Thursday, July 7, 2011

Nat King Cole Croons at Hartford Stage

Dennis W. Spears. Photo by Michal Daniel.

Hartford Stage continues its 2011 Summer Stage season with Penumbra Theatre’s production of I Wish You Love, written by Dominic Taylor and directed by Lou Bellamy.

The play features Nat “King” Cole’s hit songs as performed on his groundbreaking 1950’s television program. Following its world premiere at Penumbra Theatre in Minneapolis and a well-received engagement at the Kennedy Center in Washington, the production runs at Hartford Stage through July 24.

I Wish You Love
captures a significant moment in the life of the legendary crooner. It’s 1957, and times are changing. President Eisenhower had the Civil Rights Act on his desk, Althea Gibson had won Wimbledon, nine children were about to integrate Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas, and Cole was the first black man that many in America let into their living room. Cole believed that with enough talent and persistence he would be judged on the content of his character as opposed to the color of his skin.

Relevant to all ages, this music-filled drama features more than 20 of Cole’s timeless classics, including “Get Your Kicks on Route 66” and “Let There Be Love.”

The production features Dennis W. Spears as Cole, singing nearly two dozen of Cole’s beloved songs. Other cast members are Kevin D. West as Oliver Moore, Eric Berryman as Jeffrey Prince and Michael Tezla as Bill Henry. All performers are making their Hartford Stage debuts.

Taylor is the associate artistic director of Penumbra Theatre, head of OKRA the Penumbra new play development program, and an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota. His published plays include Wedding Dance, Personal History and UpCity Service(s).

Bellamy is the founder and artistic director of Penumbra, an Obie-award-winning stage director, and an associate professor at the University of Minnesota. Most recently, he directed the Penumbra and Arizona Theatre Company co-production of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom staged at Arizona Theatre Company in Phoenix and Tucson and in Minneapolis at the Guthrie Theater.

The creative team includes set design by Lance Brockman, costume design by Mathew J. LeFebvre, lighting design by Don Darnutzer, sound and video design by Martin Gwinup and music direction by Sanford Moore.

Tickets for I Wish You Love are $25 to $50. A limited number of $10 “Ten Spot” tickets are also available for all performances. Discounts are available for groups of ten or more by calling 860-520-7244. Students of Capital Community College may purchase one $10 ticket to I Wish You Love upon presentation of their student ID at the Hartford Stage box office.

All discount programsare subject to availability and cannot be combined with other offers. Hartford Stage has wheelchair accessible seating, assistive listening devices and other amenities. For more
information, please call the Hartford Stage box office. Hartford Stage is located at 50 Church St. in downtown Hartford.

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

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