Lin-Manuel Miranda took in the evening, directed by Charles Randolph-Wright.
Reporter: Jason Zednick, Published November 06, 2018
Feinstein’s/54 Below hosted two concert presentations previewing the the new musical Born for This on Monday, November 5.
Charles Randolph-Wright directed the show, which featured him alongside Grammy Award-winning recording artists Stephanie Mills and BeBe Winans. The cast also featured members from last summer’s pre-Broadway tryout in Boston including Maddie Shea Baldwin, Liisi LaFontaine, Loren Lott, Donald Webber Jr., Kirsten Wyatt, and Nita Whitaker.
Born for This follows BeBe, a talented young man from a tight-knit musical family as he grapples with the struggle between his faith and his desire for fame. As teenagers BeBe and his sister CeCe, experience genuine culture shock when they leave the comfort of their home and family in Detroit to join Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s Praise the Lord network in North Carolina. When the duo rocket to fame, the seductive lure of celebrity comes knocking. Ultimately, Bebe must reconcile the temptations of stardom and fortune with the things he values most in life.
Born for This features original music and lyrics by BeBe Winans, with a book written by Charles Randolph-Wright, BeBe Winans, and Lisa D’Amour. Warren Adams choreographed the show which was produced by Ron Gillyard and My Destiny Productions.
The recipient of the 2nd annual Ruth Wright Johnson Award went to Ms. Mahogany Setzer a senior at the York Comprehensive High School. Mahogany excelled not only in academics with a 3.5 GPA but in athletics as well where she starred as a basketball, soccer and softball talent. This fall she will be attending Pfeiffer University a private university in the village of Misenheimer near Richfield North Carolina to pursue a career in early childhood education. We are excited to have presented this Scholarship to Mahogany because she has grassroots ties from the community. She was a youth NAACP member and as a child she sat in the living room of Mrs. Ruth Wright Johnsons home as we strategized to bring a MLK Holiday to York County the last county in the state of South Carolina to do so and work toward bringing the Confederate Flag down from the State House of South Carolina in Columbia. Her Mother Holly Setzer would bring her to those meetings and she sat and did her homework while we solved world problems in that living room. Kudos to Mahogany for being a part of history and representing the Ruth Wright Johnson for which it was created. Also a huge thanks to Charles Randolph Wright as he allows Mrs. Johnsons legacy to forever live by giving to a deserving student in York SC.
This month’s American Magazine, a UK publication for American expats, features a great piece on Charles as his London opening of Motown the Musical gets underway at the Shaftesbury Theatre. In it, the dynamic director talks about getting his start, the expectation of excellence and how Motown not only penetrated the DNA of America — it became a phenomenon around the world. There is not one mention of Trump in the article. He does appear on the front cover, though.
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Read the PDF article. Or, you can click the link to read this month’s digital edition online.
Motown The Musical
December 1 – January 3
2 hours 40 minutes including intermission.
It began as one man’s story… became everyone’s music… and is now Broadway’s musical.Motown The Musical is the true American dream story of Motown founder Berry Gordy’s journey from featherweight boxer to the heavyweight music mogul who launched the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson and many more.
Motown shattered barriers, shaped our lives and made us all move to the same beat. Featuring classic songs such as “My Girl” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” experience the story behind the music in the record-breaking smash hit Motown The Musical!
Buy Tickets now on the National Theatre website
By Peter Marks Theater critic October 21 at 6:46 PM
As impressionable teenagers, BeBe Winans and his sister CeCe traveled a remarkable God-focused path, from a gospel-infused Pentecostal home in Detroit to the stage of a Christian television ministry in Charlotte, presided over by none other than Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.
Now their improbable road to tuneful evangelical fame, in the run-up to the Bakkers’ tabloid-frenzied trials and tribulations, becomes the trajectory of a musical. “Born for This: The BeBe Winans Story,” with new music by Winans himself and a book he wrote with director Charles Randolph-Wright, debuts in the spring in Atlanta before taking up residence for much of the summer at Arena Stage.
Peter Marks joined the Washington Post as its chief theater critic in 2002. Prior to that he worked for nine years at the New York Times, on the culture, metropolitan and national desks, and spent about four years as its off-Broadway drama critic. View Archive
“It’s almost like experiencing an out-of-body experience,” the Grammy-winning BeBe Winans said by phone from Atlanta, where he’s working on music for “Greenleaf,” a new megachurch-set television series for Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network. “When you’re going through life, you don’t think your life is anything other than like anyone else’s. You have your ups and downs, so you never think of your life as a musical.”
With the assistance of Randolph-Wright, a frequent presence at Arena as both writer and director, the story of the teens’ years with the Bakkers, who brought them aboard as backup singers for their popular “The PTL Club” show, will be a major element of the musical. A sex scandal and revelations of financial improprieties would end Jim Bakker’s ministry — and send him to prison on multiple counts of mail and wire fraud. Still, audiences are not apt to get a negative impression of him or the often-lampooned Tammy Faye Bakker this time around.
“To this day, Jim Bakker is one of our dearest friends,” said Winans, who went on to a gospel recording career as a solo artist and with his sister. “And Tammy Faye became our mother. Thirty years after [“PTL”], when my sister and I were awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the first person I called was Jim Bakker.” Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker divorced in 1992, and she died in 2007. Jim Bakker lives in Branson, Mo., according to Randolph-Wright.
The production — which will be staged by Randolph-Wright at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre and run there from April 13 to May 15 before starting at Arena Stage in July — is cementing a new role for Arena as an outpost for summertime tryouts of musicals. In July and August, the company hosted the world premiere of “Dear Evan Hansen,” a musical by Benj Pasek, Justin Paul and Steven Levenson that became a critical and audience hit. The reception was such that plans for a run in the spring at off-Broadway’s Second Stage Theatre were firmed up before the D.C. engagement ended.
Randolph-Wright, director of “Motown the Musical,” the retrospective of the Motown sound and the life of record producer Berry Gordy that makes its Washington premiere Dec. 1 at the National Theatre, has conducted workshops and readings of “Born for This” in Boston, New York , Atlanta and Charlotte. He said that as the piece was being developed, he felt ever more strongly that the narrative should not only focus on the Winans family’s deep connection to music — BeBe and CeCe’s older brothers sang as a gospel group — but also on the young Winanses’ time with Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.
“ ‘You have one of the greatest stories ever with Jim and Tammy,’ ” Randolph-Wright said he told Winans. “This was five minutes in the original musical. I said, ‘You need to do this story!’ ” As if the Winans family’s own story were not interwoven deeply enough into “Born for This,” two of its stars are Winanses, too. BeBe Winans’s nephew and niece, Juan and Deborah Joy Winans, will play BeBe and CeCe.
BeBe Winans still recalls those years at “The PTL Club” as deeply meaningful, even in the more traumatic times, when he came up against racism. A white cameraman, he said, confessed to him once that he’d been brought up to hate black people but that BeBe had helped to change his heart. “I’m 19 and this man is 37,” Winans recalled. “I found out that love was more powerful than hatred. What a great thing to learn.”
The show runs July 1 to Aug. 28 at Arena’s Kreeger Theater. Information about ticket sales will be released at a later date.
Playwright Charles Randolph-Wright reflects on his new play, “Love in Afghanistan,” during its world premier at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.
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