Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies

July 15, 2015 - August 23, 2015

or call 512-476-0541 x1

Concept by Donald McKayle • Based on the Music of Duke Ellington • Music and Dance Arrangements by Lloyd Mayers • Vocal Arrangements by Malcolm Dodds and Lloyd Mayers

Wilde Party: Thursday, July 16 at 7:30 p.m.

Show Info

Welcome to Harlem’s famed Cotton Club in this stylish, brassy musical celebration of Duke Ellington’s greatest musical hits. A full on-stage orchestra backs superb jazz vocalists, extraordinary tap dancers, dazzling deco costumes, and unforgettable torch singers who bring classics like “Mood Indigo,” “Take the A Train,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” to vivid life in this grand Tony Award-winning Broadway musical. Never before produced in Austin!


The Official Car of ZACH Theatre

Mercedes-Benz of Austin


Executive Producers

Carla Tyson
Bill Dickson



Dr. Gary and Karen Goldstein
Annette Renaud


Title Sponsors


Make it Dinner and a Show: Click here for Dining Discounts.

Please Note: Ticket price is not refundable. Late-comers are seated at the discretion of the House Manager. Unclaimed seats at curtain time are subject to release to patrons on standby.


Jennifer Holliday *The Chanteuse
Kenny Williams*The Raconteur
Brian WhittedThe Hipster
Chanel Haynes-SchwartzThe Soubrette
JP Qualters *The Jazzbo
Brandon O’Neal *The Danseur
Afra Hines*The Danseuse
Jenn Young *Sophisticated Ladies Ensemble
Christa OliverSophisticated Ladies Ensemble
Karly Powell LewisSophisticated Ladies Ensemble
Jackie StrubbergSophisticated Ladies Ensemble
Leslie HethcoxSophisticated Gentlemen Ensemble
William James Harris IIISophisticated Gentlemen Ensemble
Tony MerriwetherSophisticated Gentlemen Ensemble
Matthew ShieldsSophisticated Gentlemen Ensemble
Phil YoungSophisticated Gentlemen Ensemble
Alaina MaderalSwing
Tommielee CrutcherSwing
Dainique JonesSwing

*AEA Member

Abe ReyboldDirector
Allen RobertsonMusical Director
Brian WhittedConductor
Dominique KelleyChoreographer
J. Aaron BellScenic Designer
Susan Branch TowneCostume Designer
Michelle HabeckLighting Designer
Craig BrockSound Designer
Scott GrohProperties Designer
Cate Tucker *Stage Manager
Shannon Richey *Stage Manager (Take Over)
Jessica Borda *Assistant Stage Manager
Jessie DouglasAssistant Stage Manager

*AEA Member

Who's Who


“Funny the way I feel now

Can't keep my feet on the ground

Ev'rything seems unreal now

When you're not around”

-Day Dream by Duke Ellington



Born in Washington, DC on April 29, 1899, Edward Kennedy Ellington, best known as Duke Ellington was one of America’s most well known and acclaimed composers, pianists, and jazz bandleaders. 

In 1917, he formed his first band, the Duke's Serenaders, and broke into the music scene on DC’s historic U Street also known as Black Broadway. Although at home in places like the Lincoln Theatre, the Duke's Serenaders played all over the DC area to both black and white audiences.

Ellington's ambitions led him to New York City, where the Harlem Renaissance was swingin’. He eventually became the bandleader at Club Kentucky near Times Square, allowing him to experiment with the rhythm of the times - the Roaring Twenties.

However, Duke truly gained recognition when the Ellington Orchestra became a fixture at Harlem's Cotton Club, and their music was broadcast on the radio. This period between 1932 and 1942 is often cited as Ellington's "golden age," during which he wrote jazz standards, toured internationally to much acclaim, and met Billy Strayhorn, a lyricist who strongly influenced the Duke's work. Inspired by his fellow band members, Ellington's style embraced a range of musical styles, most notably jazz, swing, jungle, and Latin.

Wynton Marsalis said it best when he said "His music sounds like America." 

When asked what inspired him to write, Ellington replied, "My men and my race are the inspiration of my work. I try to catch the character and mood and feeling of my people.”

