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UNCHAIN MY HEART, The Ray Charles Musical, announces casting for Broadway

Principle casting announced for:

UNCHAIN MY HEART

THE RAY CHARLES MUSICAL

With music by Ray Charles and book by Suzan-Lori Parks
Directed by Sheldon Epps

STARRING
Brandon Victor Dixon as “Ray Charles”
With
Harrison White & Tasha Taylor
And
Nikki Renée Daniels as “Della”


The cast of UNCHAIN MY HEART, The Ray Charles Musical, will be lead by Brandon Victor Dixon (2010 Lortel, Drama League & Outer Critics Circle nominee for The Scottsboro Boys, 2006 Tony nominee for The Color Purple) starring as “Ray Charles” and Nikki Renée Daniels (Promises, Promises, Nine) as “Della”.  
 
The cast will also feature Harrison White (Broadway’s The Lion King, West End Smokey Joe’s Café) as “Jeff Brown” & recording artist Tasha Taylor making her Broadway debut as “Margie Hendricks”.
 
UNCHAIN MY HEART featuring the music of Ray Charles with a book by Suzan-Lori Parks & directed by Sheldon Epps will begin previews on
October 8, 2010 and open officially November 7, 2010 on Broadway at a Shubert Theatre to be announced.  

 
Additional members of the company and the theatre will be announced at a later date.

UNCHAIN MY HEART will feature Choreography by Kenneth L. Roberson with Associate Edgar Godineaux, Music Supervision and Arrangements by Rahn Coleman, Orchestrations by Harold Wheeler and Music Direction by Shelton Becton.  The design team for UNCHAIN MY HEART includes Riccardo Hernandez (Sets), Paul Tazewell (Costumes), Donald Holder (Lights), Carl Casella (Sound), Charles LaPointe (Hair & Wig Design).  Casting is by Telsey & Company, Technical Supervision by Theatersmith, Inc. and the General Manager is Don Frantz & Laurie Brown of Town Square Productions, Inc.

UNCHAIN MY HEART will be presented on Broadway by Stuart Benjamin. Mr. Benjamin knew and worked with Mr. Charles for 15 years and produced the multi Oscar nominated and award winning film Ray.

UNCHAIN MY HEART, The Ray Charles Musical explores the strength, humor and musical genius of the legendary Ray Charles.  One of the greatest pioneering musical artists of all time, Ray Charles mastered everything from soul and rhythm & blues to gospel, jazz, country and pop. Set in his last live recording session, UNCHAIN MY HEART reveals Charles’ remarkable life story through his music.  Pulitzer Prize winner Suzan-Lori Parks (Topdog/Underdog) weaves together true tales that reveal the spirit of the man whose life and music helped to define soul, and inspired people the world over.
 
UNCHAIN MY HEART features Charles’ best-known hits including:  “Georgia on My Mind,” “What’d I Say,” “Mess Around,” “Hit The Road, Jack,” “Unchain My Heart,” “I Got a Woman”, “You Don’t Know Me” and “Hallelujah, I Love Her So.”

An earlier, developmental production was produced at the Pasadena Playhouse (Sheldon Epps, Artistic Director) in 2007 under the title of RAY CHARLES
LIVE!
The Variety review of that production can be seen at the following link: http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117935383


TICKETS:
Tickets will become available in Summer 2010 online at Telecharge.com or by phone at (212)239-6200.

BIOGRAPHIES:
BRANDON VICTOR DIXON (Ray Charles).  Broadway: The Color Purple; Harpo (Tony Nomination), City Center Encores! House of Flowers; Royal, Lion King Cheetah National Tour; Simba (original). Off-Broadway: The Scottsboro Boys; Haywood Patterson (Lucille Lortel Nom., Drama League Nom., Outer Critic’s Circle Nom.). Regional: Ray Charles Live!; Ray Charles (Ovation Nom.) Henry V, Romeo and Juliet. Columbia University’s 107th Annual Varsity Show. TV: Quincy Jones’s America’s Millennium, ABC’s One Life to Live (recurring) L&O: Criminal Intent; (featured). Awards: Columbia University’s I.A.L. Diamond Award, National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts Award, British Academy of Dramatic Acting scholarship, Presidential Scholar Semi-Finalist. Columbia University graduate.

NIKKI RENÉE DANIELS (Della). Nikki is currently appearing in Promises, Promises on Broadway.  Other Broadway credits include Les Miserables, Aida, Nine, The Look of Love, Lestat and Little Shop of Horrors. She made her New York City Opera debut as Clara in Porgy and Bess.  Regional credits include Caroline or Change (Emmie) at the Guthrie Theatre, Anything Goes (Hope) at Williamstown Theatre Festival, Ray Charles Live! (Della B) at the Pasadena Playhouse, Beauty and the Beast (Belle) at Sacramento Music Circus, Dorian (Celia) at the Denver Center, and Ragtime (Sarah) at North Shore Music Theatre.  Nikki has also performed as a soloist with the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Pops and at Carnegie Hall.  

