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Cast, Creative Team Announced for "The Gospel at Colonus"

An Exuberant Blues & Gospel Re-telling of Sophocles’

Oedipus at Colonus

Performances January 17-26, 2020 in the Cabot Theatre

 

Milwaukee, Wis. (December 20, 2019) — Skylight Music Theatre today announced the cast and creative team for The Gospel at Colonus running January 17-26, 2020 in the Cabot Theatre at the Broadway Theatre Center, 158 N. Broadway, in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward. 

With the ground-shaking thunder of a revival meeting and an electrifying gospel and blues score (composed by Bob Telson), The Gospel at Colonus is an exuberant re-telling of Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus conceived and adapted by Lee Breuer.

Featuring soaring voices, thrilling music, and powerful dance, the musical is a timeless story of compassion and forgiveness set in the context of a black Pentecostal service. Gospel premiered on Broadway in 1988 and was revived in 2018, playing to capacity audiences at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park.

2017 Milwaukee “Artist of the Year” Sheri Williams Pannell to Direct  

“I remember the first time I encountered The Gospel at Colonus,” said Sheri Williams Pannell, who will direct Skylight’s production. “My ears told me I had just experienced an exhilarating worship service, but this was not a Bible story. It was Sophocles! The musical masterfully finds parallels between the Black church and Greek theatre to create an uplifting story about the power of redemption. I know Milwaukee audiences will be as thrilled as I was when they experience it.”

Williams Pannell previously directed Crowns, Violet, and Ain’t Misbehavin’ at Skylight. She also performed in Skylight’s productions of Once On This Island, Porgy and Bess, The King and I and Wings, among others. An assistant professor and head of the Musical Theatre program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Peck School of the Arts, Williams Pannell was named a 2017 City of Milwaukee Artist of the Year.

The Gospel at Colonus cast includes an exciting mix of Skylight veterans, including Byron Jones as Oedipus, Tasha McCoy as Antigone, Raven Dockery as Ismene, Shawn Holmes as Choragos, Kevin James Sievert as Balladeer and Marvin Hannah as Messenger.  Performers making their Skylight debuts include Curtis Bannister as Theseus, Allen Edge as Creon, and Dontrell Williams as Polyneices.

Gospel & Blues Band Will Perform on Stage

According to Williams Pannell, one of the highlights of the production will be the seven-piece band featured on stage, conducted by Music Director Christie Chiles Twillie. “Christie is a wonderfully expressive conductor and musician. Audiences will enjoy the special energy that comes with having the band performing live on stage alongside the performers,” said Williams Pannell.

The Gospel at Colonus premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York City in 1983 and opened on Broadway in 1988 with a cast led by Morgan Freeman as the Messenger and Clarence Fountain and the Five Blind Boys of Alabama as Oedipus. The musical was a finalist for the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and won the 1984 Obie Award for Best Musical. Songs include “How Should I See You Through My Tears” and “Lift Me Up Like A Dove.”

Gospel at Colonus takes two seemingly unlikely partners, a play written in 406 B.C.E. and a Pentecostal church service, and melds them into a revelatory, illuminating and inspiring work,” said Skylight Music Theatre Artistic Director Michael Unger. “Skylight is proud to present a piece that broadens our perceptions, allows us to look at one of the world’s oldest plays through a new lens, and experience this magical mashup with thrilling shake-the-rafters (and chandelier) music in our beloved Cabot Theatre.”

 

GOSPEL CREATIVE TEAM 

Director............................................................................................................ Sheri Williams Pannell

Music Director.................................................................................................... Christie Chiles Twillie

Scenic Designer...................................................................................................... Julia Noulin-Merat

Costume Designer............................................................................................................... Amy Horst

Lighting Designer........................................................................................................ Susan Nicholson

Sound Designer.................................................................................................................. Fitz Patton

Stage Manager.................................................................................................. Martinique M. Barthel

 

GOSPEL CAST

Oedipus................................................................................……………………………………………Byron Jones

Antigone........................................................................................................................ Tasha McCoy

Theseus/Choir Member............................................................................................... Curtis Bannister

Ismene........................................................................................................................ Raven Dockery

Creon............................................................................................................................... Allen Edge*

Polyneices/Choir Member......................................................................................... Dontrell Williams

Choragos...................................................................................................................... Shawn Holmes

Balladeer/Choir Member....................................................................................... Kevin James Sievert

Messenger.................................................................................................................. Marvin Hannah

Choir

Erica Brown, Texas Bufkin, Cynthia Cobb*, Tosha Freeman, Michaela Usher

 

*Denotes member of Actor’s Equity Association

 

Band

Guitar................................................................................................................... Steve Lewandowski

Bass................................................................................................................................... Mike Ritter

