World Premiere of "Last of the Red Hot Mamas"

Reported Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Pictured Above: Stephanie Gibson.  Photo Credit: Contributed.

Featuring a book by Susan Ecker, Harrison David Rivers, and Lloyd Ecker the new musical explores the early rise of the trailblazing performer Sophie Tucker.

NEWSROOM POST: NEW HOPE, PENNSYLVANIA

 

New Hope, PA – From serving up jokes with a side of blintzes in a Hartford Jewish deli to performing for adoring crowds at Broadway’s Palace Theater in seven short years, the unexpected rise of Sophie Tucker to the rank of comic superstar is the subject of the new world premiere musical, “Last of the Red Hot Mamas,” making its debut at Bucks County Playhouse, June 28 through July 27. “Last of the Red Hot Mamas” will begin previews on Friday, June 28 with an official press opening on Thursday, July 11 at 7:30 pm.

 

The Playhouse’s Producing Director Alexander Fraser, Executive Producer Robyn Goodman, and Producer Joshua Fiedler announced casting and details for this new musical, which features direction and choreography by Shea Sullivan, and a book by Susan Ecker, Harrison David Rivers and Lloyd Ecker.

 

“Last of the Red Hot Mamas” is the 11th world premiere production at the New Hope theater since it reopened in 2012 and is part of Playhouse’s commitment to developing new work.

 

“The big surprise for me was seeing how Sophie Tucker’s wild, racy and very funny take on life changed show business forever,” says Alexander Fraser, Producing Director. “Sophie Tucker made the world accept her for who she was . . . a full-figured Jewish girl with a voice as loud as a steam whistle. We’re proud to help shed light how she paved the way for all those to follow who felt like they didn’t fit in.”

In 1973, while they were students at Ithaca College, Susan Denner (now Ecker) and Lloyd Ecker went on a first date to a Bette Midler concert. The couple quickly fell in love—with both each other and the “Divine Miss M.” Midler’s hilarious ‘Soph’ jokes piqued their curiosity about their origin — the pioneering vaudeville performer Sophie Tucker — leading the duo to publish a fictional memoir, “I Am Sophie Tucker,” and create a well-regarded documentary, “The Outrageous Sophie Tucker.”  A big new musical is the next step in the Eckers’ 50-plus year fascination with the saucy, sassy comedienne — Sophie Tucker. To bring their dream to life, they joined forces with Sullivan, and award-winning playwright, Harrison David Rivers.

 

“Picture a groundbreaking, occasionally arrested for sexual innuendo, jazz-singing, 25-year-old very plump ‘Taylor Swift’ of 1913. Sophie Tucker was on the front pages every day, with men craving her and women copying her hair and fashion styles. We’re confident our must-see world premiere musical is going to make Tucker an international icon… again,” says Lloyd Ecker.

 

“We’re equally sure the innovative and exciting Bucks County Playhouse is about to become the place to be this July,” added Susan Ecker.

 

Before Mae West, Bette Midler or Queen Latifah, there was Sophie Tucker. With the help of two former Harlem headliners, Tucker rose from the deli counter to become a full-fledged star in her own right. Tucker was known for performing songs, including “After You’re Gone”, “There’ll Be Some Changes Made” and “Some of These Days.” The musical will feature these songs, along with other classics of their time — delivered with lots of tap dancing, and a big dose of Sophie’s groundbreaking, sassy humor.

Ryann Redmond (Broadway’s first female Olaf in “Disney’s Frozen” and most recently “Once Upon a One More Time”) will perform the role of Sophie Tucker alongside Rheaume Crenshaw (Broadway’s “Shucked,” “Groundhog Day,” “Caroline or Change”) as Mollie Elkins, DeWitt Fleming Jr. (Tour of “A Wonderful World,” and Encore’s “The Tap Dance Kid”) as Bojangles Robinson and Stephanie Gibson (BCP’s “The Rocky Horror Show” and “National Pastime” and Broadway’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”) as Nora Bayes.

