Jelly's Last Jam
is a musical
Musical theatre is a form of theatre combining songs, spoken dialogue, acting, and dance. The emotional content of the piece – humor, pathos, love, anger – as well as the story itself, is communicated through the words, music, movement and technical aspects of the entertainment as an...
with a book by George C. Wolfe
George Costello Wolfe is an American playwright and director of theater and film. He won a Tony Award in 1993 for directing Angels in America: Millennium Approaches and another Tony Award in 1996 for his direction of the musical, Bring in 'da Noise/Bring in 'da Funk.-Early life and...
, lyrics by Susan Birkenhead
Susan Birkenhead is an American lyricist.Birkenhead made her Broadway debut as one of a team of songwriters contributing to Working , for which she received her first Tony Award nomination. Her second was earned for Jelly's Last Jam , which won her the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lyrics and a...
, and music by Jelly Roll Morton
Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe , known professionally as Jelly Roll Morton, was an American ragtime and early jazz pianist, bandleader and composer....
and Luther Henderson
Luther Henderson was an African American arranger, composer, orchestrator, and pianist.Born in Kansas City, Missouri, he was educated at the Juilliard School of Music where he received a B.S. in 1942...
. Based on the life and career of Morton, generally regarded as one of the primary driving forces behind the introduction of jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...
to the American
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...
public in the early 20th century, it also serves as a social commentary on the African-American experience during the era.
Jelly's Last Jam
premiered at the Mark Taper Forum
The Mark Taper Forum is a 739 seat thrust stage at the Los Angeles Music Center built by Welton Becket and Associates on the Bunker Hill section of downtown Los Angeles...
, Los Angeles, California, in March 1991. Directed by Wolfe, Obba Babatunde
Obba Babatundé is an American actor of stage and screen, known for his Emmy-nominated performance in the television movie Miss Evers' Boys, a NAACP Image Award-nominated performance in the TV movie Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, and a Tony Award-nominated role for his performance as C.C...
played Jelly Roll.
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...
production opened at the Virginia Theatre
The August Wilson Theatre, located at 245 West 52nd Street in New York City, is a Broadway theatre.Designed by architects C. Howard Crane and Kenneth Franzheim and constructed by the Theatre Guild, it opened as the Guild Theatre in 1925 with a revival of George Bernard Shaw's Caesar and...
on April 26, 1992 and closed on September 5, 1993 after 569 performances and 25 previews. The musical was directed by Wolfe, choreographed by Hope Clarke
Hope Clarke is an African-American actress, dancer, vocalist, and choreographer. Principal dancer with Katherine Dunham Company and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, 1960s; actress on stage, film, and television, 1970s-1980s; choreographer and director, 1980s--.-Stage career:On Broadway, Clarke,...
, with Tap choreography by Gregory Hines
Gregory Oliver Hines was an American actor, singer, dancer and choreographer.-Early years:Born in New York City, Hines and his older brother Maurice started dancing at an early age, studying with choreographer Henry LeTang...
and Ted L. Levy, scenic design by Robin Wagner
Robin Wagner is an American figure skating coach. She was a competitive skater in the late-1970s and competed at the United States Figure Skating Championships at the Novice and Junior levels. She trained with Sonia Dunfield, Peter Dunfield, and Gustav Lussi....
, costume design by Toni-Leslie James, and lighting design by Jules Fisher
Jules Fisher is a lighting designer and producer. He is credited with lighting designs for more than 200 productions over the course of his 45 year career in Broadway and off-Broadway shows, as well extensive work in film, ballet, opera, television, and rock and roll concert tours...
In addition to Gregory Hines and Savion Glover
Savion Glover is an American tap dancer, actor, and choreographer. As a learning prodigy, he was taught by notable dancers from previous generations. Glover is currently interested in restoring African roots to tap...
as the older and younger Morton, the cast included Ken Ard, Ruben Santiago-Hudson
Ruben Santiago-Hudson is an American actor and playwright, who has won national awards for his work in both areas. In November 2011 he will appear on Broadway in Lydia Diamond's play .-Early life:...
, Ann Duquesnay
Ann Duquesnay is an American musical theatre actress, composer and lyricist best known for Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk, which earned her a Tony Award.-Biography:...
, Tonya Pinkins
Tonya Pinkins is an American actress and author known for her portrayal of Livia Frye on the soap opera All My Children and for her roles on Broadway, for which she won a Tony Award.-Biography:...
, Mary Bond Davis
-Biography:Davis began her career at the age of fifteen singing with various bands. She was a member of The Young Americans from 1974 to 1976, and appeared with them on The Bing Crosby Christmas Show....
, and Keith David
Keith David Williams , better known as Keith David, is an American film, television, voice actor, and singer. He is perhaps most known for his live-action roles in such films as Crash, There's Something About Mary, Barbershop and Men at Work...
Phylicia Rashād is an American Tony Award winning actress and singer, best known for her role as Clair Huxtable on the long-running NBC sitcom The Cosby Show....
, Brian Stokes Mitchell
Brian Stokes Mitchell is an American stage, film and television actor. A powerful baritone, he has been one of the central leading men of the Broadway theatre since the early 1990s...
and Ben Vereen
Ben Vereen is an American actor, dancer, and singer who has appeared in numerous Broadway theatre shows. Vereen graduated from Manhattan's High School of Performing Arts.- Early years :...
joined the cast later in the run.
An original cast recording was released by Decca Broadway
Decca Records began as a British record label established in 1929 by Edward Lewis. Its U.S. label was established in late 1934; however, owing to World War II, the link with the British company was broken for several decades....
- Jelly's Jam
- In My Day
- The Creole Way
- The Whole World's Waitin' to Sing Your Song
- Street Scene
- Michigan Water
- Get Away Boy
- Lonely Boy Blues
- Somethin' More
- That's How You Jazz
- The Chicago Stomp
- Play the Music for Me
- Lovin' Is a Lowdown Blues
- Dr. Jazz
- Good Ole New York
- Too Late, Daddy
- That's the Way We Do Things in New Yawk
- Jelly's Isolation Dance
- The Last Chance Blues
- The Last Rites
Awards and nominations
- Tony Award
The Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre, more commonly known as a Tony Award, recognizes achievement in live Broadway theatre. The awards are presented by the American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League at an annual ceremony in New York City. The awards are given for Broadway...
for Best Musical (nominee)
- Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical (nominee)
- Tony Award for Best Original Score (nominee)
- Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical (Hines, winner)
- Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical (David, nominee)
- Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Pinkins, winner)
- Tony Award for Best Scenic Design (nominee)
- Tony Award for Best Costume Design (Toni-Leslie James, nominee)
- Tony Award for Best Lighting Design (winner)
- Tony Award for Best Choreography (nominee)
- Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical (nominee)
- Drama Desk Award
The Drama Desk Awards, which are given annually in a number of categories, are the only major New York theater honors for which productions on Broadway, Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway compete against each other in the same category...
for Outstanding Musical (nominee)
- Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Book of a Musical (winner)
- Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical (Hines, winner)
- Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical (Glover, nominee)
- Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical (Pinkins, winner)
- Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Choreography (nominee)
- Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Musical (nominee)
- Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Orchestration/Musical Adaptation (winner)
- Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lyrics (winner)
- Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Costumes (nominee)
- Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lighting Design (winner)
John Lahr is an American theater critic, and the son of actor Bert Lahr. Since 1992, he has been the senior drama critic at The New Yorker magazine.-Biography:...
wrote the introduction to the printed script of Jelly's Last Jam
, and noted that the musical "reclaims the gorgeous power of tap dancing as part of musical story telling".