Sunday, February 29, 2004

'Blue' director juggles several projects

Arts Notes

By Jackie Demaline
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The quote of the week comes from Kenny Leon, who is juggling April's Broadway opening of A Raisin in the Sun (sure to be a headline grabber with headliner Sean "P. Diddy" Combs), upcoming plans for his own True Colors theatre company, preparation for the world premiere of the opera Margaret Garner in 2005 with this week's regional premiere of Blue at Playhouse in the Park.

"I am squished," laughs Leon. "The reason I'm in Cincinnati is Ed (Stern, producing artistic director of Playhouse in the Park) and Nic (Muni, artistic director of Cincinnati Opera). To have those two leaders in this artistic community - I don't know a city that has this quality artistic leadership."

Leon is a fan of comedy-drama Blue, and sees threads to connect it with A Raisin in the Sun. Both are about the American Dream - Raisin, in its first Broadway revival since its original opening in 1959, is about the dream deferred; Blue, is about the dream being realized - the Clarks are a financially successful, if dysfunctional, black family in a small Southern town.

"The playwright (Charles Randolph-Wright) had the courage to write about class, not race," Leon says.

"I think that's going to be challenging for white as well as black audiences. You don't see middle class blacks on stage. It opens up an understanding."

Leon likes that Blue (named for a fictional jazz singer who is primary to the play's action) is drama, comedy, even musical. "You put it all together, it's an interesting structure."

Blue begins previews Tuesday and opens Thursday, continuing through April 2. For information and reservations call the Playhouse box office at 421-3888.

Meanwhile, Kevyn Morrow who plays the title role, didn't get that Olivier Award (the West End equivalent of the Tony Award) last Sunday.

He was nominated as best actor in a musical for his performance as Coalhouse Walker in Ragtime, but lost to David Bedella in the title role of Jerry Springer. He can console himself in Cincinnati by performing Blue's score by Nona Hendryx (of soul-funk vocal trio Labelle.)

Jackie Demaline

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