vineyard opened its current season with the critically acclaimed world-premiere production of Tarell Alvin McCraney's play WIG OUT! which extended twice, playing to packed houses and breaking box office records that surpassed such past hits as [title of show] and AVENUE Q.Under the artistic leadership of Douglas Aibel, Vineyard Theatre has presented some of the most provocative and original new plays and musicals written for the stage in the past 27 years. The Vineyard received its first Tony Awards with AVENUE Q, winner of three 2004 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Other productions of note at The Vineyard include two Pulitzer Prize-winners, Edward Albee's THREE TALL WOMEN and Paula Vogel's HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE; Craig Lucas' THE DYING GAUL, Becky Mode's FULLY COMMITTED, AFTER ASHLEY by Gina Gionfriddo, Julia Cho's THE PIANO TEACHER, the musical THE SLUG BEARERS OF KAYROL ISLAND by Ben Katchor and Mark Mulcahy, and Christopher Shinn's WHERE DO WE LIVE; as well as premieres of new works by Nicky Silver, Kirsten Childs, Polly Pen, Cornelius Eady and Doug Wright. The Vineyard's hit musical [title of show] received three OBIE awards for its creators, Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell, and its director, Michael Berresse, in 2006, transferring to Broadway this past summer. Douglas Aibel is the Artistic Director of Vineyard Theatre; Jennifer Garvey-Blackwell is Executive Director.Performances of THIS BEAUTIFUL CITY run through March 15 at The Vineyard Theatre (108 East 15th Street). Performances are Tuesdays at 7pm, Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8pm, and Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are $60. A limited number of rush tickets are available for $20 each, two hours prior to the curtain at the box office. For reservations and more information about The Vineyard Theatre, call 212-353-0303 or visit www.vineyardtheatre.org
Photo Credit: Walter McBride/Retna Ltd.