A Wonderful World, A New Musical about the Life and Loves of Louis Armstrong is in rehearsals for its upcoming "pre-Broadway" runs in New Orleans and Chicago, and Playbill has photos from the first rehearsal.
The show begins performances in the fall with the previously reported Tony Award winner James Monroe Iglehart (Aladdin, Hamilton) starring in the title role. The productions pre-Broadway engagements will mirror Armstrong’s own musical path from New Orleans to Chicago, with performances scheduled for October 1-8 at the Saenger Theatre in New Orleans, followed by an October 11-29 engagement at Chicago's Cadillac Palace. Broadway dates have yet to be announced.
Check out photos of the cast and crew at the 1st rehearsal below.
Iglehart is joined by Ta'Rea Campbell (The Lion King, The Book of Mormon) as Lucille Wilson, Jennie Harney-Fleming (The Color Purple, Hamilton) as Lil Hardin, Brennyn Lark (Six, Les Misérables) as Alpha Smith, and Khalifa White (Caroline, or Change; Little Shop of Horrors) as Daisy Parker with DeWitt Fleming, Jr. (Encores! The Tap Dance Kid) as Lincoln Perry, Gavin Gregory (The Color Purple) as King Joe Oliver, Matthew Greenwood (1923) as Johnny Collins, Lindsey Corey (Miami New Drama's A Wonderful World) as Ensemble/Rachel the Reporter, and Matt Wolpe (Finding Neverland) as Joe Glaser.
The ensemble includes Ronnie Bowman, Eean Cochran, Jamal Christopher Douglas, Alexandra Frohlinger, Afra Hines, Alan Kelly, Ashley McManus, Aurelia Michael, Alysha Morgan, Jarran Muse, Aaron Michael Ray, Khadijah Rolle, Dave Schoonover, Brett Sturgis, Renell Taylor, and Dori Waymer.
The production team features stage and screen star Vanessa Williams, as well as Thomas E. Rodgers, Jr., Renee Rodgers, Andrew Delaplaine, Liz Curtis, and Martian Entertainment (Carl D. White and Gregory Rae).
Williams, who makes her theatrical producing debut, said in an earlier statement, “I became interested in joining the producing team after I worked with Carl White and Greg Rae on a play I am starring in and co-producing called One Reach Away. They told me about this Louis Armstrong piece, and I had to read it. What captured me was the life of Louis was told through the perspectives of his four wives, and that’s when my producing partner Liz Curtis and I dove in.
"We felt it was important to have a deeper dive into how this iconic man loved and transformed throughout his career while embracing these four dynamic forces. Louis Armstrong had an incredible career that truly crossed over musical genres, worldwide cultures and show business mediums that few have ever achieved. I’m honored to help bring this story to the stage and contribute to the magic of the Wonderful World that it helps to create.”
Conceived by Tony nominee Christopher Renshaw (The King and I, Taboo), who also directs, and novelist Andrew Delaplaine, A Wonderful World has an original book by author Aurin Squire (This Is Us) and features songs made popular by Armstrong. The new musical tells the story of jazz legend Louis Armstrong, from his early days in New Orleans through five decades of international stardom, through the eyes of the women in his life.
Annastasia Victory (Caroline, or Change) and Michael O. Mitchell (MJ the Musical) provide original music, arrangements, orchestrations, and music direction with choreography by Rickey Tripp (Once on This Island, Choir Boy). Christina Sajous is the associate director, and Aurelia Michael is the associate choreographer with DeWitt Fleming, Jr. providing specialty tap choreography.
The production features scenic and projection design by Adam Koch and Steven Royal, costume design by Toni-Leslie James, hair and wig design by Cookie Jordan, lighting design by Cory Pattak, and sound design by Kai Harada. Casting is by ARC Casting's Duncan Stewart.
Miami New Drama produced the world premiere of A Wonderful World in December 2021 at the Colony Theatre. Private industry readings of A Wonderful World were presented in September 2022 in Manhattan, also starring Iglehart.