Musical About African-American Recording Artists to Premiere

Red-hot new musical about African-American recording artists set to premiere at Rutgers University–Camden

hand-feature1The Rutgers University–Camden theater program, in conjunction with the Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts exhibition, “Sounds of Camden,” will open the curtains on its 2014-15 season with a world-premiere new musical, “Hand Me Down the Silver Trumpet.” The musical celebrates the legacy of great African-American recording artists of the 1920s and 30s, and features performances of classic blues, jazz, and spirituals by students, alumni, guest artists, and a truly swinging band.

Evening Performances are 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 17, and Saturday, Oct. 18 in the Walter K. Gordon Theater on the Rutgers–Camden campus. There will also be a special mid-morning matinee performance at 10 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 16, and a matinee performance at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 19.

Conceived and directed by Kenneth Elliott, an associate professor of theater and chair of the Department of Fine Arts at Rutgers–Camden, the show stars Dionne Fields of Philadelphia, an alumna of Rutgers–Camden’s theater program, in a dual role as “Mamie,” a 20s blues singer, and “Dionne,” the contemporary mother of a Rutgers–Camden student.

SilverTSenior music major Donnel Treadwell Jr. of Camden, a graduate of JDT Christian Academy in Pennsauken, plays her son, “James,” who discovers a trove of old 78s in his great-grandmother’s attic and is magically transported back in time to a recording session at Victor Records circa 1928.

Known for his Off-Broadway work in New York, Elliott co-founded Theatre-in-Limbo. Recently, he directed “The Mystery of Irma Vep” at the Bay Street Theater. In 2009, he co-wrote and directed another original piece, “Devil Boys from Beyond,” which was awarded “Best of Fringe” at the New York International Fringe Festival. Elliott has also directed many productions at Rutgers–Camden, including “The Fairy Queen,” “Angels in America,” “The Glass Menagerie,” and “A Doll’s House.”

The score consists of 18 tunes, some familiar and some obscure, written by top composers and lyricists of the 1920s and 30s, all of which were recorded for Victor’s “race catalog.” This was a vast catalog of recordings that were marketed to African-American communities of the period.

Musical supervision is by recent Barrymore Award nominee Stefan Arnärson, technical coordinator for the Walter K. Gordon Theater at Rutgers–Camden, who is also handling the arrangements and orchestrations, many of which were transcribed from the original recordings. The 12 piece on-stage, live band is made up of some of the best young professional jazz musicians in the area, along with students and alumni from Rutgers–Camden.

_DSC5889Choreography is by Samuel Antonio Reyes, who was recently nominated for a Barrymore Award for his choreography on “Alter Boyz” at the 11th Hour Theatre Company. James Mobley, technical director of the theater program at Rutgers–Camden, will design the authentic-looking recording studio and attic scenery for the piece. Costume design is by Mark Mariani and lighting by Andrew Cowles. Stage Management duties are held by sophomore English major Stella Brennan-Romano of Montclair.

Tickets are $15 for general admission; $10 for senior citizens, faculty, staff, and alumni; and $7 for non-Rutgers students with a valid ID. Tickets may be purchased by calling the Impact Booth, located in the Campus Center, at (856) 225-6211. Tickets will also be sold at the box office beginning two hours prior to curtain time. Please be advised that the box office can only accept cash.

For more information, visit rutgerscamdentheater.com. To arrange tickets for the mid-morning matinee, please contact Jake Hufner at (856) 225-2870 or jhufner@camden.rutgers.edu, or Maria Buckley at (856) 225-6176 or maria.buckley@camden.rutgers.edu.

For more information on the “Sounds of Camden” exhibition, visit http://bit.ly/1sLYlzi.

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