Photos by Jerry Lamonica
Bay Street Theatre, Martin Richards and The Gilead Company present the World Premiere musical BIG MAYBELLE: SOUL OF THE BLUES with Tony award winner Lillias White starring as legendary blues singer Maybelle Smith; written and directed by Paul Levine. Michael Mitchell is the Musical Director; Orchestrations are by Musical Supervisor Kenny Seymour. Showtimes are Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8pm. Sunday showtime is at 7pm. Tickets to this spectacular event are $66-76. The Box Office is open every day, 11 am –showtime.
BIG MAYBELLE: SOUL OF THE BLUES features the sensational Tony award winning Lillias White as the legendary blues singer Maybelle Smith. A big woman with even bigger talent, she took on all the challenges that 1950's America had to give.
Paul Levine (writer/director) won Best Director and Production of the Year awards from Daily Variety, Drama-logue Award and the L.A. Weekly, and a Best Director nomination from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle for his L.A. premiere production of Lanford Wilson’s BALM IN GILEAD. He won awards for Best Musical and Production of the Year awards from Daily Variety, Drama-logue and the L.A. Weekly for his production of TARZANA TANZI in association with the Nederlander Organization, and also co-wrote the music. He has directed many films and is currently in pre-production on "The Miracle," starring James Earl Jones. Paul grew up in Stony Brook, NY. He received a BA in History from Colgate University and a combined communications scholarship to UCLA/USC after studying history at the University of London, England. Paul’s theatrical training was at the Royal Shakespeare Company in London; with Stella Adler at the Stella Adler Conservatory in New York; with Harold Clurman in his last New York Master Class; and with Jose Quintero in Los Angeles.
Lillias White (Maybelle Smith) won the 1997 Tony, Drama Desk, People’s Choice and The Outer Critics Awards for her portrayal of a hooker in THE LIFE and she received a Tony nomination for her role in FELA!. She understudied the role of Effie in the original 1981 production of DREAMGIRLS and later played the part in the 1987 revival. Other Broadway credits include: CHICAGO, HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING, ONCE ON THIS ISLAND, CARRIE, ROCK ‘N ROLL! THE FIRST 5,000 YEARS, CATS and BARNUM.
The designers for this show are John Arnone (Set Design), Emilio Sosa (Costume Design), Paul Miller (Light Design), Tony Melfa (Sound Design), Brian Meister (Production Stage Manager), Joe Lauro (Archival Footage from Historic Films), Michael Clark (Projection Design), and Kathy Fabian (Properties Design).
The band includes Eric Brown (Drums), Kiku Collins (Trumpet), George Farmer (Bass), Jason Marshall (Saxaphone) and John Putnam (Guitar). Eric Brown and Kiku Collins are also featured in the roles of ‘Sully’ and ‘Loretta.
The 2012 Mainstage Season program is partially funded by the Suffolk County Executive’s Office and Suffolk County National Bank.
Single tickets are $66 and $76 available at the Box Office at 631-725-9500 or just CLICK HERE to purchase online.
Two for one tickets are available at the Box Office only on performance days after 2 pm; based on availability.
Log on and go to the Bay Street Fan Page! Get the code to receive a $49 ticket. Please tell your friends to like Bay Street and then use the code online or call the Box Office at 631-725-9500.
Other ticket offers include senior citizens and military discounts. Call the Box Office at 631-725-9500 for details.
Please note matinees on 8/25, 29 and 9/1 are cancelled. Please call the Box Office at 631-725-9500 to reschedule or to get a refund.
LILLIAS WHITE IN A POWERFUL RAISE-THE-ROOF PERFORMANCE.
