Race, Romance and Reverie will be the theme permeating the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe's 2011 - 2012 season of plays. For its 12th year, the troupe will present two world premiere musicals, a one-man original revue, and an award-winning drama.

One of the original shows will be written by Nate Jacobs, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe Founder and Artistic Director. Love, Sung in the Key of Aretha is the story of four women who live together in a Florida apartment building. They musically review their life experiences as told through the songs made famous by the legendary Aretha Franklin. This will be a celebration of Aretha's masterful artistry, bigger-than-life talent and understanding of human relationships.

The second world premiere, Blackbird: The Josephine Baker Story, is by veteran playwright, screenwriter and lyricist, Sherman Yellen, who wrote the Broadway musicals Rex and The Rothschilds and was the winner of two Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award. Music is by Wally Harper. The play traces the life of Josephine Baker from Jim Crow America to Paris, where she became a stage sensation. It is presented in ""pure musical comedy style"" ... it's funny, sexy, exuberant! Baker is the ultimate rags-to-riches story despite the difficult times in which she lived.

WBTT is proud to present the multi-talented De'zhon Fields as one of the greatest superstars, Sammy Davis Jr. in his original revue, "SAMMY"" Tonight! A Tribute to Sammy Davis Jr.¨ This musical revue features all of the hits he made famous including: "I've Gotta Be Me," "Mr. Bojangles" and "Candy Man." For the past ten years, Mr. Fields has traveled worldwide showcasing his homage to the legendary icon known as "Mr. Entertainment." From Vegas to Dublin, Fields has audiences clamoring for more.

The widely acclaimed A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry, will be the only drama of the season. In this powerful production, conflict arises when an insurance check provides the means to fulfill conflicting dreams for a mother and her two children. Hope, racism, feminism and pride are some of the themes in the play about a poor black family's struggle to gain middle-class acceptance in 1950s Chicago. This was first play written by a black woman that was produced on Broadway. Nominated for four Tony Awards, the New York Times wrote "this play changed American theater forever." Raisin was named the best play of 1959 by the NY Drama Critics' Circle and was a highly successful film.

"I am truly excited about the plays selected for this season. We will be telling the story of not only the challenges but the triumphs of African Americans beginning in the 1920s with Josephine Baker and carrying through today with Aretha Franklin," states Nate Jacobs. "The history of African Americans often tells stories of heartbreak, racism and cruelty, but shining through is the strength and spirit of these people to succeed and, in doing so, forever inspire us."

Season subscription holders pay $75 for all four productions and are able to get their choice of dates before they are available to the general public. Single tickets go on sale in October and will be $28 each.  Subscriptions can be purchased by calling 941.366.1505 or online at www.wbttroupe.org.

The WBTT Theatre is located at 1646 10th Way in Sarasota.

Third show in the first season of the new Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (WBTT) theater opens with the popular Five Guys Named Moe, and runs until Sunday, April 3rd. The Clarke Peters musical features the music of Louis Jordan, who was ranked fifth in the list of all-time most successful black recording artists according to Billboard Magazine and, in 2004, ranked 59th on Rolling Stone Magazine's list of the 100 greatest artists of all time. It is the second time the Troupe has performed the show; the first production selling out most performances.

"Five Guys Named Moe was a perfect choice for our company," remarked Nate Jacobs, Founder and Artistic Director of WBTT. "It's got great energy, terrific songs and fast-moving choreography with high-spirited, fun, audience participation. With Harry Bryce in town to direct the actors and LaTerry Butler to direct the musicians, I don't see how we can miss."

The cast of Five Guys Named Moe features actors long associated with the Troupe, one enjoying his first season, as well as three guest artists. Leon S. Pitts II will be a familiar face to frequent audience members as he has been on stage almost every season. Porter L. Anderson III is another long-time Troupe member. Mikeyy Mendez is performing in his first season with WBTT, while studying music at a local university.

Guest artists include performers Earley Dean from Seattle, D. William Hughes of New York and Donald Frison, from Memphis, who appeared in this season's Ain't Misbehavin'.

