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Verizon's 'If This Hat Could Talk'
prepares for Philly opening

New York, May 30, 2006 – The rousing musical tribute to Civil Rights icon Dorothy I. Height, featuring award-winning performers Stephanie Mills and Melba Moore, is opening June 13 in Philadelphia's Merriam Theater.

The musical has been on tour this year in Norfolk, Va., Baltimore, Houston and Detroit. The Philadelphia performances will run until Sunday, June 18.

Whether it is the raw emotion evoked from the stage, the remarkable manner in which the show's ensemble ensemble carefully, yet cleverly takes the audience back in time or the actors’ ability through song to infuse feelings of pride, along with a desire for continued change, Verizon Presents If This Hat Could Talk is a vehicle that ingeniously fuses empowerment with entertainment. It energizes and encourages us to continue the fight for mankind.  

The show is playing to enthusiastic reviews. "I was hardly prepared for the transforming power of this truly great work," says the Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches USA, who saw the musical last October in New York's Apollo Theater.

The musical is also attracting the attention of young people whose sole knowledge of the Civil Rights Movement is from history books.

"I have co-labored over many years with Dr. Height on civil and human rights issues," Edgar recalls, "and I never cease to be amazed by her energy and unflagging commitment to social justice."

Edgar is encouraging pastors and community leaders "to get as many people to the showings as possible."

Grammy Award-Winning© Singer Stephanie Mills was cast in Verizon Presents If This Hat Could Talk to bring Dr. Dorothy Height to life. In addition to her Grammy© Award, Mills is an American Music Award©-Winning artist with five best-selling albums and ten Billboard #1 singles. Mills performed such timeless R&B classics and top-charting singles as “I Have Learned To Respect The Power Of Love," "Home," "Whatcha Gonna Do With My Lovin’’ and "Never Knew Love Like This Before." In addition to being an accomplished singer/songwriter, she is also an accomplished actress. Mills gained theatrical acclaim after portraying “Dorothy” in the Tony Award Winning hit musical, “The Wiz.” She would also go on to play a number of highly-acclaimed roles in several shows, including "Your Arms Are Too Short To Box With God", "Children Of Eden," "Ragtime," "Play On", "His Woman, His Wife" and "Black Nativity." She also received an NAACP Image Award for her work in theater. 

Featured alongside Mills is Tony© Award –Winning and Grammy© Nominated Actress and Singer Melba Moore. Moore gained national notoriety and theatrical acclaim for her role as “Lutiebelle Gussiemae Jenkins” in the Broadway musical, “Purlie.” Moore would make history for her role in “Purlie,” becoming the first Black actress to win A Tony© Award for Best Supporting Actress.  However, Moore wouldn’t stop making history there. In 1990, her recording of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” became the official African-American National Anthem by the Congressional Record. She would also continue making an impact on theatrical history when she took over the role of “Fantine” in the Broadway musical, “Les Miserables.” This milestone would mark the first time a Black actress would step into that role.  

The Washington Post says the Cast of Big Voiced Singers give a Steady Flow of Solid Gospel Melodies and the NY Daily News says Civil Rights musical lets “Freedom” sing, while New York’s Amsterdam News says What a Show! What Songs! What an Experience!  

“Hats” will start talking on June 13 in Philly for seven exclusive performances at the Merriam Theatre, 250 South Broad Street. The musical will run from Tuesday, June 13, 2006 – Sunday, June 18, 2006. Shows are scheduled for 8 PM on Tuesday through Friday, at 2 PM and 8 PM on Saturday and 5 PM on Sunday. 

Some of history’s most triumphant and tragic moments from 1924-1972 have been eloquently translated into a theatrical piece via Verizon Presents If This Hat Could Talk. Audiences experience first hand the events that marked a movement, more specifically the Civil Rights Movement. Verizon Presents If This Hat Could Talk evolves into a timeless musical tribute to the numerous men and women, Black and White, who played a pivotal role in shaping America’s history throughout the 20th century. It is the story of the Civil Rights Movement as seen through the eyes of one of the unsung heroes and iconic symbols of our time –Dr. Dorothy Irene Height.  

