Writer Sharon Eberson wrote a wonderful review of the World Premiere Musical ‘Billy Strayhorn: Something to Live For’ after its grand opening performance. Here are some excerpts from that review in On Stage Pittsburgh…
“In a full-circle, overdue moment, the words “Hi, I’m Billy Strayhorn,” are at last being said on a Pittsburgh stage. Conjuring the late jazz genius is Darius de Haas, kicking off a tour-de-force performance and immediately opening the floodgates of song, dance and history in the exuberant, celebratory Billy Strayhorn: Something to Live For.”
“Something to Live For illuminates the classically trained, Homewood-raised Strayhorn’s life as an out, gay Black man, from his impoverished childhood to Westinghouse High School to his career as an innovator in the world of jazz, when he was often overshadowed by his longtime collaborator, Duke Ellington.”
“The show boasts a bravura cast, led by the captivating de Haas and radiant dynamo Keziah John-Paul, the latter as Ivie Anderson, the famed vocalist for the Ellington Orchestra, and doubling as Billy’s mother, Lillian.Written by Pittsburgher Rob Zellers (The Chief), with director Kent Gash, and with arrangements by music director, conductor and pianist Matthew Whitaker, you can at times see the struggle to curate a life lived to the fullest and the endless choices of timeless music – much of it attributed to Ellington.”
“They would go on to create some of the world’s most beloved jazz works, with Strayhorn taking the lead as arranger and composer. Those include Lush Life, written when Billy was a teenager, Satin Doll, Something to Live For and the song that became Ellington’s signature, Take the ‘A’ Train. On Friday (September 23rd), after the stunning, inspiring and yes, lush retelling of a singular life, with the jazzed-up audience on its feet and clapping, the company gathered to dance together in one last jam. Having just said hello, no one wanted to say goodbye to the music of fellow Pittsburgher Billy Strayhorn.”
The Pittsburgh Public Theater world premiere of Billy Strayhorn: Something to Love For, is at the O’Reilly Theater, Downtown, through October 11, 2023. Tickets: visit https://ppt.org/production/87809/billy-strayhorn-something-to-live-for or call 412-316-1600. For more information, visit the website https://www.strayhornmusical.com/.