"Lillias White’s powerful performance as Big Maybelle makes a strong case that the 1950’s and 1960’s blues belter’s obscurity is grievously undeserved.Big Maybelle: Soul of the Blues’ is also a great showcase for Ms. White, a Broadway veteran and Tony Award winner, who herself warrants wider recognition. Miss White makes her entrance with a raise-the-roof rendition of ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On’ and remains engaging as she goes on to deliver more than two dozen emotion-laden songs. If ‘Big Maybelle’ were a concert alone it would be a notable one, especially when it loosens up in the second act. The band, led by Michael Mitchell provides terrific accompaniment. John Arnone has designed a gracefully flexible set that evokes a recording studio, nightclubs and other locations. It is enhanced by Paul Miller’s lighting, projections by Michael Clark and archival film footage collected by Joe Lauro. The costume designer Esosa has given Ms. White two handsome outfits, one similar to the ensemble Big Maybelle wore at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, which was captured on film."
New York Times
LILLIAS WHITE IS FABULOUS. SHE BRINGS THE HOUSE TO ITS FEET.
"Backed by a stellar band, the fabulous diva, Lillias White, uses her remarkable chops to belt out ‘Until the Real Thing Comes Along," "Mean to Me," "What A Difference A Day Makes." "Candy" and oh so many more. Lillias White does what Lillias White does; and that is ENTERTAIN. The Tony Award winner brings the house to its feet!"
-Suzanna Bowling, Times Square Chronicles
LILLIAS WHITE BLOWS THE ROOF OFF THE BAY STREET THEATRE.
"The scuttlebutt is that Lillias White blew the roof off the mother during the previews of ‘Big Maybelle: Soul of the Blues.’ Pray tell what is to happen this very evening when the Tony Award winner steps up to the mic as Maybelle Smith at the musical’s Opening Night Gala? Are the workmen at this very moment battening down the hatches at Sag Harbor’s Bay Street Theatre the site of this momentous occasion? The show runs through September 2nd and there is lots of talk about a New York City debut this winter!"
-Vevlyn Wright, Vevlyn’s Pen Magazine
LILLIAS WHITE IS A FORCE-OF-NATURE. SHE IS AN INCOMPARABLE RARE DELIGHT.
"The incomparable force-of-nature Lillias White delivers an unforgettable evening of music. The Broadway diva blew the roof off the theatre and had the packed Opening Night house rocking with approval. The Tony Award-winning sensation practically never left the stage in two acts while delivering 28 soulful songs in the process of chronicling the brief life of the blues singer Big Maybelle. Paul Levine’s tale about a big black woman with a massive raw vocal talent is a perfect vehicle for the dynamic Lillias White who commands the stage with every song. The evening, also directed by Mr. Levine, comes to explosive life whenever the great Lillias White breaks into song. She hits every number out of the park with forceful poignancy. Michael Mitchell’s musical direction is wonderful as are the orchestrations by Kenny Seymour giving the star plenty of room to soar in the demanding role. Some of the marvelous classic songs are ‘One Monkey Don’t Stop the Show,’ ‘Until the Real Thing Comes Along,’ ‘Mean to Me,’ ‘What a Difference A Day Makes,’ ‘You’ll Be Sorry,’ ‘It’s a Man’s Man World,’ ‘Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying,’ ‘My Mother’s Eyes,’ ‘Candy,’ Irving Berlin’s ‘Say It Isn’t So,’ and Peggy Lee’s ‘WhatMore Can a Woman Do?’ What more could you ask for than the amazing Lillias White. Catch her while you can. She’s a rare delight!"
-Patrick Christiano, TheaterLife.com
THE AUDIENCE LEPT UP WHOOPING AND YELLING.
" ‘Big Maybelle: Soul of the Blues’ is a fine new musical.The Tony Award-winning Lillias White certainly has the chops to portray the great Maybelle Smith, accompanied by a stellar band, performing Maybelle’s material with measures of sass and grace.Written and directed by Paul Levine, the show has the intimate feel of a jazz club in Bay Street's cozy space.Most generous is Lillias White herself, shimmying her way through ‘Whole Lot of Shakin’ Goin’ On’ and writhing on a bed with desire, singing tunes, some unfamiliar and most standards.The night I attended, the audience leapt up whooping and yelling, worked up by White's rich, soulful sound, and this spirited show."
