“Blue,” a jazz- and soul-inflected play written by Charles Randolph-Wright, with music by Nona Hendryx and lyrics by both creators, will head to the Apollo Theater in Harlem later this year. Phylicia Rashad, who starred in the premiere in 2000, will direct.
The new production was originally slated for Broadway, but was unable to secure a theater there. (Competition for Broadway theaters has been particularly fierce in recent years, as business has boomed; overall grosses from the 2018-2019 season broke records for the sixth year in a row.) “Blue” will have a sixteen-week run at the Apollo — unusually long for the theater, which is in the midst of an expansion of both its physical spaces and its programming.
“This is part of our strategic growth process,” the Apollo’s executive producer, Kamilah Forbes, said in a phone interview. Forbes said that the theater plans to host more long-running shows in the future.
The cast of the “Blue” revival will include the Tony Award-winning actress and singer Leslie Uggams (who is on the Apollo’s board of directors) and the Emmy Award-winning actress Lynn Whitfield. It is being produced by Brian Moreland, Ron Simons, Eric Falkenstein, Mike Jackson and the singer-songwriter John Legend. The design team members have numerous Broadway credits.
Set in the late 1970s, “Blue” explores issues of class through the story of a wealthy family that owns a funeral parlor in a fictional South Carolina town. The revival casts Whitfield as the matriarch, Peggy; Uggams will play her mother-in-law.
“Blue” debuted at Arena Stage in Washington in 2000. A review in The New York Times of the show’s New York run the following year, praised Hendryx’s “lush and melodic” songs. “Even if ‘Blue’ isn’t a play that sends you out thinking,” the reviewer, Bruce Weber, wrote, “you might leave whistling.”
The new production will begin previews on April 27, with a formal opening night set for May 10. It will run through Aug. 16.