Drums.............................................................................................................. Michael “Ding” Lorenz

Organ................................................................................................................................. Chris Crain

Sax............................................................................................................................... Curt Hanrahan

Trumpet........................................................................................................................... Greg Garcia

Trombone................................................................................................................... Kyle Samuelson

 

THE GOSPEL OF COLONUS

Friday, January 17 – Sunday, January 26, 2020

Conceived and Adapted by Lee Breuer

Music Composed by Bob Telson

Original Lyrics by Lee Breuer

Adapted Lyrics by Bob Telson and Lee Breuer

Directed by Sheri Williams Pannell

Recommended for ages 8 and up


Creative Team
Biographies 

Sheri Williams Pannell (Director) is a stage director, playwright, theater educator and performer. For Skylight she directed Crowns, Violet, Ain’t Misbehavin’ and performed in Once On This Island (Erzulie, MAMA), Porgy And Bess (Maria), The King And I (Lady Thiang) and Wings (Nurse/Mrs. Timmons). She has worked at Madison Children’s Theatre, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Old Lyric Rep, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The Rep, and University Opera (Madison). Williams Pannell is an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Peck School of the Arts, serving as Area Head for the Musical Theatre Program. She is artistic director at Bronzeville Arts Ensemble and an artistic associate at First Stage.  Williams Pannell co-directs the drama group at Calvary Baptist Church. A long-standing member of the theatre community, in 2017 the City of Milwaukee recognized Williams Pannell as an Artist of the Year. A graduate of Spelman College, Williams Pannell also holds an MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Christie Chiles Twillie (Music Director) made her Skylight debut as music director for Five Guys Named Moe (2019), winning her the 2019 Footlights Award for Best Musical Direction, and recently music directed Disney’s Newsies (2019) for Skylight. Since moving to Chicago, she has piano conducted over 30 productions. Recent projects: piano conductor for the Chicago Premiere of Minnie’s Boys (Porchlight), Music Director for the U.S. premiere of Hopelessly Devoted, (Piven), and Music Director for an all-female workshop of The Color Purple (Definition Theatre) with the show’s original Broadway director Gary Griffin. In 2017, she earned Best Music Direction nominations for her original score for Yellowman and Big Fish: The Musical.

 

Principal Cast Biographies

Byron Jones (Oedipus) was last seen at Skylight in performances under the direction of Stephen Wadsworth and Francesca Zambello. He won his first vocal competition at the age of 13, and has been singing for over 50 years performing in Europe and major American concert halls. He studied at the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. He has taught voice at the Milwaukee High School of the Arts, Eastbrook School and Green Tree Learning Center Summer programs. He has held gospel workshops at Carthage College and shares his ministry in music with the congregations of Community Baptist and Incarnation Lutheran.

Tasha McCoy (Antigone) was last seen at Skylight in 2016 in Crowns, playing the role of Wanda. She has performed in Milwaukee theaters and venues as both an actress and vocalist for over 20 years.  Her work in Antarctica, WI, Flyin' West and Black Nativity have established her in Milwaukee's diverse theater community.

Curtis Bannister (Theseus/Choir Member) was a co-star on NBC’s Chicago Fire as Reimers. He played Sid Sorokin in The Pajama Game at Theatre at the Center in Indiana. Other highlights include Pirelli in Sweeney Todd (off-Broadway), the Celebrant in Bernstein’s Mass and at the Ravinia Festival with the Chicago Symphony, Don Jose in Carmen for Natchez Music Festival, Ragotski in Candide with The Philadelphia Orchestra, the title role of Otello, Enjolras in Les Miserables, and Sportin’ Life in Porgy & Bess for Utah Festival Opera, and Set in The Scorpions’ Sting.

Raven Dockery (Ismene) has performed at Skylight in Violet, Crowns, Once on this Island, Hair and “Raven and Ryan on Shuffle”, a cabaret with fellow Skylight favorite and longtime friend Ryan Cappleman. She was recently seen in Black Nativity with Black Arts MKE. She has performed with Paramount Theatre (Rent), First Stage (Shrek and The Wiz), The Milwaukee Rep (Dreamgirls), Barn Theatre (Hair) and American Gothic Performing Arts Festival (Ragtime). She is currently the Vocal Director for musicals at Shorewood High School where she vocal directed Rent, Mama Mia and Urinetown. She is pursuing her Masters in Music from Carthage College where she also serves as the Gospel Choir Director.

