Best remembered as the "poet laureate of Harlem", Hughes was a prolific writer whose output included 20 plays and several musicals and operas. He was a cornerstone of the "Harlem Renaissance" that helped bring African-American art and literature into the cultural mainstream.
Simply Heavenly - which first ran on Broadway in 1957, and briefly in London the following year - is born out of a series of short stories featuring the bar room philosophies of Jesse B Semple, an offbeat Harlem everyman in a rapidly changing America. As Jesse attempts to raise the money necessary to marry girlfriend Joyce, his friends from Paddy's bar indulge in beer and the blues.
The Young Vic production is directed by actress Josette Bushell-Mingo and stars two former Donmar divas - Olivier Award winner Clive Rowe (Guys and Dolls, Carousel, Company, Chicago) and soul sister Ruby Turner (Hold On) - along with Rhashan Stone (The Inland Sea, Clubland and the RSC History Cycle) as leading man Jesse. Also in the cast are Nicola Hughes, Jason Pennycooke, Melanie Marshall, Cat Simmons, Des Coleman, Kennie Andrews, Paul Kissaun, Angela Wynter, Carlton Headley and Dale Superville.
Simply Heavenly is directed by actress Josette Bushell-Mingo (The Lion King), choreographed by Paul J Medford and designed by Rob Howell, with lighting by Paul Anderson and sound by Nick Lidster. It's co-produced by the NT Studio.
Following Simply Heavenly, the Young Vic's spring 2003 season continues with Lope de Vega's tragicomedy Peribanez, translated by Tanya Ronder and directed by Rufus Norris. It runs from 1 May to 7 June 2003.
- by Terri Paddock