Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Lia Chang: Tyrone Davis Jr., Zurin Villanueava, Rheaume Crenshaw, Johmaalya Adelekan and Jacob Ming-Trent Star in Crossroads Theatre Company’s Ain’t Misbehavin’, Helmed by Two-time Tony Award Nominee André De Shields

André de Shields Photo by Lia Chang

André de Shields Photo by Lia Chang

From October 6- 23, 2011, Crossroads Theatre Company is presenting the Tony Award®- winning musical, Ain’t Misbehavin’, helmed and choreographed by André De Shields, which celebrates Fats Waller’s world of rent parties, hot jazz and the exuberance of the Harlem Renaissance. Opening night is October 8, 2011.

A two-time Tony Award nominee, De Shields, whose prolific career spans more than four decades, was a member of the original company of Ain’t Misbehavin’ which initially opened at the Manhattan Theatre Club’s cabaret in February, 1978. The reception was such that it was developed into a full scale musical which transferred to Broadway, opening in May, 1978 at the Longacre Theatre and instantly made history. In addition to receiving a Drama Desk Award nomination for creating the role of “André” in the original production, De Shields won an Emmy Award for his role in the NBC Television Special production of Ain’t Misbehavin’ which aired nationally in June, 1982.

“As an original member of the Broadway miracle, Ain’t Misbehavin’, I cannot imagine a more splendid way to celebrate the production’s 33rd anniversary than by serving as director for this perfect musical as it opens Crossroads’ 2011-2012 season,” said De Shields. “Moreover, what a delicious privilege it is to be able to pass the show’s incomparable legacy to a new generation of distinctive performers.”

For De Shields, the show also marks his return to Crossroads, where in 1993 he remounted his cabaret sensation, Haarlem Nocturne, and directed Play On! in 1999..

The Ain’t Misbehavin’ cast will feature Tyrone Davis Jr. (André), Zurin Villanueava (Charlaine), Rheaume Crenshaw (Nell), Johmaalya Adelekan (Armelia), and Jacob Ming-Trent (Ken). Backed by a swinging live band, headed by J. Leonard Oxley as musical director and onstage pianist, the five performers will capture the era with such favorite hit songs as “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” “Black and Blue,” “Honeysuckle Rose,” “The Joint Is Jumpin’,” “Squeeze Me” and “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” The design team includes Burke Wilmore (Lighting/set design), Deborah Caney (Costume Design) and Joshua Reid (Sound Design).

“Ain’t Misbehavin’ was my introduction to Broadway as a youth, and I am pleased to present it to Crossroads audiences to kick off our season of music,” said Marshall Jones, executive director of Crossroads. “I know André will put his own personal stamp on it as an original cast member.”

The inimitable Thomas “Fats” Waller rose to international fame during the Golden Age of the Cotton Club, honky tonk dives along Lenox Avenue, rent parties, stride piano players and that jumpin’ new beat, Swing. Ain’t Misbehavin’ evokes the delightful humor and infectious energy of this American original as a versatile cast struts, strums and sings the songs he made famous in a career that ranged from uptown clubs to downtown Tin Pan Alley to Hollywood and concert stages in the U.S., Canada and Europe.

In a career spanning more than forty years, André De Shields has distinguished himself as an unparalleled actor, director and educator. He is the recipient of the 2009 National Black Theatre Festival’s Living Legend Award and the 2007 Village Voice OBIE Award for Sustained Excellence of Performance. He has garnered seven AUDELCO Awards for Outstanding Performance and Direction. Mr. De Shields is best known for his show stopping performances in four legendary Broadway musicals: The Full Monty (Tony Nomination), Play On! (Tony Nomination), Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Emmy Award) and The Wiz (Title Role). He also is renown for five widely acclaimed collaborations with The Classical Theatre of Harlem: Derek Walcott’s Dream on Monkey Mountain, Caligula, King Lear, Langston Hughes’ Black Nativity and Archbishop Supreme Tartuffe. Film: Extreme Measures with Hugh Grant, Prison with Viggo Mortensen, Robert O’Hara’s Inheritance with Keith David and The American Snitch. Television: Rescue Me, Life On Mars, Lipstick Jungle, Sex and the City, Cosby, Law & Order, As the World Turns and Another World. Regional: David Mamet’s A Life in the Theatre, Inherit the Wind, Death of a Salesman, Our Town, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Ibsen’s Ghosts with Jane Alexander, and most recently as the titular character in Charles Smith’s The Gospel According To James, directed by Chuck Smith. He is a distinguished alumnus of both the University of Wisconsin-Madison and New York University (Gallatin School). A triple Capricorn, André is the ninth of eleven children born and reared in Baltimore, Maryland.

