SARASOTA, FL – For its second offering of the 2018-2019 mainstage season, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe is bringing back one of its most popular productions, Marvin Gaye: Prince of Soul. Sheldon Rhoden – who starred in the show in 2011 and 2014 – returns in the title role; WBTT founder and artistic director Nate Jacobs is the creator and director. The show runs November 28, 2018 – January 13, 2019, with evening performances at 7:30 p.m. and weekend matinees at 2 p.m. at the Westcoast Black Theatre (1012 N. Orange Ave., Sarasota).
This play covers the singing career of Marvin Gaye from the 1950s through the mid-1980s at the time of his untimely and shocking death. It takes place in Detroit, the birthplace of Motown music. Audience members will appreciate the depth of Gaye’s musical talent and learn about his personal backstory. Songs included in the show are “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “How Sweet It Is,” “Pride and Joy,” “What’s Going On,” “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “Sexual Healing,” and “Let’s Get It On,” among many others.
The earliest version of this show was presented as Marvin Gaye: The Man and His Music in 2011. It was Rhoden’s first starring role in a professional production and it played to sold-out audiences. Patrons clamored for a return and the 2014 run, which showcased a much more polished and confident Rhoden, also sold out. For this run, the originally scheduled dates sold out weeks ahead of opening night but the company has been adding performances where possible (limited tickets remain).
“People who have seen Sheldon in previous versions of this show will definitely see the growth – he’s more comfortable and more of a seasoned performer this time around,” said Jacobs. “Marvin Gaye is a tragic hero; people love his music. Audiences will not only love the music, they will also relate to much of the drama in the story.”
Jacobs notes that for this run, he has done some restructuring and polishing. The size of the cast has also grown in order to tell the story better. Additionally, WBTT was able to secure the rights to all of Gaye’s hit songs this time around – previous productions were somewhat constrained due to licensing issues.
While several new artists join WBTT for the show, audiences will see numerous favorites, including Brian Boyd, Ariel Blue, Leon S. Pitts II, Michael Mendez, Emerald Rose Sullivan, Ashley D. Brooks, Raleigh Mosely II, and Henry Washington.
James E. Dodge II (bass) is music director and co-composed two original songs for the production with Jacobs; the rest of the band includes Todd Bellamy (piano), Tanmart Selby (auxiliary keys), Willie Thompson (guitar) and John Walker (drums).
Stage manager is Juanita Munford, assistant production stage manager is Travis Ray, production manager is Dodge, Annette Breazeale is properties designer, Jeffrey Weber is set designer, Michael Pasquini is lighting designer, choreographer is Donald Frison, Patrick Russini is sound engineer, Angela Mayo-Franklin is costume designer, and Adrienne Pitts is assistant costume designer. Jay Poppe and Yulner Diaz both contribute to projection design.
Tickets are $45/adults ($55 for two added Sunday evening shows), $20/students and active military (with valid ID). Call the Box Office at (941) 366-1505 or go to westcoastblacktheatre.org.
About Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe:
The mission of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe is to produce professional theatre that promotes and celebrates the African-American experience, to attract diverse audiences, to support and develop African-American artists, and to build the self-esteem of African-American youth. For more information about WBTT, visit the website at westcoastblacktheatre.org or call 941-366-1505.