Producer Bob Blume (Drama Desk Awards) announced, "It's a hot Saturday night for a very special show". (at APAP-Association of Performing Arts Presenters Convention, January 11, 2003). "We took over Bridges here at the New York Hilton to showcase" SHADES OF HARLEM. "Special guests in the audience tonight: From Lew Leslie's Blackbirds of 1934 - Ludie Jones, 87 and still working! And just recently retired - Ruby Riley, 87. And finally an original Cotton Club gal, who was as also in Stormy Weather - Juanita Boisseau, 91"!
After the performance I asked Juanita (What an exotic name, you should see her gorgeous complexion now and imagine what she must have looked like to those Harlem men 50 years ago) if she knew guitarist Al Casey when he played with Fats Waller? She replied, "I put Fats on the train (in 1943), he said he wanted to get home to New York for some home cookin'." (Mr. Waller developed pneumonia on that train and died before reaching Harlem). "I was also in the line in a Fats movie short, one of the Jones sisters was sittin' on the piano."
The musical revue included "A Train-the best way to get to Harlem", in which pianist Frank Owens added just the right Strayhorn flavor that Duke Ellington admired. Ty Stephens (Sophisticated Ladies) pranced and emphasized those 30's Cotton Club vaudeville mannerisms dressed in white tailcoat with white tux slacks. Jerre Wade (Creator of Shades of Harlem) and Branice McKenzie (Director, Celebrate Kwanzaa.) explained why an errant man had "the right key but the wrong keyhole" then how he was "do'in' it the wrong way". All three lined up for a theatrically choreographed "Don't Mean a Thing If . . .". And if you have to ask "what" this show is not for you unless you want to find out why they were having so much fun in Harlem. More than a dozen other tunes make it a full theatrical "Cotton Club" musical.
After a delightfully happy reprise of the title song and much applause Producer Bill Spence (Chanel) reported that many presenters had expressed interest. "Because the show hasn't been seen in New York for over ten years, an audition video was shot during a special industry performance at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center in November 2002, that is being edited to one hour to interest casinos."
(C)1/11/03 Dan Kassell
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Go to ShadesofHarlem.com to learn more and discover their future performing schedule.