Founded in 1978 by Ricardo Khan and L. Kenneth Richardson, Crossroads Theatre Company embraces the vision that African-American theater is intended for a broad-based, diverse audience. As a major force in the development of new ideas and the introduction of formerly marginalized writers, Crossroads produces works that enrich and diversify the representation of African American culture on the American stage. Crossroads has produced more than 40 world premieres and received the Tony Award® in 1999 for Outstanding Regional Theatre in the United States.

The Gospel According to James Reviews and Articles:
The Gospel According to James’ André De Shields, Charles Smith, Chuck Smith, Tyler Jacob Rollinson and Wardell Julius Clark Nominated for Black Theater Alliance Awards Review-The Gospel According to James Gospel According to James Slideshow The Gospel According to James Theatre Review: “The Gospel According to James” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre Review: IRT’s ‘Gospel According to James’
INDIANAPOLIS RECORDER: Whose ‘gospel’ you gonna believe? Victory Gardens Presents The Gospel According to James 5/14-6/12 ‘Gospel’ looks at lynchings from 2 characters’ views IRT premieres play that shows contradictions in Marion lynching
From the Danner Lounge with André De Shields André De Shields Stars in World Premiere of Fact-Based Gospel According to James at Indiana Rep
theatermania: Andre De Shields to Star in The Gospel According To James at Indiana Repertory Theatre The Gospel According to James De Shields Headlines THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JAMES at Indiana Repertory The Gospel According to James to Debut André De Shields Will Star in World Premiere Gospel According to James at Indiana Rep Andre De Shields to Star in The Gospel According To James at Indiana Repertory Theatre
André De Shields Set for World Premiere of Charles Smith’s The Gospel According to James at Indiana Rep, 3/22-4/10

Other Articles on André De Shields:
Photos: André De Shields leads the cast of Charles Smith’s Knock Me A Kiss at The National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, NC, 8/2-8/4
André De Shields to Direct Reading of Jacqueline Malcolm’s The Trade at The Player’s Club on 7/19
Project1Voice’s Multiple Staged Readings of Alice Childress’ Trouble in Mind features André De Shields, Peter Coyote, Roger Robinson, Leslie Uggams, LaChanze, John Mahoney, Bill Irwin, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Irma P. Hall on June 20
André De Shields in Charles Smith’s The Gospel According to James at the Victory Gardens Biograph through June 12
André De Shields set for Chicago Premiere of Charles Smith’s The Gospel According to James at the Victory Gardens Biograph
Photos: De Shields, McClendon, Elisa, Glasco, Nemser, Phillips, Thompson at The Sovereign State of Boogedy Boogedy Reading
Spend Valentine’s Day with André De Shields in The Sovereign State of Boogedy Boogedy at the Abingdon Theatre
André De Shields and Charlayne Woodard are featured in Red Bull Theater’s Off Broadway Production of The Witch of Edmonton
André De Shields leads cast of Charles Smith’s Knock Me A Kiss at Abrons Arts Center
André De Shields is having a Devilishly Good Time in Damn Yankees at The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport
Photos of André De Shields in Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory: From Douglass to Deliverance
Achieving the American Dream, Professional Charmer André De Shields Sees Theater is a Way to Life
André De Shields Celebrates Black History Month Starring in The Working Theater’s Production of Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory at The Abingdon in February 2010
Classical Theatre of Harlem’s Archbishop Supreme Tartuffe, MTC’s Ruined are Top Winners at 2009 Audelcos
Multimedia: Archbishop Supreme Tartuffe Opening Night Party Photos
Multimedia: Archbishop Supreme Tartuffe
André De Shields and Reg E. Cathey Star in Cato at The Flea
Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive.

Lia Chang Photo by Brianne Michelle Photography

Lia Chang Photo by Brianne Michelle Photography

Lia Chang is an actor, performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multimedia journalist.

As a photographer and videographer, Lia collaborates with artists, organizations and companies in establishing their documentary photo archive and social media presence. She has been documenting her colleagues and contemporaries in the arts, fashion and journalism since making her stage debut as Liat in the National Tour of South Pacific, with Robert Goulet and Barbara Eden. Lia currently plays Nurse Lia on “One Life to Live”. She has appeared in Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and “New York Undercover”.

Selections of Lia’s archive of Asian Pacific Americans in the arts, fashion, journalism, politics and space are in the newly created LIA CHANG THEATER PHOTOGRAPHY PORTFOLIO in the ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN PERFORMING ARTS COLLECTION housed in the Library of Congress Asian Division’s Asian American Pacific Islander Collection.

Lia’s portraits and performance photos have appeared in Vanity Fair, Gourmet, German Elle, Women’s Wear Daily, The Paris Review, TV Guide, Daily Variety, Interior Design, American Theatre,, Life & Style, OUT, New York Magazine, InStyle,,,,,, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, USA Today, The Boston Globe, New York Times and Washington Post. A former syndicated arts and entertainment columnist for KYODO News, Lia is the New York Bureau Chief for She writes about culture, style and Asian American issues for a variety of publications and this Backstage Pass with Lia Chang blog.

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