HARRISON WHITE (Jeff Brown). Harrison is thrilled to return to Broadway.  Broadway & National Tour: The Lion King (also LA company), Sarafina (Winner, NAACP Theatre Awards Best Musical). Off Broadway: A Good Swift Kick, Romance In Hard Times. London’s West End: Smokey Joe’s Café (nominated: Laurence Olivier Award).  Pre-Broadway: Starmites. Regional: Bark, Seussical, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Full Monty, Gulls (nominated: 2009 NAACP Theater Award), Miss Saigon (Winner: 2008 LA Ovation Award Best Musical), Ray Charles Live (Winner: 2008 NAACP Theater Award Best Ensemble), Sister Act The Musical, It’s A Wonderful Life, Purlie (Winner: 2005 Ovation Award Featured Actor In a Musical), Ain’t Misbehavin’, Five Guys Named Moe, Once On This Island. Film: I Got The Hook Up, Se7en, Doom Asylum. Television: “Modern Family” & “Viva Laughlin”. Internet: “Venice The Series”, “Republicrats” & “Home Purchasing Club” for VH1.com. Soundtrack: “Tears of the Sun”, “The Power of One” & “Sarafina”.
 
TASHA TAYLOR (Margie Hendricks).  Tasha Taylor  is originally from Dallas, Texas and began singing and performing on stage at a young age, touring with her father, Soul legend Johnnie Taylor. She went on to study Shakespearean theater at Boston University and returned to Dallas performing at the Dallas Theatre Center. Performances include: Annie (Miss Hannigan), Fiddler On The Roof (Fruma Sara), Bye Bye Birdie (Rosie), Me and My Girl (Jacqueline). She soon moved to LA and began working in TV and Film on various shows and commercials: “House”, “Ugly Betty”, “Yes, Dear”, “Stripmall”, (Comedy Central), “7th Heaven”, “Abby”, “Moesha”, the indie film Dimples with Madaline Zima, and the stage play, Mental at the Edgemar Theatre. Most recently performing in the play Atlanta at the Geffen Theater as the character “Puck”.  Also a songwriter, Tasha has been on the road with Aretha Franklin,Taj Mahal, Bernard Allison, Kenny Neal, Voices of The Wetlands, Carla Thomas, Allen Tussant, Los Lonley Boys, and many others. Her first album, REVIVAL is now available on Itunes and Amazon.com. She currently performs with Dan Akroyd and Jim Belushi on the road as the Blues Brothers Band, in addition to recording and performing her own original music, she is currently producing her 2nd original album soon to be released. www.tashataylor.com.

Ray Charles (Music & Lyrics).  Ray Charles, was born Ray Charles Robinson on September 23, 1930 in Albany, Georgia.  Very early in his career, this American musician had the nickname “The Genius” bestowed upon him, and he became the embodiment of that term in so many areas of music. He was a vocalist, performer, songwriter, bandleader and arranger who played keyboards and reeds.  He was an innovator in music who comfortably, confidently and successfully worked in swing, blues, gospel, country, jazz, and rock.  He was also an astute businessman who took the unprecedented action of insisting upon artistic control and ownership of his own master recordings, formed his own publishing companies and his own record labels.  In the 1950s, he broke down the barriers of sacred and secular music, fused elements of gospel, jazz and blues together and mixed it with a fiery, fervid style that would come to be known as soul music. The same powerful gospel/jazz/blues mix would create the very foundation for rock and roll.  In the 1960s, he helped integrate country and pop music with his crossover success, most notably with his Modern Sounds of Country and Western Music, Vol. 1 and 2 both of which were released in 1962.  It kicked the doors wide-open for new audiences to find country music and for country music to embrace Ray Charles. All this time, Ray continued to mix musical styles at will, and with great success, scoring major hits on the R&B, Jazz and Pop charts. Ray Charles’ recording of “Georgia On My Mind” was made the official state song for Georgia in 1979.  He also received the Kennedy Center Honors for exemplary lifetime achievement in the performing arts in 1986 from President Ronald Reagan and the National Medal of Arts in 1993 from President William Clinton. In addition to winning 17 Grammy Awards, he received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987. Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him #10 on their list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” in 2004 and #2 on their list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time” in 2008. The 2004 feature film Ray portrays the life and career of Ray Charles and stars Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles.  The film is the all-time number one music biopic, earning $125 million in worldwide box office. Jamie Foxx won the Academy Award for “Best Actor in a Leading Role” for his performance.  Ray Charles died from acute liver disease on Thursday, June 10, 2004, two months before the release of his final album, “Genius Loves Company.” He was 73.  In 1986, Mr. Charles created what is now known as The Ray Charles Foundation which is dedicated to providing support in the area of hearing disorders and the empowerment of young people through education by offering foundation support to educational institutions and non profit education programs. The vision of The Ray Charles Foundation is to instill in the youth of America that “there is no challenge too great one cannot overcome.”

