Posted by: Josey | December 15, 2008

Bricktop, Queen of the Night: Look for It on Broadway in 2009

You heard it here first! There’s a new musical coming to Broadway in 2009 and, for true music appreciators, it’s sure to be a must-see.

The other day I attended an invitation-only, closed-door, hours-long jazz jam session to build buzz around Bricktop, Queen of the Night. Although there were no celebrity sightings, despite the fact that Whoopi Goldberg is one of the producers, it was a “pinch-me” afternoon from start to finish. (That evening—a different cultural event—was no different… but I’ll tell you about that later.)

Having arrived at the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem just as the music was about to start, I shuffled down a crowded aisle towards the only open chair I could find and sat down next to a woman with a warm smile and long, curly blonde hair.

“What’s your name?” she asked.

“Josey Miller. Nice to meet you. What’s yours?”

“I’m Murphy. Isn’t the Apollo Theater amazing?”

“It really is! As a Midwesterner who grew up watching Sinbad host Showtime at the Apollo, I can’t believe I’m actually here.”

“Oh, you’re from the Midwest? Where?”

“Chicago. Have you been?”

“Yes, and we have a ton of friends from Chicago.”

She started listing names; after all, you never know. Chicago can be a small town… and we were about to learn that New York and L.A. are no different.

“…….and Joe Mantegna.”

“You know Joe Mantegna? My cousin Peter works for Joe Mantegna.”

Petey is your cousin?!”

“You’re kidding. You don’t really…”

“Yes, we’ve known him for years! We’ve spent holidays in L.A. with Petey! And he knows my children! And I even produced one of his plays! I can’t believe it.”

A woman tapped the microphone on the stage in front of the purple, glowing floor-to-ceiling backdrop. And for three hours this Chicago girl sat in the Apollo Theater in New York City, next to a friend my Chicago cousin made while living in L.A.


Ada “Bricktop” Smith, “Bricky” as she was known by close friends like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Cole Porter, was an American vaudevillian singer/dancer who hailed from Chicago. But she wanted more out of her career, and always dreamed of owning a club, so she moved to Paris where she opened Chez Bricktop. In her honor, the producers of Bricktop, Queen of the Night flew in an all-star lineup of jazz musicians… even a tap dancer. And I would have to guess that “Bricky” was tapping her own foot to the rhythm of the jam session, beaming, from a comfy seat in—as one of the producers put it—”that Cabaret in the sky.”

Tulivu-Donna Cumberbatch. The Avery Sharp Trio. A 17-year-old who’s known as one of the best drummers in the world. It was music heaven, and the energy was contagious: In fact, I was tempted to run up on stage and call out my song and a key.

And maybe I still can. The Apollo Theater Amateur Night is every Wednesday…




  1. Oh what a fun afternoon!!

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