They share a birthday as well as a childhood spent in Washington, D.C. Now the enchanting Roz White is bringing to the stage one of her greatest musical influences, the legendary Pearl Bailey, in Pearl Bailey … By Request, now playing at MetroStage.
White, who originally wrote and performed the show at THEARC in Anacostia, has partnered with Thomas W. Jones to expand the musical, where the Helen Hayes Award winner brings to life an era in Baileys career that most audiences are too young to remember.
Inspired by her sultry style and witty banter with the audience, the dialog traces the many successes in Baileys life as well as the controversies, such as her third marriage in 1952 to the love of her life, drummer Louis Bellson, who was white, and the NAACP protests of the 1946 Broadway show St. Louis Woman.
Loosely based on an album recorded in the 50s, White effortlessly glides through 15 of Baileys hits, including St. Louis Blues, Wont You Come Home Bill Bailey, and a mesmerizing performance of the throaty ballad Here You Come With Love.
A graduate of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts and Howard University, the versatile White laces her performance with Baileys mischievous sense of humor while impressively delivering an enchanting evening of celebrated ballads, standards and swing melodies.
Partnering with White onstage is William Hubbard as Oran Hot Lips Page, a jazz trumpeter and powerful vocalist who appeared with Bailey on many of her recordings. A Helen Hayes Award winner for Best Musical Direction for Crowns at Arena Stage, Hubbards ebullient duets with White include The Hucklebuck, Aint She Sweet and Baby Its Cold Outside.
By Request is the latest autobiographical musical presented at MetroStage by Artistic Director Carolyn Griffin, following the widely successful tribute shows to Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole and Alberta Hunter.
We are so excited to bring this world premier to MetroStage, said the energetic Griffin after the show. This is what we do here and I am so proud to be a part of introducing our theatre audience to the incredible talents of Roz White and Bill Hubbard.
Under the musical direction of keyboardist Marvin Ford, a four-piece on-stage ensemble perfectly emulates the smooth jazz sound of the 1940s and 1950s, turning the converted warehouse into a nightclub reminiscent of Harlems Apollo Theatre.
Ford, a 2004 VH1 Songwriter of the Year winner, is a prolific composer and arranger and leads the innovative Yusef Chisolm on bass, David Cole on guitar and Greg Holloway on drums.
Making her MetroStage debut is director Shirley Basfield Dunlap, who easily adapts her veteran skills to the intimate theatre as White and Hubbard establish a familiar interaction with the audience that was a trademark of Baileys nightclub performances.
Mayor Bill Euille, who was in the audience Saturday evening, jokingly took some credit for the show finally coming to MetroStage. I have been a supporter of this theatre for many years, said Euille as he mingled with the audience members and cast after the show. I loved the other tributes to Nat King Cole and Duke Ellington and have been asking Carolyn for years to do one on Pearl Bailey.
Euille continued in his enthusiastic praise for the show. I loved it and Roz was fabulous, remarked Euille. Everyone needs to see this.
Pearl Bailey … by Request is playing now through November 9 at MetroStage, 1201 North Royal Street. For tickets or more information, visit www.metrostage.org or call 703-548-9044.