In the Fall of 2010, multiple award-winning author/director PAUL LEVINE produced a workshop of BIG MAYBELLE: Soul of the Blues in association with the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts and Amas Musical Theatre. The results caused an uproar of interest and electrifying word-of-mouth. Lillias White’s performance was heralded by multiple standing ovations and by the theatrical community. American Express immediately came aboard in an unprecedented Off-Broadway marketing-based partnership.
This August BAY STREET THEATRE, Academy Award/multiple Tony Award winning MARTIN RICHARDS and THE GILEAD COMPANY will present the World Premiere of the white-hot new musical for a limited run at the historic Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor where it will run through September 2.
Starring LILLIAS WHITE, BIG MAYBELLE: Soul of the Blues will begin Preview Performances on TUESDAY, AUGUST 2.
The World Premiere will take place on SATURDAY, AUGUST 11.
The musical is aiming for a Winter 2013 New York City Opening.
Written and directed by Paul Levine, BIG MAYBELLE: Soul of the Blues features 31 iconic Blues songs from the last five decades including ‘Candy,’ Big Maybelle’s 1956 hit single which received the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1999 as well as songs from her acclaimed album, The Okeh Sessions which won the 1983 W. C. Handy Award for Vintage/Reissue Album of the Year.
Michael Mitchell is the Musical Director.
Orchestrations are by Musical Supervisor Kenny Seymour.
The designs are by John Arnone (Scenery), Paul Miller (Lighting), Emilio Sosa (Costumes), Tony Melfa (Sound), Michael Clark (Projections) and Kathy Fabian (Props).
Brian Meister is the Production Stage Manager.
The band includes Eric Brown (Drums), Kiku Collins (Trumpet), George Farmer (Bass), Jason Marshall (Saxaphone) and Kevin Ramessan (Guitar).
Eric Brown and Kiku Collins are also featured in the roles of ‘Sully’ and ‘Loretta.’
BIG MAYBELLE: Soul of the Blues
BIG MAYBELLE: Soul of the Blues is an uplifting, musically exhilarating, change-the-world story about one of the greatest Blues singers that ever lived.
Set in a Cleveland, Ohio psychiatric hospital/rehab facility where she spent the last years of her life, BIG MAYBELLE tells the audience the story of her breathtaking rise to world renown against odds almost impossible to believe. The exchange between Maybelle and the audience is spellbinding.
She was the essence of the original American art form. Her hypnotic phrasing of the most enthralling Blues songs ever written came to her naturally; it was her life and she had the emotional scars to prove it.
Mabel Louise Smith was born in Jackson, Tennessee on May 1, 1924, the grandchild of a slave and daughter of a father that deserted the family days after her birth. Forty-five years later she was booked at Carnegie Hall and is included among Blues greats W.C. Handy, Charlie Barton, Papa Charlie Jackson, Ledbelly, Blind Lemon, Ma Rainey, Robert Johnson and Bessie Smith.
There was no one like her.
She once opened for Billie Holliday, who stormed out the back door of the theatre while the audience was giving Big Maybelle her fourth standing-ovation-curtain-call.
While overcoming the cruel prejudice against her weight and her race she also overcame a substance abuse problem and a series of insincere men who realized she was more generous with her money when she was in love.
And while she fought off the racism, the enablers and the consequences of her weight , she recorded 21 albums for the King, Okeh, Savoy, Epic, Brunswick, Scepter, Chess, Port, Rojac and Encore Record Labels.
Her first performance at the Apollo was legendary. She was unanimously acclaimed after both her appearances at the Newport Jazz Festival. She constantly sold out Birdland and The Baby Grand in New York. She discovered John Coltrane and immediately put him in her band. And gave Jerry Lee Lewis his biggest earth-shattering hit when he heard her recording of ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On’ produced by Quincy Jones.
She died alone in a rehab facility in Cleveland, Ohio in a diabetic coma on January 23, 1972.
She was 47 years old.
She had been singing since the Sanctified Church Choir back in Jackson, Tennessee.
We’re still listening to her today.
Up Above My Head, Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On, Oh Lord What Are You Doing To Me, Comin’ Home Baby, Blues Early Early, Say It Isn’t So, One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show, A Good Man Is Hard To Find, Until The Real Thing Comes Along, Hair Dressin’ Women, Gabbin’ Blues, Mean To Me, If I Could Be With You, What A Difference A Day Makes, That’s A Pretty Good Love. There, I’ve Said It Again, I’ve Got A Feeling I’m Falling, What More Can A Woman Do, The Masquerade Is Over
Rockhouse, Same Old Story, You’ll Be Sorry, Candy, I Cried For You, It’s A Man’s World, Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying, Gloomy Sunday, I Ain’t Got Nobody, Pitiful, Maybelle’s Blues, Oh Lord What Are You Doin’ To Me, My Mother’s Eyes, Goodnight, Wherever You Are, I’m Getting’ Along Alright