Ragtime Musical Revue Eubie! at the Olney Center
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The last date listed for Eubie! was Wednesday April 25, 2007 / 8:00pm.
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Olney Theatre Center will be staging a refreshed and reconceived version of the musical revue Eubie!. The musical, featuring ragtime hits like “Charleston Rag” and “I’m Just Wild About Harry,” highlights the work of Baltimore native, James Hubert “Eubie” Blake. This version will not only electrify the Olney stage, but will also be a resource for regional theater. “Olney’s new version will make this great composer, and the show about his work, accessible to theaters across the country,” says director/choreographer and Broadway veteran Tony Parise.
The original version of Eubie! debuted on Broadway in 1978. The twelve-actor cast, featuring the Hines brothers, enchanted Broadway audiences for over a year. Parise, who was hand-picked to direct this new version by original conceiver/director Julianne Boyd, accepted the challenge to make the show about Eubie’s work more well-known nationally. “Eubie’s music celebrates the African American community’s contribution to changing what American music was. It is a story of our musical history that should be told,” continues Parise.
In order for many theaters around the country to tell this story, it needed to be put into budgetary reach. So, Olney Theatre decided to re-conceive the original piece with just nine actors. “With a smaller cast,” explains Parise, “more theaters will have the chance to introduce this musical to a new generation.”
In revisiting the piece, Parise has also tempered the original production’s 1970s aesthetic. “In the costumes and even some of the musical transitions, the stamp of the late 70s was all over the show. I wanted to update Eubie! by bringing out the purest elements of the ragtime era.” Parise also wanted to authenticate the music by prominently positioning the band onstage.
Born in Baltimore in the 1880s, James Hubert “Eubie” Blake was a jazz pioneer who went on to become one of the most popular ragtime composers of his era, and also one of the more influential musicians of the 20th century. Although he was mainly known as a songwriter for Broadway shows in the 1920s, he became known iconically as last living link to ragtime. Blake wrote his first rag, “The Charleston Rag,” in 1899, and by 1915 he had teamed up with singer Noble Sissle in Vaudeville. Sissle and Blake wrote for the 1921 hit show Shuffle Along (the first all-black musical). Blake’s hit songs of the 1920s also include “I’m Just Crazy About Harry,” “You’re Lucky to Me,” and “Memories of You.” More than three decades later, in 1969, Eubie Blake reappeared on the scene after a long hiatus, with a double LP (The Eighty-Six Years of Eubie Blake) that amazed listeners. Into the 1970s, Blake became a very popular performer, playing and singing ragtime-era pieces, charming audiences, making new records, running his own label (Eubie Blake Music), and appearing on Broadway in the 1978 musical revue of his work, Eubie!. James Hubert “Eubie” Blake continued performing until he the age of 98. He died in 1983, living to be over 100 years old.