Felicia Boswell, Mark G. Meadows & Cleavant Derricks to Lead Jelly's Last Jam at Signature Theatre

Jul 5, 2016
Jelly's Last Jam

Signature Theatre has announced the cast of Jelly's Last Jam directed by Signature Associate Artistic Director Matthew Gardiner (Signature's La Cage Aux Folles, West Side Story) and choreographed by Jared Grimes (Broadway's After Midnight). The musical about famed and notorious jazz entertainer Jelly Roll Morton by George C. Wolfe, Susan Birkenhead, and Luther Henderson featuring the music of Jelly Roll Morton runs August 2 - September 11 in Signature Theatre's intimate MAX Theatre.

"To kick off our new season we'll be turning the MAX Theatre into the Jungle Inn nightclub and immersing the audience right into the show as we celebrate the music and life of Jelly Roll Morton," said Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer. "The time is right for this acclaimed musical to be brought back into the spotlight with jazz pianist Mark G. Meadows. It promises to be a terrific night of musical theatre."

Jelly's Last Jam tells the story of one of jazz music's pioneers with a jazz, blues, and ragtime score based on Jelly Roll Morton's original music. Journey from the back alleys of New Orleans to the dance halls of Chicago to the stages of New York with "he who drinks from the vine of syncopation" in a sizzling memoir of pride, lust and a past denied.

The production will star acclaimed jazz pianist and vocalist Mark G Meadows (Jazz at Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center) as Jelly Roll Morton, as well as Tony Award Winner Cleavant Derricks (Broadway's Dreamgirls) as The Chimney Man and Helen Hayes Award Winner Felicia Boswell (Broadway's Motown the Musical, Memphis) as Anita. Meadows, Derricks and Boswell are joined in the cast by Iyona Blake (Creative Cauldron's Caroline, or Change) as Gran Mimi, Guy Lockard (The Kennedy Center's Side Show) as Jack the Bear, VaShawn McIlwain (Signature's Showboat) as Buddy Bolden, and Nova Y. Payton (Signature's La Cage Aux Folles), Kara-Tameika Watkins (Signature's Dreamgirls), and Eben Logan (Studio Theatre 2ndStage's Carrie) as The Hunnies.

"George C Wolfe and Susan Birkenhead's musical was a game changer in the American musical theatre when in premiered on Broadway in 1992," said director Matthew Gardiner. "It's a musical that I've loved for years and it has one of the most beautifully rendered and complex characters ever written for the musical theatre in Jelly Roll Morton. When I met Mark G Meadows, I knew I found our Jelly. A remarkable jazz pianist and vocalist from Washington DC, he is one of the most exhilarating talents I've ever encountered. I am so excited to reimagine this piece with a phenomenal jazz artist, alongside Broadway's Felicia Boswell, Cleavant Derricks and a brilliant company of actors. I'm also thrilled to collaborate with choreographer Jared Grimes, who will pull tap dance into the story in new ways. This vibrant and important story is one I can't wait to share with Signature audiences."

The ensemble is rounded out by Chris Broughton (Broadway's After Midnight), DeWitt Fleming (New York City Center's Cotton Club Parade), Olivia Russell (Shakespeare Theatre Company's Kiss Me Kate), DeMoya Watson Brown (Signature's Dreamgirls), Joseph Monroe Webb (New York City Center's Cotton Club Parade), Stephen Scott Wormley (Signature's Hairspray).

The creative team includes Musical Direction by Darius Smith; Scenic Design by Dan Conway; Costume Design by Dede M. Ayite; Lighting Design by Grant Wilcoxen; Sound Design by Lane Elms; Wig Design by Leah Loukas; Fight Choreographer Casey Kaleba; Production Stage Manager Kerry Epstein; Assistant Stage Manager Taryn Friend; Production Assistant Cris Ruthenberg Marshall; New York Casting by Laura Stanczyk Casting, CSA.