Check It Out! 10 Photos & A Video Sneak Peek of Encores! The Life Directed By Billy Porter
Gritty 1980's New York City is the setting for this weekend's (yes only until this Sunday!) New York City Center Encores! revival of The Life directed by the Tony, Grammy and Emmy award winner Billy Porter who has had a long history with the production. He helms this new production of the 12 time 1997 Tony Award nominated musical with arrangements and orchestrations by James Sampliner, vocal arrangements by Michael McElroy and choreography by AC Ciulla.
The Life centers around Queen, her life as a sex worker alongside others in the same profession in this era of seedy Manhattan when Times Square was not as family friendly as it is today. While the musical ran a little over a year on Broadway, the score by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Ira Gasman and book by David Newman as well as Coleman and Gasman are beloved to this day. During the show's original run, the musical appeared on a number of morning television shows as well as that incredible spot as a nominated musical on the 1997 Tony Awards hosted by Rosie O'Donnell (who also had the cast on her beloved talk show).
We could write an overly long thesis paper of the fierceness, the sass, the vocal wizardry and star-power of this performance. The clip included Pam Issacs as Queen and Lillias White as Sonja. Lillias went on to win the Tony Award that year for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical as did her co-star Chuck Cooper as Memphis for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical.
Going back to Billy's long history with the musical - we have been really loving Encores' Inside The Revival video series. Last year, this incredible episode came out and Billy shared an incredible story. In the 80's, he himself auditioned for the show maybe being a bit young at the time only to audition after college graduation for a backer's audition of The Life directed by Joe Layton. He was to play Fleetwood opposite Pam, Lillias and Chuck who ultimately brought the show to Broadway. Joe Layton passed away and Billy's journey with The Life was supposedly finished. Thankfully, that was not the case!
Check this video out as Billy shares his vision as this special Encores! revival director.
Starring in this special Encores! presentation are Jelani Alladin as Lou, Alexandra Grey as Queen, Antwayn Hopper as Memphis, Grammy nominee Mykal Kilgore as Young JoJo, Grammy Award winner Ledisi as Sonja, Erika Olson as Mary, Destan Owens as Old Jojo, and Ken Robinson as Fleetwood.
Here is a video sneak peek (those vocals!!) and 10 fabulous photos by Joan Marcus of the this newly funk-infused version of The Life directed by Billy Porter only running through this Sunday, March 20th.