China Plate and Birmingham Hippodrome are pleased to announce both the principal cast and the West Midlands based associate creative team for their new concert musical To The Streets!, an uplifting new musical by Roy Williams and Tim Sutton, based on an original idea by Christopher Haydon, inspired by the 1963 Bristol Bus Boycott, a pivotal moment in the UK’s civil rights history. These special concert performances will take place between 19 – 28 August at Handsworth Park in Birmingham, Windmill Hill, Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, and West Park, Wolverhampton, as part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival.
It’s 1963 and the Swinging Sixties have arrived: The Beatles release their debut album, the mini skirt is born and the Civil Rights movement is gaining ground in America. Back in the UK, the country is emerging from the Big Freeze. As temperatures thaw, tensions are running high in Bristol where the Omnibus Company refuses to employ Black or Asian drivers or conductors. Paul Stephenson, an idealistic youth worker, takes to the streets to stand up for equality. Lorraine, a teenager, newly arrived from Jamaica, joins the fight and, in so doing, finds her voice and becomes part of a movement that changes history. With an explosive, feel-good score bursting with ska, calypso and rock ‘n’ roll… this is a story of standing up for what you believe in, allyship, and – ultimately – finding joy.
Michael Ahomka-Lindsay (The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – UK tour, Legally Blonde – Regent’s Park) will play ‘Paul’, Jonathan Andre (The Lion King – West End, The Wiz – Hope Mill Theatre) will play ‘Roy’, McCallam Connell (The Playboy of the West Indies – Birmingham Rep, Small Island – National Theatre) will play ‘Des’, Paul Kemble (School of Rock – UK tour, Made in Dagenham – West End) will play ‘Bert’, Duane Lamonte (Motown the Musical – West End, The Lion King – West End) will play ‘Guy’, Jessie May (Mamma Mia! – West End and international tour, Mame – Hope Mill Theatre) will play ‘Secretary’, Denise Pitter (Guys and Dolls – West End, To Kill a Mockingbird – Mercury Theatre, Colchester) will play ‘Pearl’, Charlotte St Croix (Hairspray – UK tour, Decade – National Theatre) will play ‘Lorraine’, and Andy Watkins (Kinky Boots – UK tour, Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Curve, UK tour and West End) will play ‘Harry’.
To the Streets! is directed by Christopher Haydon, with book by Roy Williams, music and lyrics by Tim Sutton, design by Soutra Gilmour and with choreography from Dannielle ‘Rhimes’ Lecointe, and produced in association with Warwick Arts Centre, City of Wolverhampton Council and DRPG Creative.
The creative team will be supported by a fantastic team of associates - Nyasha Gudo (Associate Director), Melody Sinclair (Associate Choreographer) and Aron Sood (Associate Music Director), all of whom are based in the West Midlands. The principal cast will also perform alongside a local community ensemble of singers and dancers, representative of the city and region’s diversity, who are currently being cast via an open audition process, with further details to be announced.
Ahead of the concert performances, which will be family friendly and accessible to all, audience members will be invited to enjoy some food, drink, DJ sets, plus music and entertainment from local arts organisations.
Roy Williams said, “History is littered with forgotten stories, especially black stories which always enrages me. The more important they are the angrier I become. The Bristol Bus Boycott is such an important event in British history. The protestor’s actions brought widespread attention to the problem of racism in Britain at the time. Their success brought a profound and positive sense of hope for the possibility of progress.”
Tim Sutton said, “We are completely overwhelmed to have assembled such a brilliant cast - we know they’re going to knock it out of the park.”
Christopher Haydon said, “The Bristol Bus Boycott was a momentous event in the history of civil rights in the UK and was led by some truly extraordinary people. I am thrilled to have such a talented ensemble of performers to capture these remarkable characters at such a pivotal moment.”
Dannielle ‘Rhimes’ Lecointe said, “Excitement is just the beginning of what I feel about bringing the powerful story of the Bristol Bus Boycott to life. In such a time as this, with a thrilling cast and special creative team, it feels so important to say what we are about to! ”
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