University of Pittsburgh
August 24, 2004

Pitt's Kuntu Repertory Theatre Celebrates Its 30th Season with Four Musicals that Highlight the Golden Years of Jazz and Swing


Sharon Blake


Cell: 412-277-6926

PITTSBURGH—The University of Pittsburgh's Kuntu Repertory Theatre marks its 30th season this fall with an array of musicals that highlight the excitement and creativity that flowed from New York to New Orleans at a time when jazz was king. All performances are in the Seventh-Floor Auditorium of Alumni Hall, 4227 Fifth Ave., Oakland, and most will be accompanied by live music.

"We invite our audience to celebrate our world of musical theater," said Kuntu Founder and Artistic Director Vernell Lillie, associate professor in the Department of Africana Studies. "This music is unique in the sense that it flows from the deep crevices of African American originality of blues, gospel, jazz, rhythm, spirituals, and soul."

Kuntu's 2004-2005 season performances are as follows:

Sophisticated Ladies (Oct. 21-Nov. 6)

Music by Duke Ellington

Book by Donald McKayle

Lyrics by various artists

Directed by Elizabeth Van Dyke

Sophisticated Ladies, a musical revue that opened on Broadway in 1981, features the sound of the big bands made famous by Duke Ellington and includes the classic favorites "It Don't Mean a Thing," "Satin Doll," and "Solitude."

Bubbling Brown Sugar (Jan. 27-Feb. 12, 2005)

Book by Loften Mitchell

Concept by Rosetta LeNoire

Directed by Keith Tyrone Williams

Bubbling Brown Sugar, a successful Broadway hit from the 1970s, tells the story of Harlem in The Golden Years. It features Pittsburgh native Vivian Reed and the music of great jazz legends Fats Waller and Eubie Blake.

Jelly's Last Jam (March 24-April 9, 2005)

Book by George C. Wolfe

Music by Jelly Roll Morton and Luther Henderson

Lyrics by Susan Birkenhead

Directed by Edward G. Smith

Jelly's Last Jam, which played to enthusiastic Broadway audiences in 1992, offers a sophisticated unvarnished take on the life of pioneering jazz pianist Jelly Roll Morton.

Sweet Thunder: Billy Strayhorn (May 19-June 4, 2005)

By Ben Tyler

Production conceived and directed by Paul Carter Harrison

Sweet Thunder: Billy Strayhorn is the story of the Pittsburgh composer, arranger, and pianist who closely collaborated with Duke Ellington for three decades, creating "Take the 'A' Train" and many other memorable jazz tunes.

The Kuntu cast is made up of Pitt students, community members, and professionals. Performances are held at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays. For ticket and group sales information, call 412-624-7298. Season subscriptions as well as student and senior discounts are available.