The Rose Nagelberg Theatre at The Baruch Performing Arts Center was SRO for the special presentation of Earl Wilson Jr.'s "topical, rousing & inspiring new musical YES!, directed, choreographed & staged by the brilliant Mercedes Ellington. The musical presented by The Duke Ellington Center for the Arts imagines a meeting between Barack Obama & DR. Martin Luther King in a mille-second of space time, in 2004 at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. It envisions how Dr. King helps Mr. Obama embrace the journey to the White House and his place in history as the first Black President of the United States. Book, Music & Lyrics are by Earl Wilson, Jr.; Music arranger & director is Eugene Gwozdz; Music consultant is J. Leonard Oxley and YES! Choir director is Anthony Evans.
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"Throughout the show, there were stunning and effective numbers by T. Oliver Reid as Dr. King, Erick Pinnick as Barack Obama, Allyson Tucker as Michelle Obama, Brittany Nicholas as Sasha Obama, Joanne Javien as Malia Obama and Adreinne Fishe as Rosa Parks backed by a powerful choir led by Anthony Evans. Soloist N'Kenge positively shined throughout. The 12 musical numbers ranging from the chilling "The Far Side of Hell" to the tender, romantic duet "She Makes Me laugh" to the rousing closing "Say YES! " thrilled the audience as Obama's journey unfolded on stage. Punctuating the songs were evocative dances choreographed by Ms. Ellington and performed beautifully by Michael Choi, Vanda Polaskova & Sarika Hudson. Ms. Ellington served as the evening's narrator.
"Hats off to the multi-ethnic YES! Choir that included N'Kenge, Adreinne Fishe, Brittany Nicholas, Joanne Javien, Jessica Foster, Samantha Blain, Richie Abanes, Ray Bendana, Megan Corcoran, Joshua Dela Cruz, Renee Veronica Freeman, Francheska Gomez, Javier E. Gomez, Kimberly Hamby, Brianna Horne, Cameron Bernard Jones, Francesca MacArron, Jaygee Macapugay, Tyrone Roberson, Cara Scherker, Kevin Paul Smith, Whitney, Anthony Wills, Jr. and Yaniv Zarif.
"The performance was sandwiched between pre- and post receptions where hundreds of Ellington's fans gathered in support including Brian Stokes Mitchell, Drama Desk President Isa Goldberg, Nanette Shaw, Kent Drake, producer Robert Blume, choreographer Alessandro Pellicani, playwright & director Kenyetta Lethridge whose Innocent Flesh bows next week along with her producers Diana C. Zollicoffer and Michael Mann in from Los Angeles and fashion and design legend Audrey Smaltz."
Additional credits for YES! include Production Stage Manager, Howard Jones, Sound Designer, Bernard Fox, Company Manager, Marilyn Lester and Production Consultant, Kent Drake.
Kenyetta Lethridge and Lucia Kaiser
Erick Pinnick and T. Oliver Reid
Diana Zollicoffer, Erick Pinnick and T. Oliver Reid
Diana Zollicoffer, Audrey Smaltz, Kenyetta Lethridge
Kenyetta Lethridge, Mercedes Ellington, and Diana Zollicoffer
Kathleen Giordano, Diana Zollicoffer, and Kenyetta Lethridge
Michael Mann , Diana Zollicoffer, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Kenyetta Lethridge
Francesca MacArron and Michael Margolis
Brittany Nicholas and Joanne Javien
Brian Stokes Mitchell and Mercedes Ellington