Suzan-Lori Parks (Book) playwright, screenwriter, novelist, essayist, actor and songwriter, recently celebrated her 8th show, The Book Of Grace, at the Public Theatre.    The others:  Venus, (OBIE Award), In The Blood, (Pulitzer Prize Finalist), Fucking A, The America Play, Father Comes Home From The Wars, Part 1:  The Union of My Confederate Parts, Topdog/Underdog, and 365 Days/365 Plays (as part of the year-long international collaboration involving over 700 theatres; co-produced with Bonnie Metzgar).  Parks’ other plays include The Death Of The Last Black Man In The Whole Entire World, Devotees In The Garden Of Love, and Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom (OBIE Award, Best New American Play). Most all of Suzan-Lori’s plays are published by Theatre Communications Group.  Her first novel, Getting Mother’s Body is published by Random House.  Suzan-Lori has a leading role in …Plus One  which recently premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.  Her additional work for film includes:  as writer/director: Anemone Me (produced by Christine Vachon and Todd Haynes), as writer: Girl 6 (dir. Spike Lee), screenplays for Brad Pitt, Jodie Foster and others.  She wrote the adaptation of Their Eyes Were Watching God (staring Halle Berry) for Oprah Winfrey Presents.  She is a recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Grant and won the Pulitzer Prize for Topdog/Underdog.  Teaching at NYU and at work on her second novel, Suzan-Lori also serves the Public Theater as their Master Writer Chair and appears as an animated character on Nickelodeon Jr.

Sheldon Epps
(Director) has been Artistic Director of the renowned Pasadena Playhouse since 1997. Before beginning his tenure at the Playhouse he served as Associate Artistic Director of the Old Globe Theatre for four years.  He was also a co-founder of the Off Broadway theatre, The Production Company.  Mr. Epps has directed both plays and musicals at many of the country’s major theatres including the Roundabout, Manhattan Theatre Club, the Guthrie, Playwrights Horizons, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Arena Stage, and the Goodman Theatre.  He conceived the highly acclaimed musicals Play On! and Blues In the Night, which both received Tony Award nominations.  He directed productions of both of those shows on Broadway, in London, and at theatres throughout the world.  Mr. Epps also has had a busy career as a television director helming episodes of shows such as “Frasier”, “Friends”, “Everybody Loves Raymond”, “Girlfriends” and many others.  For more than a decade, he served as a member of the Executive Board of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers.  Mr. Epps received the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award for his efforts and accomplishments at the Pasadena Playhouse. Under his leadership the Playhouse has become one of the premiere theatres in the country, earning distinction for productions of artistic excellence, overwhelming critical and box office success, and highly praised theatrical diversity.

Stuart Benjamin (Presenter/Producer).  Oscar nominated and Grammy Award-winning film, television and record producer, Stuart Benjamin co-founded New Visions Entertainment which produced such films as Against All Odds, White Nights, La Bamba, Everybody’s All American, The Long Walk Home, Queen’s Logic and Mortal Thoughts, as well as the Academy Award-winning short, Teenage Father. As a principal in New Visions Music Group, he has been involved in the production of a number of gold and platinum sound track albums.  New Visions Music Group has been responsible for nine (9) # 1 singles.  As a music producer, Benjamin not only received a Grammy for producing the soundtrack album for Ray, but he also collaborated with such artists as Sting, Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, Mariah Carey and Billy Preston in producing Sam Moore’s comeback album.  Benjamin has also produced a number of successful feature, television, cable and animated projects, including a live gospel concert with Ray Charles, which he also directed, and the multi-award winning “Ray Charles Tribute Concert” which was a CBS Television special. Benjamin’s friendship with Ray Charles from the 1980s resulted in Mr. Charles granting him the rights to make a film about Mr. Charles’ life.  The result of those efforts was the film, Ray, which Benjamin produced with Mr. Charles’ full participation and blessing. The film garnered six Oscar nominations and two wins, including a nomination for Best Picture.  As the producer of the film, Benjamin was personally nominated for an Oscar.  Benjamin also produced the multi-platinum soundtrack album from the film for which he received a Grammy.   In the fall of 2007, Benjamin successfully launched a live theatrical production at the Pasadena Playhouse based upon the life of Ray Charles.  In March, 2009 he produced Louis & Keely Live at the Sahara at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood, California.  The show went on to become the longest running show in the history of the Geffen, and Benjamin received an Ovation Award from the Los Angeles Stage Alliance for Best Production of a Musical.  He is a graduate of the University of Southern California and Harvard Law School.

www.UnchainMyHeartOnBroadway.com 
 
Follow on Twitter: @UnchainBway

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