Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe announced its upcoming 2017-18 season at a “Hush Hush” party Monday, Feb. 13, at the company’s home off of Orange Avenue.
Staffers, sponsors and board members mingled over hors d’oeuvres backstage before moving into the theater itself to hear the line-up announced by artistic director Nate Jacobs, with a few short numbers performed by WBTT cast members as well. Overall theme of the season was revealed as “A Change Is Gonna Come.”
First up in the fall of 2017 is the Lin-Manuel Miranda hit In the Heights, which Jacobs says focuses on a “very vibrant Latino community,” in keeping with WBTT’s philosophy of telling stories not just of African-Americans, but other people of African descent as well. The multi-Tony Award-winning musical runs from Oct. 11 through Nov. 18.
Up next in the four-show subscription series: The Mountaintop, Katori Hall’s fictionalization of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s last night on earth, set in a room of the Lorraine Hotel. The two-character play starred Angela Bassett and Samuel L. Jackson in New York; frequent WBTT actress Apphia Campbell will play the female role here, but Jacobs was keeping mum for now on who will portray King. The show runs Jan. 10 through Feb. 18.
No less a star than Melba Moore turns up in the next show, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill, which is set in 1959 and recreates one of the final performances of jazz/blues legend Billie Holiday. Expect classics like “God Bless the Child” and “Strange Fruit,” along with stories from Holiday’s often troubled life. Onstage Feb. 28 through April 8.
A world premiere musical revue, Soul Man, brings together the songs of James Brown, Otis Redding and Sam Cooke, among others, in a show depicting the music’s relationship to the 1960s and the civil rights movement. Jacobs says the show will feature some of WBTT’s most popular male performers. Onstage April 18 through May 26.
Back by popular demand is an additional, holiday show that’s not part of the subscription series, A Motown Christmas, also created and directed by Jacobs, featuring traditional Christmas carols and hits from such stars as Marvin Gaye and The Supremes. Onstage Nov. 29 through Dec. 23.
Prior to the fall-winter shows, WBTT presents a summer show, another original world premiere musical revue by Jacobs, titled Broadway in Black. You can expect songs from the stage that were originally performed by Melba Moore, Ben Vereen, Jennifer Holliday and Nell Carter, among others. That show runs June 21 through July 25.
Renewal forms will be mailed out to current subscribers by late April. New subscribers may purchase subscriptions on June 1. For more information, go to westcoastblacktheatre.org.