‘Porgy and Bess’ Revived at ETC
*On Friday, May 13, Corky Hale presents I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU – The Life and Lyrics of Al Dubin, at the Montalban Theatre in Hollywood. This new musical features lyrics by Al Dubin, music mostly by Harry Warren, book by Jerry Leichtling and Arlene Sarner, and musical direction by Gerald Sternbach. The production is directed and choreographed by Kay Cole.
The Golden Age of Hollywood returns to the stage in the all-singing, all-dancing story of legendary 1930s lyricist Al Dubin, who along with composer Harry Warren and visionary film director Busby Berkeley and took movie musicals to new heights during the darkest days of the Great Depression.
Elijah Rock, a great fan of what he calls, The Great American Songbook, gets to perform the music of one of his music legends, Cab Calloway, in a featured segment of the production.
He spoke with EURThisNthat editor, DeBorah B. Pryor, about the experience.
“I have an interesting relationship to Cab Calloway. I have always included him in my act. In my musical performances with my band…I’ve had different size bands and orchestras and I always incorporated ‘Minnie the Moocher’ in my set. I actually did a recording of Minnie the Moocher with one of my previous bands and it became one of my signature songs when I would do a show.”
Rock says a friend of his called him to let him know about the show. “The next day I get a call from Michael Donovan, who casts a lot of the big shows in town, and he says ‘They want to see you for Cab.’”
At the audition, Rock says he didn’t sing his signature Cab Calloway song. Instead he sang other great tunes from the legend. “And of course, they booked me right away!” he says, rather nonchalantly on our telephone interview.
The entertainer recalls a special surprise from a friend who took him out to lunch on one of his visits to see his sister back home. At lunch the friend said, “Hey, I’ve got a surprise for you.” “He took me to the Cab Calloway Memorial, which is on the plot where his house used to be.”
The memorial is located in Rochester, New York.
“I was right there in his neighborhood. So you talk about God, his hand and full circle. It was definitely waiting to happen.”
See the photo of Elijah Rock at the Cab Calloway Memorial site directly below.
“You know I’ve always been singing the great American songbook,” says Rock. “All the way to the point that I have a big record coming out this Fall called “Gershwin for My Soul.” The artist says they will either go independent or with a major jazz label, and says they are looking at their options. “It was produced by Kevin Toney, who was one of the original members of The Blackbyrds. John B. Williams on bass. Just legends on the record.”
Rock describes the writing and acting in ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’ as fantastic.
“The writers and actors are top notch. It’s definitely Broadway bound in terms of the level of script and actors,” says the Cleveland-born entertainer who travels back and forth, but currently makes L.A. his home.
With regard to his role in the production, Rock, who is one of three artists of color in the production says, “They gave me the show-stopper. The other featured artists, there’s a Carmen Miranda, an Al Jolson. Rock will be singing Luu’s Back in Town while wearing the classic white tux and tails that we remember the legendary Cab Calloway always wore. Rock says he also appears in several smaller parts throughout Act I.
Rock says he is enjoying the experience immensely and especially noteworthy is working with Corky Hale and the same team who launched the popular production, “Smokey Joe’s Café,” which also debuted at the Ricardo Montalban Theater, where this production takes place.
And in reference to the production itself, producer Corky Hale said, “Few Hollywood songwriters have hit the same heights as Al Dubin. The entire country was singing his songs, and when we think of the hits of his era, his are the lyrics that we hear. The man himself however lived a drama that was larger than the plot of any film that included his songs – and it is a fascinating and captivating story about a guy who had everything that life has to offer – and who couldn’t resist his addictions.”
Gershwin For My Soul, Rock’s upcoming record, will include jazz, disco, and pop. “It means a lot to me because I stand on the shoulders of the great crooners that have come before me like Al Hibbler, Arthur Prysock, Johnny Hardman, Nat Cole, Sammy [Davis, Jr.], all these guys and there’s really not one Black male in this category on the national scene so there’s a need.
I’m so happy with what Cécile McLorin Salvant’s doing. She won the Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal, and Gregory Porter. But African American males singing the great American songbook, of which we have contributed so much, I’m the only one at this level,” says Rock.
“There’s a lot of meaning behind me coming out and doing this record,” he adds. “Doing the show, Words By Ira Gershwin last year and really leading with the Gershwin album. It’s classic and traditional, but we put our little spin on it,” he chuckles.
When the entertainer was asked how Black audiences have responded to this type of music and production in the past he says.
“Its all about access and what kids are exposed to. When they’re exposed to it, they love it! When we do matinee shows for inner city kids, for example, we did the Roland Hayes show. You had so many kids that would not have been exposed to this.”
Previews for “I Only Have Eyes For You” began on Tuesday, May 10. The show officially opens on Friday, May 13, and is performed through Sunday, June 12 at the Montalban Theater, 1615 Vine St. in Hollywood. Performances will be on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm; Saturdays at 2pm & 8pm; and Sundays at 3pm.
