Ever since the High Priestess of Soul was called home to join the ancestors in 2003, her legacy has endured throughout pop culture. And that’s a good thing. Just ask Laiona Michelle—who wrote and stars in the new show, Little Girl Blue: The Nina Simone Musical.... Learn More
Laiona Michelle, a native of Springfield, MA, made her Broadway debut in the principal role of Nanna in Amazing Grace, upon following her performance in the First National Tour: The Book of Mormon. With Little Girl Blue — The Nina Simone Musical, she makes her debut as a writer. Whether playing Dinah Washington in the musical production about the iconic singer’s life (Dinah Was); Calpurnia in a regional Shakespeare production (Julius Ceasar); or as a veteran of the Afghanistan war in the George Street Playhouse production of Christopher Demos-Brown’s American Hero, Laiona approaches every role with power and conviction. Awards include: Independent Reviewers of New England, Best Lead Actress award (2001, Stonewall Jackson’s House); Barrymore and Carbonell Awards (2004, Constant Star), The NAACP Hollywood award (2005, Constant Star). Some of her regional credits include: Arena Stage, Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, The Woolly Mammoth Theatre, Goodspeed Theatre Company, Westport Country Playhouse and many more. Television: Lift, All My Children, Law & Order: SVU, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, The Blacklist, and Crashing, as well as Amazon’s Sneaky Pete. Special thanks to The George Street Playhouse, The Karma Foundation and Live & In Color. "You've got to learn to leave the table when love's no longer being served." Nina Simone
Music & LyricsNina Simone
Music & Lyrics
“Nina could sing anything, period,” Mary J. Blige told Rolling Stone when the magazine named Nina Simone one of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. And in some ways, that astonishing, unclassifiable range has made it especially difficult to assess Simone’s legacy – often considered a jazz singer (particularly because of her masterful piano playing), she was classically trained, yet her nickname was “The High Priestess of Soul.”
If anything, she claimed that she was a folk singer, and her dazzling repertoire – Israeli folk tunes, compositions by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, songs by the Bee Gees and Leonard Cohen and George Harrison, traditional ballads, spirituals, children’s songs – remains unparalleled.
Simone’s music provided the true soundtrack to the civil rights movement, and her inspiration as an artist and an activist has been celebrated by Lauryn Hill, Kanye West (who has frequently sampled her work), John Legend, Common, and Alicia Keys, who once wrote that “she made me want to live life, learn and experience it earnestly and use my voice to say SOMETHING!”
Simone’s groundbreaking compositions like “Mississippi Goddam” and “Four Women” defined a songwriting voice that was proudly, defiantly black and female. Her radical rearrangements of other songs have been covered by everyone from George Michael to the Animals, Whitney Houston to Jeff Buckley. An icon whose tortured life was the subject of an Oscar-nominated documentary, Nina Simone was a unique creative force. “She was an overwhelming artist, piano player, and singer,” said Bob Dylan. “Very outspoken and dynamite to see perform…the kind of artist that I loved and admired.”
(Bio and photo: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)
Devanand Janki is an award winning Director-Choreographer based in New York City. His credits include, Off-B’way: Zanna, Don’t! (Winner Lortel, Callaway and GLAAD Awards), Junie B. Jones (Lortel nom.), Henry and Mudge (Lortel nom.), The Yellow Brick Road (Callaway nom.), Skippyjon Jones (Lortel Nom.), This One Girl’s Story, Cupid and Psyche, Love and Real Estate and Romantic Poetry (MTC). The All Star Broadway concerts for the Actors Fund: Hair, Funny Girl, Dreamgirls (Assoc.) and Seth Rudestky’s Broadway 101. Lincoln Center: Amahl and the Night Visitors, Babes in Toyland and Anything Goes in concert (Choreo. Assist.); 9 years as Artistic Assoc. for BC/EFA’s Broadway Bares. Regional Theatre: The Wings of Ikarus Jackson , Barrio Grrrl! (Kennedy Center), Rent, Xanadu, Rocky Horror Show (Hangar Theatre) Disney’s Aladdin (Chicago Shakespeare), Asphalt Beach, The Full Monty, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Man of La Mancha. TYA tours: Martha Speaks, Nate the Great, If You Give a Pig Pancake, The Berenstain Bears. As a performer Dev has appeared on Broadway in Cats, Miss Saigon, The King and I and Side Show and tours of West Side Story and A Chorus Line. He is the Artistic Director of Live & In Color, which develops new plays and musicals that celebrate diversity. TheatreInColor.org
Following her critically acclaimed performance in American Hero, Laiona Michelle returns to George Street Playhouse to play Nina Simone in a new musical. This exuberant premiere musical reveals a life in between the black and white keys—a passionate journey from classical piano child prodigy to the High Priestess of Soul, told through the words and music of American icon Nina Simone.
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"Michelle’s singing voice is gorgeous and her stage presence magnanimous" - The Star-Ledger
"This insightful portrait of Nina Simone...will mesmerize you. The musical is wonderfully crafted and beautifully performed." - Broadway World
Photos by T. Charles Erickson
Watch the official trailer and the show's appearance on "State of the Arts!"
Listen to Laiona Michelle talk with Gary Walker for WBGO
Little Girl Blue - The Nina Simone Musical is sponsored by The Karma Foundation.
The backdrop for Little Girl Blue- The Nina Simone Musical was created by staff artists in George Street Playhouse's own local scene shop with the support of The Merrill G. and Emita E. Hastings Foundation.
"Michelle’s performance as Simone is at once captivating and haunting."
"This show is a sure fire hit!"
"Simone's life and legacy has now been gifted with a terrific stage play....This is Michelle's debut as a writer. She has a winner."
"an artistic triumph"
"'Little Girl Blue' is well worth a visit to George Street Playhouse"
"a superb production"
"emotionally electric and very appealing."
Miss Simone would be proud.
amazing....emotionally stirring....near genius.
"The set design...creates a sense of show-biz elegance with its...stunning backdrop"