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HARRY AND LENA OPENS TO SOLD-OUT AUDIENCES
Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (WBTT) will open its third show of the season with sold-out ticket sales even before opening. In order to meet an anticipated demand, the Troupe added two additional performances, which also quickly sold out.
“We are overwhelmed with the success of this season,” remarked Founding Artistic Director Nate Jacobs. “Purlie tickets were hard to come by, we added two matinees for The Whipping Man and now to have Harry and Lena sold-out before opening is just amazing. We are thrilled at the response to our work and very gratified at the support from the community.”
Harry and Lena is an original musical revue written and directed by Nate Jacobs centered around well-known entertainers Harry Belafonte and Lena Horne. Both of these two stars were very involved with the civil rights movement, a reason Jacobs decided to stage the show during Black History month. The setting is a nightclub somewhere in Florida, during the late 1950s. During the course of the evening the audience will learn bits and pieces about the lives of these two icons, as well as enjoy some of their most popular hits, including Banana Boat, Matilda, Man I Love and Stormy Weather.
Michael Mendez, a well-known Troupe member, has recently returned from working with agents in NY to play the role of young Harry Beleafonte. Lexie DeAnda comes from Texas to play the role of Lena Horne.
According to Jacobs, “I met Lexie during auditions at the Southern Theater Conference last year and thought she would be perfect for this role. She is extremely talented and together she and Michael are a dynamic couple, phenomenal in their roles.”
The show also has four ensemble cast members. Two males are Troupe favorite Sheldon Roden and a new comer Joshua Thompson. The two female ensemble members are both new to WBTT. Victoria Byrd will be making her WBTT debut with this show. Candace Culcleasure is also new to WBTT, but not to Sarasota. Many audience members will recognize her from Asolo Rep’s season opening cast of Showboat.
About Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe: The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe of Florida, Inc. (WBTT) is the only professional black theater company on Florida’s West Coast. The mission is to “produce plays that promote and celebrate the African-American experience, attract diverse audiences, while using its productions as a vehicle for supporting African-American artists and building the self-esteem of African-American youth.” Throughout the past decade, WBTT has produced many productions and has gained a reputation for high quality, thought-provoking and entertaining performances.
Since its inception, WBTT has mentored and inspired many African-American youth. Many of the aspiring professional artists trained in the WBTT performing arts program have gone on to work with national and regional companies, including Apphia Campbell who most recently has been seen performing her one-woman show, Black is the Color of My Voice, in Shanghai and New York and Teresa Stanley who was a featured cast member on Broadway in The Color Purple andpresently stars in Rock of Ages.