Tickets are available now at www.flavorus.com or by calling 1-323-461-6999.
The Golden Age of Hollywood returns to the stage in the all-singing, all-dancing story of legendary 1930s lyricist Al Dubin, who along with composer Harry Warren and visionary film director Busby Berkeley took movie musicals to new heights during the darkest days of the Great Depression.
Jared Gertner (Olivier nominated as Elder Cunningham in The Book Of Mormon) stars as Al Dubin. Possessed of enormous talent and equally outsized vices, Dubin, primarily with Warren, still managed to write such classics as “Shuffle Off to Buffalo,” “About a Quarter to Nine,” “42nd Street,” “We’re in the Money,” “You’re Getting to be a Habit With Me,” “September in the Rain,” “South American Way,” “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” “I Only Have Eyes For You,” and “Lullaby of Broadway” which won the Academy Award for Best Song in 1935.
Producer Corky Hale said, “Few Hollywood songwriters have hit the same heights as Al Dubin. The entire country was singing his songs, and when we think of the hits of his era, his are the lyrics that we hear. The man himself however lived a drama that was larger than the plot of any film that included his songs – and it is a fascinating and captivating story about a guy who had everything that life has to offer – and who couldn’t resist his addictions.”
Hale, who has had a lifelong fascination with Dubin, knows about the American popular song. She is a pianist, vocalist and harpist, who began with the bands of Harry James, Ray Anthony, and Jerry Gray, and went on to perform with Billie Holiday, Mel Tormé, Peggy Lee, Judy Collins, Liberace, Tony Bennett, Barbra Streisand (soloing at the famous Happening in Central Park), George Michael, and Björk. She is married to Mike Stoller of the legendary songwriting team of Leiber and Stoller.
I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU begins previews Tuesday, May 10, opens on Friday, May 13, and is performed through Sunday, June 12 at the Montalban Theatre, 1615 Vine St. in Hollywood. Following previews, performances are Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm; Saturdays at 2pm & 8pm; Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are available now at www.flavorus.com or by calling 1-323-461-6999.
Dubin, who also wrote songs with Jimmy McHugh, Duke Ellington, and Victor Herbert, worked with some of Hollywood’s most unforgettable musical stars, including Cab Calloway, Al Jolson, Ruby Keeler, and Carmen Miranda, who are all brought back to singing and dancing life in I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU.
With book by Jerry Leichtling and Arlene Sarner, the award winning screenwriters of “Peggy Sue Got Married”, I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU is a witty, wildly entertaining and ultimately touching portrait of a man who barreled headlong through life yet was often unable to get out of his own way.
The cast of I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU will feature: Nikki Bohne as Helen Dubin, Constantine Rousouli as Harry Warren, Kayla Parker as Ruby Keeler, Justin Wilcox as Al Jolson, Renee Marino as Carmen Miranda, Elijah Rock as Cab Calloway, Valerie Perri as Minna Dubin and Robert Pieranunzi as Busby Berkeley. Featured in the ensemble (in alphabetical order) are: Julian De Guzman, Daniel May, Jeffrey Scott Parsons, Dominic Pierson, Kim Louise Taylor, Katherine Tokarz and Karl Warden, and Penny Wildman.
I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU has assembled an award-winning design team. Set Design is by John Iacovelli. Lighting Design is by Brandon Baruch. Sound Design is by Cricket S. Myers. Costume Design is by Debra McGuire. Wig, Hair and Make-up Design is by Judi Lewin. Casting is by Michael Donovan, CSA. The Stage Manager is Art Brickman.
His performance lands a prestigious award! Elijah Rock has been named the winner of the 2014 NAACP Theater Award for Best Male Equity performer for his role in “Breath and Imagination-The Story of Roland Hayes.” The announcement on November 17th, 2014 is an honor for Rock. The award-winning actor, singer, writer, producer, and entrepreneur was cast in the story written by award-winning playwright Daniel Beaty and staged at the renown Colony Theater in Burbank, California. “It’s truly humbling to be a recognized for such a distinguished achievement,” says Rock. “To be a part of a production, which has received nine NAACP Nominations and two OVATION Award Nominations, is truly an honor.”
“Rock’s sensitive portrayal captures Hayes’ determination to shape his own destiny, as well as his calm humility in the face of racial prejudice and resistance from his deeply religious mother (Karan Kendrick)…”Rock’s musical delivery is more nuanced, incorporating an initial hesitancy appropriate to the early stages of the singer’s development, only to emerge with soul-stirring confidence in the mature Hayes’ recitals of material ranging from gospel to lieder to opera.”
The soul-stirring voices of Karan Kendrick and Elijah Rock bring the biography of trailblazing tenor Roland Hayes to life in “Breath and Imagination.” (Michael Lamont / September 10, 2013)