The American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) is pleased to present Best of Both Worlds, a holiday musical for the whole family. Bursting with the sounds of R&B and gospel, Best of Both Worlds features book and lyrics by Randy Weiner, music by multiple Obie-winner Diedre Murray, and is directed by the Tony nominated Diane Paulus (Director of HAIR – Tony Winner: Best Musical Revival 2009). Best of Both Worlds performs at the Loeb Drama Center and begins November 21 and runs through January 3, 2010.
Best of Both Worlds is a soulful re-envisioning of The Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare’s timeless story of heartbreak and redemption. Clap your hands, jump out of your seat, and feel the power of love with this holiday treat. Best of Both Worlds takes us on a journey through the rich musical tapestry of R&B, rediscovering Shakespeare’s characters with smooth sounds and funky beats. When jealousy rips apart love and friendship, only the revelatory power of gospel can restore the enduring bonds of faith, family, and forgiveness.
The creative team also includes Set Design by longtime A.R.T. collaborator Riccardo Hernandez, Costume Design by Emilio Sosa, Lighting Design by Aaron Black, and Sound Design by Brett Jarvis. Movement is by Tracy Jack, Music Director is Michael Mitchell, and Associate Music Director and Choir Coordinator is David Freeman Coleman.
Participating Choirs include
Boston Community Choir (New Year’s Eve performance)
Kingdom Sanctuary Choir
Harvard University Kuumba Singers
Tufts University Gospel Choir
The Company of Best of Both Worlds includes Gregg Baker as Ezekiel, Jeanette Bayardelle as Serena, Mary Bond Davis as Violetta, Darius de Haas as Maurice, Nikkieli DeMone as Camillo, Cleavant Derricks as Sweet Daddy, Brianna Horne as Rain, and Lawrence Stallings as Tariq.
Gregg Baker (Ezekiel) achieved international acclaim for his interpretation of Crown in Porgy and Bess at the Metropolitan Opera, the Glyndebourne Festival, Berlin Opera, and the Savolinna Festival. He has sung many roles at the MET in Aida, Carmen, Il Trovatore, and Das Rheingold and appeared in the great opera houses in Europe including Arena di Verona, Vienna State Opera, and throughout the United States. He also has sung in concert with many major American and European orchestras.
Mary Bond Davis (Violetta) created the role of Motormouth Maybelle in Hairspray on Broadway and also appeared in The Women, Jerry’s Last Jam, Marie Christine, Bring in ‘Da Noise…, Show Boat, Mail, and Grease. She was seen on film in The Preacher’s Wife, Romance and Cigarettes, New York Minute, Hook, Jeffrey, The Art of Dying, and JoJo Dancer . . . Television credits include Twin Peaks, The Bing Crosby Christmas (with Fred Astaire), and Gimme a Break.
Jeanette Bayardelle (Serena) originated her role in the New York production of Best of Both Worlds. She starred in The Color Purple on Broadway and on the first national tour, receiving an NAACP Award for Best Lead Actress in a Musical. She voiced the Disney films The Princess and The Frog and Little Mermaid III. Other credits include Rent, Big River, Sister Act, Best of Both Worlds, Elegies, and Zinzi.
Randy Weiner (book and lyrics) Writing credits include Archbishop Supreme Tartuffe, Caligula, both with Alfred Preisser, Classical Theatre of Harlem; Swimming With Watermelons, Music-Theatre Group and Vineyard Theatre; Best Of Both Worlds, Music Theatre Group and Women’s Project; Turandot: Rumble For The Ring, Bay Street Theatre; Stairway To Hell, BASE Entertainment; The Donkey Show, The Karaoke Show, Frankenweiner, and many others, Project 400 Theater Group; Death And The Powers to be presented in Fall 2010 in Monte Carlo. Recent projects include The Most Interesting Show in the World, sponsored by Heineken, currently touring 16 cities around the US, and Purgatorio, a Halloween extravaganza presented by CBS Radio in Times Square.
Diedre Murray (composer) is a Pulitzer Prize Finalist, two-time Obie Winner and master musician. She is an innovative composer, cellist, producer and curator. In the 1970s and 80s, she pioneered the use of the cello as a jazz and new world music instrument. Since the 90s she has turned her attention to composing for extended musical works and the theatre. Credits include Unending Pain, co-presented by the Performance Garage and the Whitney Museum of American Art, toured to the Studio Museum of Harlem and Productions Traquen’Arts Cello Festival in Montreal; Lets Go Down to the River, for the Willasau Jazz Festival in Switzerland; The Eves of Nhor, for National Dutch Radio and De Effenaar Festival in Eindhoven Holland; Kamerados, for mixed ensemble at The Women’s Improviser Festival in New York; Five Minute Tango, for the inaugural concert at the Danny Kaye/Sylvia Fine Playhouse entitled, performed by the Manhattan Brass Quintet; The Conversation for the Seattle-based New Performance Group at the Walker Arts Center in Minnesota; You Don’t Miss the Water, a music-theatre piece, in collaboration with noted poet Cornelius Eady, produced by the Music Theatre Group (MTG); Women In The Dunes, a dance piece created by Blondel Cummings for the Japan Society; the jazz-opera Running Man, for which she wrote the original story and score, and book with Cornelius Eady (two Obie Awards, finalist for the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Drama); music arrangements for Eli’s Coming (Obie Award); The Blackamour Angel; an adaptation by Diane Paulus of James Baldwin’s Another Country; an adaptation of The Voice Within with Marcus Gardley, Harlem Stage and the Apollo Theatre. Current projects include a new musical, Sweet Billy and the Zooloo’s, with writer Lynn Nottage, for Colored Girl’s Productions, scheduled for 2009; and Spoleto, a series of rags for solo piano in 2009. She received a B.S. degree from Hunter College in Ethnomusicology and has numerous recordings.
Diane Paulus (director) was recently appointed Artistic Director of the A.R.T. She is the creator and director of The Donkey Show, which ran for six years Off-Broadway, toured internationally to London, Edinburgh, Madrid, and Evian, France, and is currently at the A.R.T. Recent theater work includes the Tony Award-winning revival of HAIR on Broadway; Kiss Me Kate at Glimmerglass Opera; Lost Highway, based on the David Lynch film, an ENO co-production with the Young Vic in London; Another Country by James Baldwin at Riverside Church; Turandot: Rumble for the Ring at the Bay Street Theatre; The Golden Mickey’s for Disney Creative Entertainment; Best of Both Worlds, a gospel/R&B adaptation of A Winter’s Tale produced by Music-Theatre Group and The Women’s Project; and The Karaoke Show, an adaptation of Comedy of Errors set in a karaoke bar, produced by Jordan Roth Productions. Also for Music-Theatre Group, she directed the Obie award-winning and Pulitzer Prize finalist Running Man by jazz composer Diedre Murray and poet Cornelius Eady; and Swimming with Watermelons, created in association with Project 400, the theater company she co-founded with her husband Randy Weiner. Other work Off-Broadway: Brutal Imagination, and the Obie-award winning Eli’s Coming, featuring the music and lyrics of Laura Nyro. Opera credits include Don Giovanni, Le nozze di Figaro, Turn Of The Screw, Cosi fan tutte>; and Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, L’incoronazione di Poppea, and Orfeo at the Chicago Opera Theater. She is a frequent collaborator with British conductor Jane Glover; in 2002, their critically acclaimed production of Orfeo was presented as part of The Monteverdi Cycle at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York City. Upcoming works include Il mondo della luna at the Hayden Planetarium in New York and Red Sox Nation at the A.R.T.