Musicals and Plays with Music

Cakewalk is Bev's new musical chosen for the  July, 2017 Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival at Atlanta's Out Front Theatre.  (See Below).  Look for her  annual sell-out production, featuring Holly Stevenson in The Bridesmaid's of Barrington Hall in Roswell, Georgia.

Zion!

Austin’s musical Zion! broke box office records at Marietta's Theatre in the Square in 1990 and again in 1996. It has been restaged on numerous occasions, including by New York City's New Federal Theatre in 1991.

ZION!, featuring a cast of more than three dozen and directed by Dr. Rona Roberts,  played to 1,6000 people at  the Marietta Center for Performing Arts over one May weekend in 2016.  

Tony-winner Ron Richardson (Big River) and Phyllis Stickney in New Federal Theatre's production of ZION! directed by Thomas  Jones, III.  Sadly, Mr. Richardson passed  away before a transfer of the production.  The 1990 and 1996  productions featured the  brilliant Atlanta actor LaParee Young.

"The superb cast of singing actors is led by Ronald E. Richarson, who gives what may be his strongest performance since the Broadway musical Big River," Stephen Holden, The  New York Times, (12/5/91).

"This play is the kind of piece struggling venues will need more of to survive. Zion is in the turn of a phrase, the beauty of a single human voice, and in Zion! gospel music and the black religious idiom aren't the crutch of the disaffected but a radical cultural praxis of the highest order, a place where faith isn't a balm but the sharpest of weapons," Gary Dauphin, The Village Voice (12/10/91).

"In this seemingly simple tale of slaves striving to fulfill themselves spiritually, the author has effectively epitomized the black experience in America," Sy Syna, Backstage (12/91).

"The suprisingly simple melding of hymn and history, of intelligence and humor, marks Beverly Trader's new play.  It is clearly one of the most important plays to open in the Atlanta area in recent memory," Patrick Gaffney, Creative Loafing (5/90).

 "The play is nothing short of a masterpiece. The parameters of music as a dramatic tool have been enhanced by this stunning play.” Abiola Sinclair, The New York Amsterdam News (12/28/91).  

"Ms. Trader's drama is pure, inspirational, even mythic, with folk roots that reach deep down into Georgia soil to underpin a saga of quiet relevance.," Steve Dollar, Atlanta Journal-Constitution (5/10/90).

The buttons below take you to video clips and interviews:

"Trader's risk taking is a boon to today's theater, which too often plays it safe," Steve Murray, Southline (213/85).

Cakewalk, with composers Bryan Mercer and Patrick Hutchinson, is a new musical chosen for the 2017 Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival. where it also received a  Yip Harburg Foundation Grant.

 

Set in Claxton, Georgia in 1918, the script holds spicy, satirical, even frightening foretastes of our own America.  The majority of its basket of characters belong to the Clugston family, led by their patriarch, Claxton Commissioner John Clugston.  Unfortunately, this prosperous fruitcake manufacturer’s heated race for mayor is complicated by the behavior of his family and servants.  Packed as it is with scandalous surprises, the plot is too rococo to synopsize in detail here.  Still, we discover much of the mess through the Clugston family’s brilliant servant, Phoebe.
 
 The rusty end of the "Gilded Age" in Cakewalk will arguably provoke an audience to laugh, pause, and reflect. Do not the Clugstons of 1917 Claxton, Georgia bear a disturbing resemblance to ourselves and others in 2017 America?  Cakewalk's plot is overflowing with philandering politicians, corrupt businessmen, and calculating metrosexuals. There are entitled and spoilt young people. There are women addicted to liquor, boys, and the fashion of the moment. And, finally, everyone has a secret which might explode with devastating political consequences.

Then there is the music. This era is rich in genres, and Cakewalk explores and exploits many of them— blues, ragtime, music-hall turns, operetta waltzes, and even Sousa marches. It's a fun, rhythmic and melodic palette. It's also one not often displayed in such variety. In fact, in our own era of often brilliant, but sometimes homogenized, scores, we are striving to capture the origins of the American Song Book. Again, as with the plot twists, the musical turns often feature one character—the African-American maid Phoebe, who, along with Porter, the handsome new butler, serves as our interpreter, as well as critic of her surrounding provincial and racist society. She sees all in a stylized world, and—just as in the cakewalk dance, which mocked the unsuspecting pomposity of former plantation owners—Phoebe, our Commedia zanni, sheds light on many dark and secret doings, while adding a few twists of her own.

Cakewalk’s creators Beverly and Bryan are also consulting with musician and actor Scott DePoy, a supporter of the work.  Cakewalk (Swagger) received a cold reading in Little Five Points in March, 2015 under the direction of Sandra Hughes and Scott DePoy.  They were encouraged by the feedback of audience and actors (led by Bart Hansard) and Beverly and Scott approached a friend and former collaborator, Bryan Mercer, in hopes he might be interested in composing a score. Bryan was interested, indeed, and he even produced a sampler CD along with sheet music.When Mr. Mercer moved to Florida, the talented Patrick Hutchison (The Harvey Milk Show) took over as co-composer and arranger.   Contact me here if you'd like to see a script and score.  beverly@austin-email.net.

 

Cakewalk

The Wishing Place

Trader’s The Wishing Place (Academy Theatre, 1985) featured the directorial debut of Tony-winner Kenny Leon.   The play was given an earlier production at the Academy as In Places, directed by Gay Griggs. Directed by Laura King, it was presented in a staged Dramatists Guild reading in April, 2019.

"Beverly Trader's The Wishing Place, the most interesting, compassionate, poetic and genuinely human play I have seen in quite some time," Marc Levy. The Emory Wheel (3/1/85).

"Seldom does a play evoke as strong a sense of place as Beverly Trader's The Wishing Place. Thanks to Ms. Trader's vivid language, you can almost see a bird dog jump from the back of a pickup truck, point and flush out a covey of quail from the bushes," Linda Sherbert, The Atlanta Journal 2/18/85).

(L-R) Dan Reichard, Catherine Burroughs, Art Thompson in The Wishing Place.

Cakewalk composer Bryan Mercer toured in Austin’s My Bed is a Boat, which “Isn’t your run-of-the-mill children’s play, deftly shifting between humor and drama, performed with dexterous grace,” Lynne Heffley, Los Angeles Times (3/18/99).

Click Listen to hear a sampler of Cakewalk's  score.

Click Play to see the recording of the 2017 AMTF staged reading of Cakewalk.

"Beverly Trader was a playwright and friend of mine from Atlanta and had given me her play “The Wishing Place” to read. I liked it, told Frank about it, and he let me direct it at the Academy." Excerpted from Take You Wherever You Go by Kenny Leon

Amber Hamilton (center), India Tyree, Kathy Halenda, and Wendy Melkonian  sing "Men Will Lie" from Cakewalk.

Cast of The Christmas Wayfarer at the Wynne-Russell House.

Bev's The Christmas Wayfarer at the Wynne-Russell House, in December, 2018, sold out solid for two weeks in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the founding of Gwinnett County, Georgia.  It's another musical site-specific work-- a totally fun and immersive experience for the audience.

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