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Geffen Playhouse Announces Cast for Paradise Blue

LOS ANGELES (October 12, 2021) – Geffen Playhouse today announced the full cast for its West Coast premiere of Paradise Blue, written by Tony Award-nominated Dominique Morisseau (Ain’t Too Proud, Skeleton Crew) and directed by Stori Ayers (Blood at the Root, The Last O.G.).

The cast includes Tyla Abercrumbie (The Chi, Utopia) as Silver, Wendell B. Franklin (The Good Fight, Madame Secretary) as Blue, Alani iLongwe (The Legend of Georgia McBride, Two Trains Running) as P-Sam, Tony Award nominee John Earl Jelks (Radio Golf, Sweat) as Corn, and Shayna Small (Parable of the Sower, Rags Parkland Sings Songs of the Future) as Pumpkin.

Welcome to the sultry, jazz-filled Paradise Club. It’s 1949 in Detroit, and trumpet-playing club owner Blue has a tough decision to make. Should he sell his jazz joint as gentrification is banging on the door? The house band is desperate to stay, Blue’s demons are tempting him to leave, and the arrival of a seductive stranger turns everything upside down. In Tony Award-nominated playwright Dominique Morisseau’s (Ain’t Too Proud, Skeleton Crew) powerful noir-inspired drama, a makeshift family and their troubled bandleader find themselves fighting for the future of Paradise.

Paradise Blue is presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals on behalf of Samuel French, Inc. www.concordtheatricals.com

Meet the Cast

tylaabercrumbie-1000x1400.jpgTyla Abercrumbie

(as Silver)

Tyla is excited to make her Geffen Playhouse debut. Regional credits: Sweat  (Huntington Theatre Company, Goodman Theatre); Pipeline (Victory Gardens Theater); Paradise Blue and In Darfur (TimeLine Theatre);  East Texas Hot Links (Writers Theatre); Gem of the Ocean, The Piano Lesson, and Flyin’ West (Court Theatre); Detroit ‘67 (Northlight Theatre);  All the Way, Good People, Clybourne Park, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, You Can’t Take It With You (Asolo Repertory Theatre); Intimate Apparel, In The Next Room (or the Vibrator Play) (Milwaukee Repertory Theater and Actors Theatre of Louisville);  Radio Golf (Pittsburgh Public Theater);  Piano Lesson (Portland Stage Company); Jitney (St. Louis Black Repertory Company). TV credits: Somebody Somewhere, Utopia,  Easy, Chicago Med, Chicago P.D., Empire, and Shrink. Tyla holds a B.A. from Columbia College. She is a company member with TimeLine Theatre. As a playwright, she was the recipient of the TimeLine Theatre Writers Collective Fellow 2016 and The Raven Theatre Playwrights Initiative Award 2020. Her most recent play Relentless begins production December 2021. Tyla is currently in the Showtime series The Chi. And a proud member of AEA.

wendellbfranklin-1000x1400.jpgWendell B. Franklin

(as Blue)

Wendell B. Franklin has performed at theaters across the country, including Atlantic Theatre Company (world premiere of Dominique Morisseau’s Skeleton Crew, directed by Ruben Santiago Hudson), People’s Light and Theatre Company (Fences directed by Kamilah Forbes), The Billie Holiday Theatre (world premiere of Brothers from the Bottom by Jackie Alexander starring Wendell Pierce), The Culture Project (Speak Truth to Power directed by Terry Kinney), Berkeley Repertory Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, Huntington Theatre Company (co-production of Ruined directed by Liesl Tommy), Cleveland Playhouse (Gee’s Bend), Virginia Stage Company (Raisin in the Sun), Weston Playhouse (Raisin in the Sun and “Master Harold”…and the Boys), Arkansas Rep. (Fences), Illinois Shakespeare Festival (Julius Caesar, Pericles, and Comedy of Errors), the Sundance Theatre Institute (workshops of Skeleton Crew and Between the World and Me). His TV credits include The Good Fight, Madam Secretary, Elementary, and Law & Order.

alaniilongwe-1000x1400.jpgAlani iLongwe

(as P-Sam)

Alani iLongwe is excited to be making his Geffen Playhouse debut! Theater credits include The Legend of Georgia McBride (Ensemble Theatre Company), Two Trains Running (Seattle Repertory Theatre/Arena Stage), Sunset Baby (TheatreWorks), Bad Apples (ACT Theatre), Romeo & Juliet and Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death (Classical Theatre of Harlem). Television credits include ABC’s Castle, TNT’s Major Crimes, CBS’ Blue Bloods, NBC’s Law & Order, Nickelodeon’s Cousins for Life, Casagrandes, and The Loud House. He can be heard voicing a series regular role in the upcoming Cartoon Network/HBO Max series Jessica’s Little Big World and seen on screen in the Netflix feature film Arthur the King (starring Mark Wahlberg, Juliet Rylance, and Simu Liu). As a writer, his immersive musical At the River I Stand is currently in development with Apples & Oranges Arts. Graduate of NYU’s Tisch School for the Arts and Maggie Flanigan Studio. Ron Howard Fellowship recipient.

johnearljelks-1000x1400-1.jpegJohn Earl Jelks

(as Corn)

John can be seen in this season of the HBO Max series Love Life. In theater, John starred in Head of Passes at the Mark Taper Forum, reprising the role he originated alongside Phylicia Rashad and others in the Public Theater's production of the piece in 2016. John also appeared on Broadway in the critically acclaimed play Sweat by Lynn Nottage, which won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. In 2007, John received a Tony Award nomination for “Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play” for his work in August Wilson's Radio Golf. Additional film and television credits include Spike Lee's Miracle at St. Anna, Night Comes On, Showtime’s On Becoming a God in Centra Florida, Netflix’s The I-Land, HBO's True Detective, Paramount+’s The Good Fight, Blue Bloods and NBC's Law & Order: SVU. 

shaynas6.jpegShayna Small

(as Pumpkin)

Off-Broadway: Parable of the Sower (The Public Theater); Rags Parkland Sings Songs of the Future (Ars Nova workshop). Regional: The Glorious World of Crowns, Kinks, and Curls (Baltimore Center Stage); How to Catch Creation (Baltimore Center Stage & Philadelphia Theatre Company); Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story (Cincinnati Playhouse); Intimate Apparel (Bay Street Theatre); The Colored Museum (Huntington Theatre Company). The Juilliard School: The Threepenny Opera, Romeo and Juliet, Toya in Hurt Village, The House of Bernarda Alba, Henry IV (Part I), Assassins. Education: B.A., The Juilliard School. shaynasmall.com

Paradise Blue

November 9 - December 12, 2021
Gil Cates Theater

Written by Dominique Morisseau
Directed by Stori Ayers
Featuring Tyla Abercrumbie, Wendell B. Franklin, Alani iLongwe, John Earl Jelks, and Shayna Small.


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