 

The cast also includes Willie Clyde Beaton II (Walnut Street’s “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical”), Lincoln Belford (National Tour of “Chicago”), Natalie Bellamy (Playhouse debut), Kelly Bolick (Public Theater’s “Southern Comfort”), Jonathan Hadley (Broadway’s “Jersey Boys”), Jenny Kay Hoffman (National Tour: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”), Hannah Hubbard (Fulton Theater’s “Something Rotten”), Daniel Lopez (“Into the Woods” at the Hollywood Bowl), Bobby MacDonnell (currently in “Boy Band Evolution”), Michael Persson (National Tour: “42nd Street”), Danny Rutigliano (Broadway’s “I Need That” and “Beetlejuice”) and Rachel Stern (Broadway’s “Girl from North Country” and “Shrek”).

 

The creative team for the production consists of Nate Bertone (Scenic Design), Jeanette Christensen (Costume Design), J. Jared Janas (Hair, Wig and Makeup Design), Kirk Bookman (Lighting Design), and Jeff Sherwood (Sound Design). Merrick A.B. Williams is production stage manager. Musical arrangements by Sam Davis with orchestrations and additional arrangements by Greg Jarrett. Casting is by Paul Hardt.

 

 “Last of the Red Hot Mamas” will begin previews on Friday, June 28 with an official press opening on Thursday, July 11 at 7:30 pm. Starting with the 2024 season, the show times have changed – with performances beginning 30 minutes earlier than in 2023. All evening performances now all begin at 7:30 pm, with all matinees now performed at 1:30 pm. “Last of the Red Hot Mamas” will play Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 pm with matinees on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 pm.  Tickets start at $39. Special discounts are available for groups of 10 or more. Patrons are invited to a special “Pay-What-You-Can Preview Performance” on Friday, June 28 at 7:30 pm.

Suggested minimum is $10. Student rush tickets are also available at all performances, based on availability.

 

For full details, and to purchase tickets, please visit buckscountyplayhouse.org, call 215-862-2121, or visit the box office at 70 South Main Street, New Hope, PA.

About Bucks County Playhouse:

Steeped in a theatrical history that stems back to its founding in 1939 by a roster of theatrical royalty, Bucks County Playhouse is celebrating the eleventh anniversary of its 2012 re-opening and restoration. With more than 75,000 patrons walking through its doors every year, the Playhouse is leading the economic resurgence of New Hope and the surrounding community. In 2014, Tony Award-winning producers Alexander Fraser, Robyn Goodman and Josh Fiedler took the helm of the Playhouse, reclaiming its reputation of attracting Broadway and Hollywood artists.  Playhouse productions of “Company” starring Justin Guarini, and William Finn’s “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” were named by Wall Street Journal to its “Best of Theatre” list for 2015. In 2018, the Wall Street Journal again hailed the Playhouse and Artistic Associate Hunter Foster in its Best of the Year listings for its production of “42nd Street” and in 2019 labeled the Playhouse “one of the best regional theaters on the East coast.”  Box office records have been repeatedly broken by signature productions of “Steel Magnolias” directed by Marsha Mason, “Mamma Mia!” directed by John Tartaglia and “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story,” “Million Dollar Quartet,” “42nd Street,” and “Guys & Dolls” (all directed by Hunter Foster). In 2021, the team developed and presented Candace Bushnell’s “Is There Still Sex in the City,” which the Playhouse then partnered to move to New York. Recent critically acclaimed productions include “Tick, Tick ..  Boom!” with Andy Mientus and “The Bridges of Madison County” with Tony-nominee Kate Baldwin and Nicholas Rodriguez. The creative teams who come to create new productions at the Playhouse are among the most talented artists working in the professional theatre today and relish the opportunity to work on the historic stage where Grace Kelly, Robert Redford, and Jessica Walter began their careers.

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