Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy will conclude its warmly applauded seventh season with Oh, What a Night! — a rollicking musical revue featuring songs from Broadway’s blockbuster musicals, such as Wicked, Jersey Boys, and Les Misérables, which are too big for the intimate 170-seat Sara Lynn and K.D. Kennedy, Jr. Theater downstairs in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh, NC. So, Hot Summer Nights is moving Oh, What a Night! upstairs in the Progress Energy Center to the 600-seat A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater on Aug. 31st and Sept. 1st and taking the show on the road to the 200-seat Lauren Kennedy and Alan Campbell Theatre at Barton College in Wilson, NC, on Sept. 3rd and 4th.
Oh, What a Night! stars Hot Summer Nights producer and executive director Alan Campbell, a 1995 Tony Award® nominee for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical for creating the role of struggling screenwriter Joe Gillis in the original Broadway production of Sunset Boulevard. Fellow Broadway veterans Lisa Jolley (Hairspray) and Ray Walker (Chess, Grease, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Les Misérables) will co-star. Walker is the artistic director of the North Carolina Theatre‘s Conservatory.
This star-studded cast of Oh, What a Night! — directed and choreographed by Matthew-Jason Willis — also includes New York actress/singer Michelle Kinney and Triangle theater veterans Curtis Scott Brown, Pauline Cobrda, Susan Durham-Lozaw, Hazel Edmond, Dalton Hood, John Malloy, Kate McMillan, John Malloy, Lauren Neely, Morgan Parpan, Noah Putterman, Yolanda Rabun, Dale Sanders, and Willis.
“I think Oh, What a Night! is a really special and unique treat for the area and just come prepared to have a blast and join my awe in how much local talent hails from this community!” says actor, director, and choreographer Matthew-Jason Willis.
“In all honesty,’ Willis confesses, “”I’m not sure how the concept [for Oh, What a Night!] came about. Normally, [Hot Summer Nights producer] Lauren [Kennedy] and I bounce around ideas about different shows each season and somehow I was lucky enough to get to come back and work for Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy for my sixth season. We talked about doing songs from shows that were too big for HSN to do, and I threw in the idea of ‘Broadway Backwards’, where songs are gender swapped, coupled with a little ‘Roles I’ll Never Be Cast In.'”
He adds, “I wanted it to feature talent that is linked to the area either by birth, rearing, or residence and really give some of the brilliant local talent a chance to really shine and, perhaps, do something they normally wouldn’t get a chance to do. It got me so excited that I even cast myself, because I wanted to get the chance to share the stage with some of my favorite performers here in Raleigh.”
In addition to director and choreographer Matthew-Jason Willis, who doubles as costume designer for the show, the Hot Summer Nights creative team for Oh, What a Night! includes husband-and-wife producers Alan Campbell and Lauren Kennedy; fellow producers Adam Twiss and Hilary Russo; musical director Jay Wright; technical director and set and lighting designer Chris Bernier; sound designer Eric Collins; and stage manager Christine Rapp. The Oh, What a Night! band includes conductor Jay Wright (keyboards), music assistant Jason Cooper (keyboards), Drew Lile (guitar/banjo), John Simonetti (bass), and Todd Proctor (percussion).
Director and choreographer Matthew-Jason Willis says there is no set. “We are using a bare stage, with a few different platforms at different heights to help add dimension and levels in staging,” he explains.
Willis adds, “The lighting scheme is gonna be pretty badass! Those who are familiar with my directing and choreographing work know how much I love lighting and the use of color and shadows. We will have some moving lights that can do really amazing things. As much as [lighting designer] Chris Bernier gives me a hard time when we sit down to build the light cues, he knows how much I adore his work; and he is really wonderful about creating a look when I just throughout ‘Give me something … Autumnal and raining on the Upper West Side.’ He never fails to deliver!”
Matthew-Jason Willis says, “I don’t really think of [the wardrobe that the Oh, What a Night! cast wears] as costuming per se, as much as it is coordinating looks and styling. Yes, we give a nod in our fashion to the original or traditionally used costumes; but no one is ever in an actual character’s costume.
“The cast has been really great about bringing things in with options for me to choose from for them,” says Willis, “and I’m also allowing everyone’s individual style to come through as well.”
In addition to Oh, What a Night! (Aug. 31 and Sept. 1), Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy’s 2011 season included Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps (June 8-12 and 15-19), Sirius/XM’s Broadway host Seth Rudetsky’s Big Fat Broadway Show and Rudetsky’s Master Class on auditioning (both June 13th), The Marvelous Wonderettes (June 29-July 3 and July 6-10), Sharon Talbot’s original play A Field of Glory (July 20-24 and 27-31), and Violet: A New Musical (Aug. 17-21 and 24-28).
Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy presents OH WHAT A NIGHT at 8 p.m. Aug. 31 and Sept.1 in the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601; and 7:30 p.m. Sept. 3 and 3 p.m. Sept. 4 in the Lauren Kennedy and Alan Campbell Theatre at Barton College, 700 Vance St. NE, Wilson, North Carolina 27893. TICKETS: $27 ($22 students, seniors, and active-duty military personnel). BOX OFFICE: Raleigh: 866/811-4111 or https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/806665. Wilson: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/849965. SHOW: http://www.hotsummernightsatthekennedy.org/2011season/owan.asp. SERIES: http://www.hotsummernightsatthekennedy.org/2011season.asp. PRESENTER: http://www.hotsummernightsatthekennedy.org/. VENUES: Raleigh: http://www.progressenergycenter.com/venue/fletcher-opera-theater (directions: http://www.progressenergycenter.com/directions and parking: http://www.progressenergycenter.com/parking. Wilson: http://www.barton.edu/theatre/. OTHER LINKS: Alan Campbell: http://www.alancampbell.net/ (official website). Lisa Jolley: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=658553518 (Facebook). Ray Walker: http://nctheatre.com/education/instructors (North Carolina Theatre Conservatory). Matthew Jason-Willis: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501423477 (Facebook).
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