"BREATH AND IMAGINATION" A STIRRING STORY OF SONG
Long before Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby broke the color barrier in baseball, before Hattie McDaniel won an Oscar for her role as Mammy in "Gone with the Wind" or the Tuskegee Airmen won honors for the United States military as black pilots in World War Two, Roland Hayes made his amazing musical mark as a concert artist. As a boy, he grew up as a son of slaves on a Georgia plantation. As a man, he sang for kings and queens of Europe and earned a reputation for having a remarkable, lyric tenor voice.
You can learn his incredible story by attending the world premiere of Daniel Beaty's tribute to Roland Hayes in "Breath and Imagination" at the Hartford Stage until Saturday, February 9.
Stuffed with moving spirituals, the classical music he sang in seven languages including Italian, German and French, as well as original songs by Mr. Beaty, the show is inspiring. Jubilant Sykes, as Roland Hayes, portrays this complex man as he faces the difficult obstacles to achieving his goals. Mr. Sykes embodies his character with spirit and emotion, revealing Hayes’ dreams and disappointments in a vibrant performance. His voice soars with deep feelings, especially as he is encouraged to focus by his beloved mother, Angel Mo', brought to stirring life by Kecia Lewis. She has to amend her hopes her son become a preacher when his path takes him in a different direction. All the other roles, from previous teachers who guide him to the King of England who applauds him, are developed in the capable hands of Tom Frey, who provides piano accompaniment and much, much more. Darko Tresnjak directs this intimate portrait of a man who needs to be recognized in history's light of day. This production is in association with City Theatre of Pittsburgh.
For tickets ($56.50-93.50), call the Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online at www.hartfordstage.org. Performances are Tuesday -- Thursday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Sunday and selected Wednesdays and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Walk with Roland Hayes on his difficult path to greatness and discover how the gift of his father's pocket watch sets him on his way to a prominent place in history.