by Jeff Dennhardt
view feature on BroadwayWorld.com
This spring, Inside Broadway (Executive Director, Michael Presser), now in its 27th year, is proud to present Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies, which will begin performances in New York City on March 1st and run through May 21st. The production will tour over fifty New York City public schools throughout the five boroughs and will be seen by over 20,000 students. Sophisticated Ladies premiered on Broadway in 1981 and was nominated for 8 Tony Awards including Best Musical, running for a total of 787 performances at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. The show features several classic Duke Ellington songs including “Take The ‘A’ Train,” “In a Sentimental Mood,” “Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Swing,” and “Sophisticated Lady,” and for this tour, Inside Broadway has created a special edition of the show that incorporates the rich history of jazz and the Harlem Renaissance into the production.
New York theater veteran Barry McNabb will serve as director and choreographer of Sophisticated Ladies. McNabb (an original cast member of The Phantom of the Opera and Me and My Girl on Broadway) received a Drama Desk Award nomination for his choreography of Finian’s Rainbow at the Irish Repertory Theater and a Lucille Lortel nomination for his choreography of John Patrick Shanley’s Sailor’s Song at The Public Theater.
The cast of Sophisticated Ladies will feature Gabrielle Porter, Lexi Rhoades, and Jason Sparks. The creative team also includes John Bowen (musical director), Scott Earley (production stage manager), Rock of Ages associate costume designer Karl Ruckdeschel (costume design), and Carl Talent (scenic design).
Inside Broadway’s aim is to pass down the rich legacy of America’s musical theater to future generations so that the magic, music, and universal themes of the genre are not lost, but rediscovered and made relevant for today’s youth. “Bringing a great Broadway musical to the schools is part of what we do at Inside Broadway,” says Executive Director Michael Presser. “We’ve been at it for 27 years, and I’m always amazed at how excited students are as they experience these shows for the first time. This season I’m really looking forward to introducing the music of the great Duke Ellington to this new audience since he is a genuine American master and an important part of the Harlem Renaissance and African American culture.”
Inside Broadway was established in 1982 at the invitation of Bernard B. Jacobs, the late President of The Shubert Organization, as an effort to create a student ticket program for New York City schools students. Today, Inside Broadway develops and produces touring equity musical productions as well as a wide range of educational programs that allow students to interact with professionals in the field and experience theatre hands-on in the classroom.