Director of the show is Harry Bryce, who directed Ain't Misbehavin,' this year's season opener. Bryce has had and continues to have an impressive career, with over thirty years experience as a director, choreographer, writer, and arts educator. He founded the Memphis Black Repertory Theatre (MBRT) and served as its producing artistic director for five seasons. He produced and directed twenty-one productions for MBRT including Five Guys Named Moe. Under his direction, MBRT garnered seventeen theatre awards.

Five Guys Named Moe originated in London in 1990 at the Theatre Royal Stratford and ran for more than four years in another theater in the city's West End. The show premiered on Broadway in April 1992 and enjoyed a 445-performance success. The musical was nominated for several Tony awards and won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Entertainment and Best Choreography.

The story features a guy named Nomax, whose girlfriend has left him and who is without money. He finds Big Moe, Four-Eyed Moe, Eat Moe, No Moe, and Little Moe emerging from his 1930s-style radio to comfort him. They sing the hit songs of songwriter and saxophonist Louis Jordan, whose new slant on jazz paved the way for rock and roll in the 1950s.

"Five Guys Named Moe is a fun, fast-moving musical," Jacobs continued. "Once again, WBTT expects to have audiences dancing in the their seats as they enjoy a talented cast presenting this wonderful production of a timeless musical play."

To order tickets or know more about WBTT, go to the website www.wbttroupe.org or call 941-366-1505.

SARASOTA: Howard J. Millman, president of the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe's board of trustees, is pleased to announce two new board members: Michael James Gardiner and Alan P. Kurland.

"For nearly two years, Michael Gardiner has committed resources and time to the marketing of WBTT. His generosity has proved invaluable," states Millman. "Alan Kurland has been a successful entrepreneur who also knows the artistic and business side of running a theater. These two gentlemen bring an expertise to the board that will greatly enhance our efforts."

Michael Gardiner comes to the board with vast experience in marketing and sales in the travel and hospitality industries. He held executive positions in Diners Club International, Resorts Condominiums International and Hertz Rent A Car, where he was the Executive Vice President of Marketing for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Avid theater buffs, Michael and his wife Karen divide their time between Los Angeles and Sarasota.

Alan P. Kurland has lived in Sarasota and Maryland since 2001. His first professional job was as Artistic Director of the Theatre of Savannah. He served as an overseas Army Combat Correspondent. When Kurland returned home, he became a residential home builder/developer in the Washington, D.C. area, Florida and California. He also founded a software retail company. Prior to joining WBTT, Kurland was vice-president and treasurer of the Asolo Repertory Company Board.

The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe was founded in December 1999, by local actor, singer, director and playwright Nate Jacobs. It is the first and only professional black theater company on Florida's West Coast.

Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (WBTT) will open Marvin Gaye: The Man and His Music, on Friday, January 28 in its new theater at 1646 10th Way, in Sarasota. The musical play is an original production, written and directed by WBTT Artistic Director Nate Jacobs. It will run for just over three weeks, through Sunday, February 20.

"I am a personal fan of Marvin Gaye's music," Jacobs explained.  "He has influenced my own singing career.  My mother was a devoted fan and introduced me to his music as a kid.  I felt it would be wonderful to celebrate this artist's contribution to American music, especially as we enter February and honor Black History Month."

Marvin Gaye: The Man and His Music showcases the music that Marvin Gaye fans have come to love and respect. The story shares important facts about Marvin Gaye's life and achievement. It begins in the late 50s before his early days at Motown and continues through the end of his solo career, which ended at the time of his untimely and tragic death in the mid 80s. The show plays on a simple stage set with an ensemble cast of eight, talented, Troupe members, all actors and singers, who are accompanied by a live four-piece band.

Marvin Gaye is being played by Sheldon Roden, who performed Gaye's songs during last summer's sold-out hit Motown 60s Revue, another Jacobs original production. A third-year member of the Troupe, this will be Roden's first lead role.

"When I watched Sheldon do Marvin Gaye's songs last summer, I was inspired," Jacobs continued. "He became Marvin and the reaction from the audience was phenomenal. He was a natural and I decided to create this piece for him."

Tickets for Marvin Gaye: The Man and His Music are $25 and available online at www.wbttroupe.org or by calling 941-366-1505.

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