SARASOTA, FL – In its 23rd season, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe will explore the struggles and triumphs of people who sought to realize their own version of the American Dream. Whether their dreams came true or were deferred, their stories make for compelling, can’t-miss shows on the WBTT stage.
In addition to four regular-season offerings, WBTT will present a holiday show. Running from October 5, 2022 through May 28, 2023, the regular season shows are “Guys and Dolls,” “Flyin’ West,” “Dreamgirls” and “Big Sexy: The Fats Waller Revue.” The holiday show is “Black Nativity.”
“For our 2022-2023 season, we have adopted the theme American Dreams,” said WBTT Founder and Artistic Director Nate Jacobs. “From musical dreams to hopes for better lives in new settlements on the American frontier, this season is a testament to brave souls who broke new artistic and literal ground. And the music, which hails from a variety of genres and eras, is certain to inspire audiences in the WBTT theatre next season!”
Opening the season is “Guys and Dolls,” the 1950 Tony Award-winner for Best Musical. A fun, quirky musical comedy, “Guys and Dolls” debuted on Broadway in 1950 to universal acclaim and has been revived many times. In New York City, gambler Nathan Detroit dreams of setting up a big dice game while avoiding the authorities – enlisting fellow gambler Sky Masterson to help. Meanwhile, Nathan’s girlfriend, nightclub performer Miss Adelaide, laments their 14-year engagement, while Sky ends up chasing the strait-laced missionary Sarah Brown in a scheme to raise money for the game. “Guys and Dolls” is a real crowd-pleaser and WBTT will add its own special twist! Jim Weaver will direct. Runs October 5-November 20, 2022.
During the holiday season—back by popular demand—WBTT presents Langston Hughes’ “Black Nativity.” This production is a celebration of the Nativity story with gospel, blues, spiritual, and Christmas music, paired with the poetry of Langston Hughes and the creativity of WBTT. Children and adults alike will be enthralled by this high-energy, inspiring show. Jacobs will direct. Show runs November 30-December 23, 2022. “Black Nativity” is not included in the subscription series.
Originally scheduled for the 2019-2020 season – a show that WBTT had previously offered as a staged reading – is “Flyin’ West” by Pearl Cleage. In the 1890s, the lives of a small group of African-American women change after they leave the oppressive South and settle in the all-black town of Nicodemus, Kansas. Their hopes, dreams and determination to survive in a harsh region are tested as they build new lives for themselves and their families. With flashes of humor amid serious themes, “Flyin’ West” sheds new light on a chapter of American history that’s seldom told, as it explores questions and conflicts that still resonate today. Chuck Smith, who serves as resident director at WBTT and at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, will return to Sarasota to direct this show. Runs January 4-February 12, 2023.
Next up is a sweeping and inspirational journey through 20th century American pop music: “Dreamgirls” chronicles one fictional Motown group’s rise from obscurity to superstardom. Through gospel, R&B, smooth pop, disco and more, “Dreamgirls” explores themes of ambition, hope and betrayal, all set in the glamorous and competitive world of the music industry. Jennifer Holliday earned a Theatre World Award and a Tony Award for her star turn in the original Broadway production, which captured six Tony Awards, four Drama Desk Awards, Grammy Awards for Best Cast Show Album and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance (for Holliday), and wide audience acclaim. Jacobs will direct. Show runs February 22-April 9, 2023.
Closing the season is “Big Sexy: The Fats Waller Revue.” Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller was an American jazz pianist, composer, singer and comedic entertainer. His Harlem stride piano style influenced the sound of modern jazz piano. Waller realized his dreams at an early age: he began playing the piano at the tender age of 6 and became a professional keyboard player at 15. In 1922, by the age of 18, he was a recording artist. Nate Jacob’s original tribute to this one-of-a-kind artist and composer of over 400 songs is not to be missed. Tunes include “Ain’t Misbehavin,” “Honeysuckle Rose,” “Lulu’s Back in Town,” “Your Feet’s Too Big” and “The Joint is Jumpin’.” Jacobs will direct. Show runs April 19-May 28, 2023.
“As we – hopefully – continue to move toward normal operations, it is our honor and pleasure to present works that shine a spotlight on actual and fictional African American artists and historical figures,” said WBTT Executive Director Julie Leach. “This is a theatre season that pulls together quality drama, flashes of comedy, and amazing music; we look forward to sharing it with returning and new patrons.”
Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. matinees Saturdays-Sundays; all performances take place in WBTT’s Donelly Theatre (1012 N. Orange Ave., Sarasota).
Individual ticket prices are $50 for season shows and the holiday show, including ticket fees; discounts are available for full-time students (ages 21 and under) and active military personnel. The four regular season shows will be available through a subscription package for $160, with subscriptions becoming available to current patrons on June 6, 2022, and to the general public on July 6, 2022. Individual ticket sales are scheduled to begin August 1, 2022. Call the Box Office at 941-366-1505 or visit westcoastblacktheatre.org.
About Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe
The mission of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (WBTT) is to produce professional theatre that promotes and celebrates African American history and experience, engages a broad base of patrons and audiences, supports the development of a dynamic group of aspiring artists, and builds self-esteem in youth of color. For more information, visit westcoastblacktheatre.org.