Duke Ellington is best remembered for the over 3,000 songs that he composed during his lifetime. His best known titles include It Don't Mean a Thing if It Ain't Got That Swing, Sophisticated Lady, Mood Indigo, Solitude, and Satin Doll. 

After a lifetime of acclaim and national recognition, he died of lung cancer and pneumonia on May 24, 1974, a month after his 75th birthday. He is buried in the Bronx in New York City. At his funeral attended by over 12,000 people at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Ella Fitzgerald summed up the occasion, "It's a very sad day...A genius has passed."

His music lives on. 

Excerpted from DukeEllington.com and arenastage.org

A Little Bit of History


  • Born April 29, 1899
  • His real name was Edward Kennedy Ellington but he was given the nickname Duke by a classmate because of his refined manners
  • As a child, Duke hated his piano lessons and quit. But as a teenager, he took up piano again because he wanted to impress a girl.
  • In his fifty year career, Duke Ellington played over 20,000 performances in Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia
  • Composed more than 3,000 pieces of music
  • Received 13 Grammy Awards
  • Received the Pulitzer Prize
  • President Lyndon Johnson presented Duke Ellington with the Presidents Gold Medal in 1966
  • President Richard M Nixon presented Duke Ellington with the Medal of Freedom in 1969
  • Awarded the French Legion of Honor in 1973
  • Has a United States Commemorative stamp with his image on it issued in 1986
  • Received Honorary Doctorates from Howard and Yale Universities
  • Died May 24, 1974



 “Drift a melody so strange and sweet

In this sentimental bliss you make”

-In a Sentimental Mood

by Duke Ellington


Check out these videos of Duke Ellington and his orchestra as well as other great jazz artists singing Ellington’s works.



Sophisticated Lady


Take the 'A' Train


It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)


The Mooch


Satin Doll


Mood Indigo





C Jam Blues – Ella Fitzgerald


I'm Just a Lucky So and So – Tony Bennett

Fun Facts


Not only was Duke Ellington honored by President Lyndon Baines Johnson with the President’s Gold Medal in 1966, he was also honored with the Gold Medal of Freedom in 1969 by President Richard Nixon.  


Honored by President Johnson


His 70th birthday at The White House



Excerpted from TOWN & COUNTRY - JAN 1, 2013 

…When it comes to social personas, perhaps there has been no stranger figure at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue than Richard Nixon. This was a man who walked the San Clemente beaches wearing black wingtips and casually made racist remarks to aides, but who also cackled at White House sleepovers and parties with Sammy Davis Jr. and Duke Ellington. The seemingly incongruous jazz vibe that occasionally took over the Nixon White House can be attributed to special counsel Leonard Garment, a white lawyer from Brooklyn who had once played saxophone in Woody Herman's band and who knew the coolest cats in the jazz world. In 1969, Ellington's 70th birthday was coming up, and Garment suggested the White House host a party for the composer, whose father, incidentally, had been a butler at the White House decades earlier. President Nixon thought it a fine idea and announced he would present the bandleader with the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the soiree. On the evening of April 29, jazz greats — Marian McPartland, Paul Desmond, and Willie "the Lion" Smith among them — arrived at the White House, some toting their instruments. "It was an incredible experience," says Hess, who, in addition to working in the Eisenhower administration, worked for Nixon and attended the Ellington fete. Of course, even when Nixon was playing cool guy, he couldn't escape his own vengeful paranoia. Before the event Ellington himself had called friends of his, former White House lawyer Clifford Alexander Jr. and his wife Adele, telling them he had added them as invitees. But the Nixon White House scratched their names off the list. "I later found out I was on Nixon's enemies list," says Alexander, who had been appointed by Johnson in 1967 to be the first African-American chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission but was later fired by Nixon for his progressive views…

To read the entire article, click here: http://www.townandcountrymag.com/society/politics/a2301/presidential-parties/

Season Sponsors:
Holiday Inn Schlotzskys
202 South Lamar - Austin, TX 78704 - Phone 512-476-0541
ZACH Theatre is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit arts organization located in Austin,Texas.    
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Texas Commission for the Arts City of AustinThese projects are funded and supported in part by a grant from the Texas Commission on the Arts and by the City of Austin through the Economic Development Department/Cultural Arts Division believing an investment in the Arts is an investment in Austin’s future. Visit Austin at NowPlayingAustin.com.