-Regina Weinreich, Huffington Post
YOU CAN’T TAKE YOUR EYES OFF LILLIAS WHITE.
"Maybelle Smith’s tragic/triumphant life unfolds in song and storytelling colorfully rendered by Tony Award-winner Lillias White in a voice ranging from rumbling thunder to vibrant trumpet. Her brassy pop-soul and smoke-tinged blues, accompanied by Michael Mitchell’s playful band, are arranged with an ear for authenticity by Broadway’s Kenny Seymour. She reclaims Smith’s ‘Candy’ with bawdy riffs punctuated by climatic whoops. You can’t take your eyes off Lillias White, her big voice and her big, big broken heart. Maybelle Smith’s is a mournful life. But, hey, that’s the blues."
-Steve Parks, Newsday
LILLIAS WHITE IS MESMERIZING. THE BEST OF THE BEST.
"Bay Street Theatre is currently staging the best show I have ever seen there. ‘Big Maybelle: Soul of the Blues’ is a powerhouse and it boasts the single best performance of the year. Lillias White, the star of the show, blew me away! It’s as if Ms. White, a Tony Award-winning actress who gives one of the most powerful and peerless performances I have ever seen, was born to play the role of Big Maybelle. Every interesting aspect of Maybelle’s life is detailed on stage in the span of two hours, which zip by in a fraction of the time. 28 pitch-perfect musical numbers accompany the action, keeping the audience clapping their hands, shouting out and singing along throughout the show. Ms. White is on stage every action-packed second of this riveting masterpiece. This is a woman who can belt and squeak and growl and purr better than any singer I have ever seen.She’s a heck of a talent with the most unbelievable range.And boy, can she ever move! Watching Ms. White become Maybelle Smith was mesmerizing. It’s one thing to come out on stage and be playful, pretty, lively and likeable.But it’s entirely another to make a heartbreakingly personal journey into the depths of despair—to be ugly, weak, drug addled and pathetic—as Ms. White does so well and nakedly as Maybelle, breathing truth and life into a complicated character. ‘Big Maybelle’ is a true story of the blues.The tour-de-force that is Ms. White makes it an absolute can’t miss. This show is the best of the best, a true knockout."
-Dawn Watson, 27east.com
A TOUR-DE-FORCE PERFORMANCE. LILLIAS WHITE IS FABULOUS.
"Lillias White’s performance is a dazzling tour-de-force. Accompanied by a cracker-jack band, Miss White gives the audience a taste of what it must have been like to see one of the GREAT blues performers of the 1950’s complete with vocal flourishes, high-energy delivery and even audience participation. She is fabulous."
-Dan Koontz, Dan’s Papers
A STORY OF BLUES AND A MUSICAL PASSION.
"Lillias White, the Tony-award winning actress and singer who took on the monster task of capturing blues legend Maybelle Smith.The story was told almost entirely in song, and apart from an occasional riff with a band member, Big Maybelle delivered it alone. Her first number, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” brought the audience right in to the allure of Big Maybelle. She was larger than life, and she wasn’t apologizing. The energy in the performance was striking, and White quickly swung from one side of the emotional spectrum to the other."
-Emily J. Weitz, Sag Harbor Express
WHITE IS RIVETING IN "BIG MAYBELLE."
"As Smith, Ms. White is a one-woman tornado, commanding attention from the farthest reaches of the theater, losing herself in the gritty, up-tempo R&B, frequently holding the last note of a line with a powerful and husky vibrato, and tossing impish and often suggestive asides to the band and audience. Though a first-rate, six-piece band is onstage throughout, Ms. White is almost a one-woman show."
-Christopher Walsh, East Hampton Star|
Posted: July 26, 2012