“Many people who are a part of this present generation are not being exposed to the people and the events that shaped this country,” stated Dr. Height. “This musical is a call to action for the next generation to lead the masses and this present one to never cease to fight for what is right. It is a theatrical experience that trains and teaches, but also touches people.” 

Height was one of the major leaders of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.  Dr. Dorothy I. Height, for more than 5 decades, has been the President of The National Council of Negro Women, the largest Black women’s organization in the country, serving some 4 million women. She currently serves as its Chair Emerita. She received the Citizens Medal Award for Distinguished Service from President Ronald Reagan; she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton and the Congressional Gold Medal from our current President, George W. Bush. Dr. Height conceived and organized the Black Family Reunion, which to date has attracted over 10 million people, during its ten year run. Her lifetime of achievement has been marked by the struggle to liberate Black America, the brilliant advancement of women's rights, and a most determined effort to lift up the poor and the powerless.  

From gospel to jazz, blues, Negro Spirituals and ragtime, Verizon Presents If This Hat Could Talk takes you on a musical journey through time. Whether it’s Dr. Martin Luther’s King’s historic March on Washington, the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL or the events that ignited what ultimately became the Women’s Rights Movement, Verizon Presents If This Hat Could Talk, gives audiences a rare glimpse into the hallways of history.

We all know the stories of the powerful men of the movement and the sacrifices they made, but it is the stories of dedicated women such as Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, Myrlie Evers Williams and Eleanor Roosevelt, that brings this musical full circle and leads to the discovery of the very important and highly significant role women played in the advancement of Civil Rights in our country. Also, in 2005, with the passing of Civil Rights Icon Rosa Parks, Former Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, Former Secretary of State and Civil Rights Activist C. Delores Tucker and the most recent passing of Coretta Scott King, audiences are challenged to take up the torch and step into the breach in our continuing fight for justice.  

Tony Award-Winning Director and Choreographer George Faison wrote, directed and choreographed Verizon Presents If This Hat Could Talk. Faison is best known for winning a Tony© Award in Choreography for the hit Broadway musical “The Wiz.”  He was nominated for another Tony® Award for “Porgy and Bess” and received an Emmy Nomination for the HBO movie “The Josephine Baker Story.” He has staged and directed concerts and videos for such musical greats as Ashford & Simpson, Natalie Cole, Earth, Wind & Fire, Roberta Flack, Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder and Miles Davis, to name a few.  

Prolific singer and song writer Joe Coleman serves as the show’s lyricist and composer, writing more than 25 pieces for the musical. Coleman is also best known as the lead singer of the legendary group, The Platters and also stars in the original musical.  

Verizon Presents If This Hat Could Talk, also has a distinct community outreach component attached to it—The Youth For Excellence Initiative. This initiative gives young people an opportunity to view the production free of charge, meet with the cast and creative team immediately after the performance, brainstorm as a group and then develop ways to bring social change to their communities and schools. This experience is strongly supported by an accompanying study guide for teachers to take back to their respective schools. 

Since its official premiere in the summer of 2005, Verizon Presents If This Hat Could Talk has received rave reviews, an outstanding outpouring of organizational support and corporate financing to spread its message of history and hope to the masses. Verizon led the pack as a title sponsor during “Hat’s” 2005 tour and continues as the title sponsor in 2006. Other contributors who answered the call to action include Alignment Strategies, Inc., General Mills, AARP, Tyson Foods, Coca-Cola and Amtrak, just to name a few.   

Tickets for Verizon Presents If This Hat Could Talk are on sale now and range from $29.50 - $45.00. They are available at the Merriam Box Office and all Ticketmaster outlets, charge by phone at 215.336.2000 or purchase online at www.ticketmaster.com. For groups (20+) call 215.732.1366. For more information and updates on Verizon Presents If This Hat Could Talk, log onto www.vanjoproductions.com or call 202.544.1125.


NCC News contact: Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228.


 

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