Broadway alum & Depot Theatre fav to take stage July 1

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Jul. 1—WESTPORT — It was important for Depot Theatre Producing Artistic Director Kenney M. Green to do what he promised in 2020 this year.

"I try to do themes for the shows, and the theme last year was humanity," he said.

"Humanity in all its forms, good and bad."

On his cork board, Green had three words, and humanity was the major one.

"I just started reading plays that spoke to me," he said.

"I finished reading 'The Mountaintop.' I put it down. I was crying just from reading it. That had to go to the top of the list."

MLK AT LORRAINE HOTEL

Written by Katori Hall, two-time Tony award nominee and winner of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Drama,"The Mountaintop' is a reflective, often funny, touching, and gripping re-imagining of the night before the assassination of the civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in which he examines his achievements, his failures, and his unfinished dreams.

The production is sponsored by The Galley Restaurant and Bar at Westport Marina.

"The best way to explain it it is the night before his fateful day in the Lorraine Hotel, and he is writing his speech," Green said.

"Or he is trying to write his speech. The play takes place as if we were a fly on the wall, which is why as you see it's kind of askew. He asks for a cup of coffee, and a maid comes to deliver his coffee and then they end up having a conversation for the night. Then you find out that the maid is not who she says she is. And I just have to leave it at that."

This play's Broadway run in 2011 starred Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett.

"It's a small cast," Green said.

"It's two people, one of which is named Curtis Wiley. He is a Broadway alum. He's playing Martin Luther King Jr., and he is excellent. He is really good. And the female is Yvette Clark. She's playing the maid Camae.

Wiley comes to the Depot Theatre direct from his Broadway debut in the production of "Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations."

Depot Theatre alum and favorite, Clark is ecstatic to be back at The Depot where she debuted her cabaret "Let's Give Them Something to Talk About."

During the past year, she has kept herself busy producing her own virtual cabarets entitled "Diva of the Pandemic."

The Depot staff are transforming the stage, complete with rain-stained walls, into the Room 306 at the Lorraine Motel.

"And there's some fun special effects that I can't talk about," Green said.

EVERYDAY PEOPLE

Nominated for six Tony Awards, "Working: A Musical" runs July 22-Aug. 8 at the Depot Theatre.

A cast of six bring to life the vibrant portrayals of 26 real-life American workers — including a schoolteacher, trucker, housewife, fireman, and mill worker.

The show conveys how people's relationships to their work reveal key aspects of their humanity.

Author/broadcaster Studs Terkel set out across America to interview people at their normal everyday jobs and wrote a column about it.

"And that column turned into a book, and that book turned into a musical," Green said.

"It's their take on what they think people think their job is. We have a mill worker, a trucker, delivery man. There's a prostitute. She's a worker, too. It's really good. It's touching also."

The musical includes songs by Tony Award-winning Lin-Manuel Miranda, and favorite numbers by Stephen Schwartz, Craig Carnelia, and James Taylor.

"'Working' thanks our essential workers," Green said.

"It's a play that was written in the '70s about normal everyday people and what their jobs are like. Steven Schwartz came up with this idea to turn it into a musical. It's a beautiful musical. It's great."

LADY DAY IN PHILLY

The season finale is "Lady Day Emerson's Bar & Grill" runs Aug. 12-29 at the Depot Theatre.

"Billie Holiday, her human flaws as well as her wonderful music," Green said.

"The playwright, Lanie Robertson, his husband is actually the one who saw Billie Holiday perform in a club in Philadelphia randomly.

"It was toward the end of her life. Her name wasn't on the marquee. It was an 11 o'clock, midnight showing. She just walked in with her dog and her piano player and did a set. He came back and told Lanie, 'I just went to this concert. I went to this bar, and it was really weird because no one knew. She was drunk. She was high off of heroin, but she sounded amazing and it was really depressing.'"

Robertson went to bed but this bizarre account of Holiday haunted him.

"So, he woke up the next day and wrote the play in three days," Green said.

"You learn a lot about her life. We have a Depot alum returning, and she has played the role before so I am excited."

This play with music recounts the heartbreaking, beautiful, and haunting story of Holiday's life through the songs that made her one of the most famous icons of the era, including "What A Little Moonlight Can Do" "God Bless The Child," and "Strange Fruit."

"I picked it, because especially superstars like Billie Holiday and even today in 2021 where so many young people, especially young Black men and women, want to be famous," Green said.

"We have America's got talent. We got TikTok. They want to be famous but that rise to stardom takes its toll and it comes at a cost."

It's a cautionary tale everyone should see.

"It's funny," he said.

"There are times that it's definitely funny, but it does break your heart. Throughout it all, she still sings like a dream which is sad but uplifting. There will be memorable music."

The pianist is Darnell White a NYC jazz musician.

Billie Holiday is his thing," Green said.

"He loves her music, and this is his first time at the Depot."

Email Robin Caudell:

rcaudell@pressrepublican.com

Twitter:@RobinCaudell

IF YOU GO

WHAT & WHEN : "The Mountaintop" starring Curtis Wiley and Yvette Monique Clark runs July 10 through July 26 with a $25 preview on July 9; "Working" A Musical" runs July 22-Aug. 8; and "Lady Day Emerson's Bar & Grill" runs Aug. 12-29

WHERE: The Depot Theatre, 6705 Main Street, Westport.

TICKETS: A ticket to a musical is $40 adult, $37 senior and $34 under 30. A ticket to a play is $34 adult, $32 senior and $30 under 30.

"Preview Night" performances for each main stage production occur on the first Thursday (5 p.m.) of that production's run. A Preview Night is a fully rehearsed and staged performance, although some directorial decisions may be changed for future performances, and is offered at a lower price to ensure that theatre is more accessible for everyone. Tickets for Preview Night performances are $25. Preview Night dates for 2021 are: July 1, July 22, and August 12.

NOTE: As a professional Actors' Equity- and Stage Directors and Choreographers Society-affiliated theatre, the Depot must adhere to both government and union health and safety guidelines. As such, audience members are required to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

PHONE: Tickets and information are available by calling the box office at 518-962-4449.

WEBSITE: www.DepotTheatre.org.

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