EXCLUSIVE: Billy Porter has joined the producing team of the Broadway-aimed Billy Strayhorn: Something to Live, a new musical about jazz great Strayhorn set to make its world debut next month at the O’Reilly Theater in Downtown Pittsburgh.
Porter, a Pittsburgh native, will serve as a producer of the musical, which runs from September 19 to October 8 at the O’Reilly.
Starring as the great jazz composer, lyricist and arranger (“Take the ‘A’ Train,” “Lush Life,” among many others) will be Darius de Haas, whose Broadway credits include Shuffle Along, Rent and Carousel, and most recently provided the vocals for the Shy Baldwin character on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. J.D. Mollison (Les Miserables) will portray Strayhorn’s frequent collaborator Duke Ellington.
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“People don’t know or appreciate who Billy Strayhorn was,” said Porter in a statement. “He was an accomplished musical genius and an openly gay Black man back in the day. His story needs to be told, and Darius de Haas is the perfect person to bring Strayhorn to life. This new musical, under the inspired direction of Kent Gash, deserves to have its world premiere in Pittsburgh where Strayhorn first discovered his love of music. I am proud to be a producer on this thrilling musical that finally tells his personal story.”
Porter’s involvement in the jazz musical was announced today by Pittsburgh Public Theater. Porter is an Emmy, Tony, and Grammy award-winning actor, singer, director, producer, composer, and playwright. He won a Tony Award as a producer of A Strange Loop.
The Strayhorn musical is co-written by Rob Zellers and Kent Gash, with Gash (Paradise Blue, City Theatre) directing. The production features music and lyrics by Strayhorn and a nine-piece jazz band led by Matthew Whitaker.
Strayhorn’s body of work includes such standards as “Take the ‘A’ Train,” “Something to Live For,” “Day Dream” and “Lush Life,” and his body of work spanned Broadway, film music, international jazz festivals and venues as varied as Carnegie Hall and Canada’s Stratford Theatre Festival. After growing up in Pittsburgh, he settled in Harlem and joined the Duke Ellington orchestra, beginning a 30-year collaboration with Ellington that was one of the most prolific and greatest in jazz music. Strayhorn was a strong supporter of the civil rights movement and a personal friend of Martin Luther King, Jr. His life was cut short when he died in 1967 at the age of 51.
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