Icon Melba Moore Joins WBTT for "Lady Day" and Voices



A music, theater and television icon hits the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe stage this season, as actress and recording artist Melba Moore comes to town not only to star as Billie Holiday in the theater’s upcoming production of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill but participate in its award-winning WBTT Voices series this coming Monday, February 5, at 8pm.

Joined onstage by WBTT Founder and Artistic Director Nate Jacobs and theater critic Jay Handelman for “An Intimate Evening with Melba Moore,” Moore will talk about a career spanning decades of breaking barriers to great acclaim. With her Broadway debut in the original run of Hair, she quickly made history as the first African-American woman to replace a white actress in a lead role, before turning around and winning a Tony in 1970 for her performance as Lutiebelle in Purlie. Another first came in her casting as the lead, Fantine, in a Broadway production of Les Miserables. Following a foray into film, Moore began a music career that would net her three Grammy nominations and, in 2015, her induction into the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame. Along the way, she found time to become the first African-American woman with a major TV show on NBC. “Melba has historically been a trailblazer,” Jacobs sums up handily.

Moore has also historically been a friend of WBTT as well. No stranger to her work, Jacobs grew up listening to her records at home, and, spotting Moore at a red carpet event in New York City in the mid-90s, walked around the barriers, up the red carpet and introduced himself. Far from being tackled by overzealous security, Jacobs struck up a lasting friendship, with Moore recognizing his name from a mutual friend in Miami. “She has been a true friend and mentor since,” says Jacobs. “She is a true, bonafide celebrity who takes the time to help others.”

Following that meeting, Moore has made her way down to Sarasota on multiple occasions—to help WBTT with a fundraiser when it needed it most in the mid-2000s, and then again in 2015, as the featured performer in WBTT’s “Broadway Under the Stars” fundraising gala. This season, however, will see Moore’s WBTT debut proper, with her lead role in Lady Day, running February 28–April 8, as well as her first participation in the Voices program. “To have an artist of her stature working with us is an incredible honor,” says WBTT Executive Director Julie Leach. “We expect a capacity crowd hanging on her every word.”

“An Intimate Evening with Melba Moore” begins Monday, February 5 at 8pm in the WBTT Theatre. The event is free and open to the public, but reservations are required.

Pictured: Star of stage, screen and studio Melba Moore. Photo courtesy of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe.

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