Nora Cole, Ebony Marshall Oliver and Debra Walton in New Federal Theatre’s Staged Concert Reading of Micki Grant: Step into My World

Music, Performances, Photography, Theater

New Federal Theatre in association with Castillo Theatre presented Micki Grant: Step into My World, a staged concert reading of the Poetry, Lyrics, and Songs of Micki Grant, March 21-26. Highlights of Micki Grant: Step into My World will be featured on the 29th episode of BACKSTAGE PASS with Lia Chang, executive produced and hosted by Lia, set to air on April 9 at 1:30pm and 6:30pm on FIOS 34, RCN 83, and Spectrum 56/1996, and stream on MNN2. If you miss the episode, it will be archived on my youtube channel.

Nora Cole. Photo by Lia Chang

Compiled and directed by Nora Cole, who was also one of the performers, the concert reading also featured Ebony Marshall Oliver and Debra Walton, and music direction by Ray Leslee.

Ebony Marshall Oliver, Nora Cole and Debra Walton, Ray Leslee. Photo by Lia Chang

The audience was transported into the personal world of the iconic Micki Grant through her unpublished poems, lyrics, written musings on love, politics, America, family, food, historical figures loved and lost, accented with music rarely heard and with songs from her Award-winning work: Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope; Your Arms Too Short to Box with God; It’s So Nice to Be Civilized; and Working.

With Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope, Micki Grant became the first Black woman to write the book, music and lyrics of a Broadway musical. Her estate granted permission to New Federal Theatre to share unpublished works, never seen before for this evening of poetry and song.

Ebony Marshall Oliver, Nora Cole and Debra Walton. Photo by Lia Chang

Ebony Marshall Oliver, Nora Cole and Debra Walton. Photo by Lia Chang

Nora Cole. Photo by Lia Chang

Ebony Marshall Oliver, Nora Cole and Debra Walton. Photo by Lia Chang

Debra Walton. Photo by Lia Chang

Nora Cole. Photo by Lia Chang

Micki Grant. Photo by Lia Chang

Micki Grant. Photo by Lia Chang

Micki Grant, a multi-award-winning composer, lyricist, playwright, librettist, singer, and actress, was involved in the creation of some 18 theatrical productions, five of them on Broadway. With the long-running Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope, in which she also starred, she became the first woman to win a Grammy Award for the score of a Broadway musical. She also received Tony nominations for book, music, and lyrics. Another Grammy nomination for the score (with Alex Bradford) of Your Arms Too Short to Box with God followed, as well as another Tony nomination for the score of Working. When Your Arms Too Short… and It’s So Nice to Be Civilized opened on subsequent evenings, Grant had the distinction of having two Broadway musicals running simultaneously. She wrote the music and contributed lyrics for J. E. Franklin’s Prodigal Daughter and contributed additional lyrics to Eubie! and Sweet & Hot: The Songs of Harold Arlen. For Jacques Brel Blues, she supplied the English lyrics for 20 songs by the Belgian songwriter. Along with …I Can’t Cope and Your Arms Too Short…, she had an extensive list of collaborations with the dynamic Emmy-winning director, Vinnette Carroll. She wrote songs for educational television’s Infinity Factory, and one of her several commercial jingles garnered the ad industry’s prestigious CLIO Award. Her creative body of work has been celebrated in two Off-Broadway musicals, Step Into My World at AMAS Repertory Theatre, and Looking Back at New Federal Theatre.

As an actress, Ms. Grant performed on and Off Broadway and in regional theatres around the country having made her Broadway debut as the ingenue in Langston Hughes’ Tambourines to Glory. In the late ‘90s,  a two-year National tour of the play Having Our Say took her to more than 68 U.S. cities and to Johannesburg, South Africa, earning her the Helen Hayes Award for her performance as Sadie Delany. She also appeared in the CBS movie of the same name. The first African-American contract player on a daytime serial, she played the role of attorney Peggy Nolan on NBC’s “Another World” for seven years, and has had continuing roles on “Edge of Night” and “Guiding Light,” as well as guesting on “All My Children”. Directing credits include, among others, Ruby Dee’s Two Ha Ha’s and a Homeboy, starring Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee at Crossroads Theatre Company, and I Can’t Cope for the Apollo Modern Black Classic Series. A multitude of awards include the OBIE, NAACP Image, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Audelco’s Outstanding Pioneer, AEA’s Paul Robeson, and the National Black Theatre Festival’s Living Legend and the Sidney Poitier Lifelong Achievement awards. Grant was also the 2012 recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Dramatists Guild of America.

Sirlouis Jones, Lawrence Floyd, Amanda Santiago, Fumiko Tanaka, Nora Cole, Daryl Walker, Debra Walton, Ray Leslee, Cynthia Kitt. Photo by Lia Chang

Ray Leslee, Daryl Walker, Debra Walton, Nora Cole. Photo by Lia Chang

Debra Walton, Daryl Walker, Nora Cole. Photo by Lia Chang

Gary Holmes, Debra Walton, Daryl Walker, Nora Cole. Photo by Lia Chang

Gary Holmes and Debra Walton. Photo by Lia Chang

Charles Turner and Nora Cole. Photo by Lia Chang

Photos and Video: Inside the Celebration of Life for Micki Grant 

Lia Chang. Photo by Kalin Ivanov

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer, activist, documentarian and an Award winning filmmaker and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Lia is also the host and Executive Producer of BACKSTAGE PASS WITH LIA CHANG, a weekly Arts and Entertainment and Lifestyle program that airs on Sundays at 1:30pm and 6:30pm, and Wednesday at 6:00pm on FIOS 34, RCN 83, Spectrum 56/1996 and streams on MNN2.

Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. Her short film, When the World Was Young garnered a 2021 DisOrient Film Audience Choice Award for Best Short Narrative. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman. She stars in and served as Executive Producer for the short independent films Hide and Seek, Balancing Act, Rom-Com Gone Wrong, Belongingness and When the World was Young. She is also the Executive Producer for The Cactus, The Language Lesson, The Writer and Cream and 2 Shugahs. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations.

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