Friday, February 19—February 21, 2016
City College Center for the Arts
West 135th Street and Convent Avenue (129 Convent Avenue)
A Celebration Of Atlantic City’s Historic Club Harlem On
Kentucky Avenue: A Celebration of Atlantic City’s Historic Club Harlem returns to City College’s performing arts center Aaron Davis Hall. The show, which shines a red-hot spotlight on a little-known piece of Black history, is presented by the City College Center for the Arts (CCCA) and Byron and Sylvia Lewis. An audience favorite, last February, the production was created by Jeree Wade and directed and written by Adam Wade with Ty Stephens.
Called “one of New York’s most magical and electric shows” by Broadway After Dark, the musical is fictional but inspired by real people in a real place: Kentucky Avenue, the center of black night life in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Summers were hot, not only because of the balmy beach weather but also by virtue of the sizzling music and dance emanating from the clubs on the block. The most famous spot of all was Club Harlem, named in honor of the genre of Black live entertainment that was fast-paced, jazzy and pulsating, with dancers, singers, elegant showgirls, comedians and specialty acts. Performers at the “Black Copacabana” included Ella Fitzgerald, Richard Pryor, Sammy Davis Jr., Nancy Wilson, Billy Daniels, Moms Mabley, Duke Ellington, Slappy White, Sarah Vaughan and the Temptations, but headliners from neighboring clubs would often stop by for Club Harlem’s 5 a.m. show—renowned entertainers like Frank Sinatra, Milton Berle, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.
The setting is the 1969 season opening night dress rehearsal. A love triangle develops between producer Ivan King (Ty Stephens), the lead showgirl Betty Jo Stanton (Renee Ternier) and her best friend the featured female vocalist Pauline Pierce (Andricka Hall). Jeree Wade makes a special appearance as Damita Jo, a popular singer who often opened the summer entertainment season. The production features Lee Summers as Slappy Black. Rounding out the ensemble are Carmen Carriker, Donna Clark, Gregory J. Hanks, Mindy Haywood, Olutayo, Cassandra Palacio, Devin Price, Zhana Saunders, and Garrett Turner. Keeping the music flowing each night is the Freddie Baxter Band, which includes: Frank Owens as Freddie Baxter (piano), Wilbur Bascomb as Odell Craft (bass), David Silliman (drums), Richard Cummings Jr. (synthesizer) and Jack Cavari (guitar).
On Kentucky Avenue is produced by Adam Wade, Robert R. Blume, Songbirds Unlimited Productions and Cobi Narita. Scenic design is by Ty Stephens, Piero Ramos and Yvette Spellman, choreography by Ty Stephens and swing choreographer and tap consulting by Mickey Davidson, costume design by Pearl Williams and Ty Stephens and music direction by Frank Owens. On Kentucky Avenue features ’60s chart-topping music plus an original score true to the era by Ty Stephens, Frank Owens, Wilbur Bascomb, Branice McKenzie, Adam Wade and Jeree Wade.