Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies
The high-style music of “The Duke” is the heart and soul of this 1981 Tony-winning Broadway hit, directed with dazzle by André De Shields (The Wiz). Mercedes Ellington, granddaughter of Duke Ellington, re-creates the original show’s elegant dancing and tapping as choreographer.
According to legend, the great bandleader and composer Duke Ellington once told his musicians that they had to play their best because they were about to open in Newark. All those glorious numbers – “Satin Doll,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” “Cotton Tail,” “Take the A Train” and “Mood Indigo” – return to the city in full swing with the arrival of Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies, a co-production of NJPAC and Crossroads Theatre Company.
Presented in the year marking the 120th anniversary of Ellington’s birth, Sophisticated Ladies is a first-class excursion back to the heyday of Harlem’s swanky Cotton Club. For this revival, a glamorous cast of singers and dancers performs with an onstage band versed in the tradition of the orchestras of Duke Ellington and his son, Mercer.
The New York Times described the original Sophisticated Ladies as “the only Broadway revue of recent vintage that operates on a truly grand scale.”
Actor and director André De Shields, an Emmy winner and two-time Tony Award nominee, returns to NJPAC, where he directed the successful Ain’t Misbehavin’ in February 2018. In the past, he directed Play On!, another musical celebration of Ellingtonia, at Crossroads Theatre Company.
Mercedes Ellington was the assistant choreographer and a performer in the original Sophisticated Ladies on Broadway, under the musical direction of her father, Mercer Ellington. Her long career as a dancer, director and producer on stage and in television included breaking the color barrier on national TV in the Sixties as a June Taylor Dancer on The Jackie Gleason Show.