Allen Edge (Creon) has performed with The Steppenwolf Theatre Company, The Goodman Theatre, Geva Theatre Center, First Stage Children’s Theatre and Renaissance Theater Works.  He was also featured in a number of commercials and films, including Barber Shop 2 and Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns. As a comedian, he has performed at Zanies in Chicago, Barrel of Laughs, All Jokes Aside, Jokes & Notes in Chicago, U Got Jokes Chicago, Comedy Central’s Comic Justice, The Comedy Café in Milwaukee, The Apollo Theatre in New York, and as the opening act for Patti La Belle, Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson, and The O’Jays. 

Dontrell Williams (Polyneices/Choir Member) will be making his Skylight debut. He is a recent graduate from Cardinal Stritch University where he appeared in Spring Awakening as Moritz, The Last Cyclist as Pavel, W;t as Dr. Kelekian, Tartuffe as Orgon, Godspell as Lamar, Midsummer Night’s Dream as Puck and Little Shop of Horrors as Audrey 2.

Shawn Holmes (Choragos) was recently seen at Skylight in Newsies and Five Guys Named Moe. In 2016 he won a Footlights Best Supporting Actor in a Musical Award for his performance as Jacob in La Cage aux Folles. He has performed with theatres throughout Wisconsin including Florentine Opera, First Stage, Middleton Players Theatre, Black Arts MKE, and Four Seasons Theatre. Some of his favorite past performances were Coalhouse Walker Jr. in Ragtime (winner of Best Actor in a Musical – Broadway World) and Sebastian the Crab in The Little Mermaid.

Kevin James Sievert (Balladeer/Choir Member) was last seen at Skylight in Newsies and in Five Guys Named Moe. Originally from Manitowoc, Wis., he attended Silver Lake College of the Holy Family studying Vocal Performance and Pedagogy. Some favorite credits include Jamie Wellerstein in The Last Five Years and Beethoven in Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead at The University of Wisconsin-Manitowoc for which he received an Irene Ryan Award Nomination. He also played Donkey in Shrek: The Musical and Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar.

Marvin Hannah (Messenger) was last at Skylight in Hot Mikado. He is artistic associate with Bronzeville Arts Ensemble (BAE); and has performed with BAE, The Brew City Big Band, The Heritage Chorale, and Patrick Lundy and The Ministers of Music, of Washington, D.C. He was a member of the Emmy-winning collaboration, “Crossing the Bridge,” hosted by TV journalist Joanne Williams. He spent 30 years in Washington, DC., where he performed with Jessye Norman, B. B. King, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Jennifer Holiday and others.

PERFORMANCE INFORMATION

Performances of The Gospel at Colonus are Friday, January 17 through Sunday January 26, 2020 in the Cabot Theatre, Broadway Theatre Center, 158 N. Broadway in the Historic Third Ward of Milwaukee. 

BOX OFFICE

Tickets available at the Broadway Theatre Center Box Office, 158 N. Broadway, by calling (414) 291-7800, or visiting www.skylightmusictheatre.org

  • NOTE: Please let the Box Office know if accessible seating is needed, or if patrons will have a wheelchair or walker.
  • Box Office hours are noon - 6 p.m. The Box Office window is also open two hours prior to performances.
  • Group discounts are available for parties of 10 or more by calling (414) 291-7800 (noon – 6 p.m.) and asking for Kelley, or by emailing tickets@skylightmusictheatre.org
  • For more information visit skylightmusictheatre.org, email info@skylightmusictheatre.org

SPECIAL EVENTS

Skylight Insights. Free in-depth discussions with special guests one hour before Wednesday and Sunday performances.

ADA If you have ADA needs please contact the Box Office at Tickets@skylightmusictheatre.org or (414) 291-7800.

SKYLIGHT BAR & BISTRO

Skylight Bar & Bistro is located on the second floor of The Broadway Theatre Center. Open two hours before each Cabot Theatre performance featuring gourmet dining and fine wine by Indulge Wine Room. Reservations are recommended at www.skylightmusictheatre.org/bistro or by calling (414) 291-3773. Counter service is available without reservations.

PARKING VOUCHERS

Purchase $5 discounted parking vouchers from the Broadway Theatre Center Box Office for use in the Historic Third Ward parking garage at 212 N. Milwaukee Street (one block east and one block north). Vouchers are valid between 5 p.m. and 11:59 p.m. for evening performances only. Voucher sales are not available during intermission. No refunds.

SPONSORS

This production of “The Gospel at Colonus” is sponsored by Jan Serr & John Shannon.

Skylight Music Theatre’s 2019-2020 Season is sponsored by the United Performing Arts Fund, the Wisconsin Arts Board, and CAMPAC, the Milwaukee County Arts Fund.

About Skylight Music Theatre

Skylight Music Theatre celebrates its 60th anniversary during the 2019-2020 season. Skylight’s mission since 1959: To bring the full spectrum of music theatre works to a wide and diverse audience in celebration of the musical and theatrical arts and their reflection of the human condition.


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