FWD Theatre Project’s Reading of THE BLACK AND WHITE BALL at City Winery Jan. 20th

fwd_bw_banner-300x225Tickets are now on sale for the first of 2015 staged readings: The Black and White Ball.  Tickets can be purchased from City Winery’s Web site.

THE BLACK & WHITE BALL is an exciting new work by award-winning writers and stars Chicago favorite George Andrew Wolff as Truman Capote who, in 1966, announced a high profile society event for New York’s glitterati to shine. 16-year-old Ariana Burks from Chicago High School for the Arts, who won rave reviews and wowed a packed house of industry elite at the September concert, plays Emma, an orphaned black teen from poor Brooklyn who mistakes Capote’s elitist gathering for an opportunity to unite blacks and whites in a racially-divided nation. The pair’s unlikely friendship, separated by age, social status, color, and intent, makes THE BLACK & WHITE BALL a powerful and intriguing musical that – in many ways – parallels the current racial divide in our nation today.

Times Square Chronicles offered this rave at the preview: “Think Anything Goes meets Hairspray. George Andrew Wolf was a delightful Capote and this first set was owned by vocal dynamite in action Ariana Burks as Emma. She may be young in age and small in stature, but Burks has a powerhouse voice that ignites from that little body (with) the vocal promise of a Kristin Chenoweth blended with Patti Labelle. This little girl has quite a future a head of her, as hopefully, does this show.”

Join FWD Theatre Project on this new venture to advance Chicago’s status as a leading market for new musical theatre development in America. THE BLACK & WHITE BALL is your first chance to share in launching the best original musicals being penned by the greatest writers in the world. It’s a city-wide arts and arts-loving community effort to bring everyone on board, from audiences to actors to directors, producers, writers, investors, and anyone interested in building Chicago into the world-class city for original musical theatre it deserves to be.


Get in on the ground floor of a brand new show in development – if you’ve never attended a staged reading, you’re in for something very special.

FWD Theatre Project launched on Sept. 22, 2014 at City Winery and immediately became the hottest new musical development organization in Chicago. With a mission to Discover, Develop, and Deliver the best new shows to Chicago’s producing theatres, FWD has become one of the most-watched arts organizations in town. THE BLACK & WHITE BALL is the first staged reading of FWD’s inaugural season and you’re invited to the party!

The Tribune’s Chris Jones said, “It’s fair to say that no prior effort has been launched with the star power and oomph of Monday night’s very impressive event which sold out the 320-seat City Winery.” Hedy Weiss at the Sun Times wrote, “(This) just-launched venture is sure to imprint itself on the consciousness of anyone who loves new musicals.” And Backstage raved, “If the first installment is anything to go by, FWD is going to be a hit. LaunchingFWD! premiered its first five selected titles to an enthusiastic crowd of Chicagoans craving something thrillingly original.”

STEPHEN COLE (Book & Lyrics) is an award winning musical theatre writer who has been produced all over the world. His musicals include AFTER THE FAIR The Apple Tree Theatre in Chicago, Off Broadway at the York, CD, Kings Head in London and Village Theatre, Seattle),THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (Kleban Award winner, CD, NYMF 2006, Lyric Stage, developed at the Goodman Theatre.), SATURDAY NIGHT AT GROSSINGER’S, starring Gavin McLeod and Ruta Lee, CASPER starring Chita Rivera, DODSWORTH starring Hal Linden and Dee Hoty.   The experience of writing ASPIRE, the first American musical to premiere in the Middle East resulted in THE ROAD TO QATAR! (Dallas, Off Broadway at the York, London, Edinburgh, CD on Jay Records).   TIME AFTER TIME premiered at Pittsburgh Playhouse and was developed under the American Musical Theatre Project at Northwestern. Stephen’s books include NOEL COWARD, THAT BOOK ABOUT THAT GIRL, I COULD HAVE SUNG ALL NIGHT, the Marni Nixon story, ghosted PUT ON A HAPPY FACE (Charles Strouse memoirs). Stephen’s song “Christmas Morning” (composed by Todd Ellison and orchestrated by Michael Starobin was recently performed by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and is part of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Concert Library. Works in progress: MERMAN’S APPRENTICE (with David Evans. Presented in New Musical Festivals in Seattle and London. Soon to be a CD) and BY THE BOOK (with David Krane) Stephen is the recipient of the 5 Dallas Theatre League Awards for After the Fair, Dallas-Ft. Worth Drama Critics Award for Road to Qatar!,Edward Kleban Award for Night of the Hunter and a Gilman-Gonzales Falla Commendation for musical theatre. Stephen has written special material for Zach Levi, Audra McDonald, Chita Rivera, Dorothy Loudon, Marlo Thomas, Tyne Daly, Christine Baranski, Hal Linden,   Keith Carradine, JoAnne Worley, Lauren Bacall, Matthew Broderick. Most recently Stephen conceived, wrote and directed a new musical revue, INVENTING MARY MARTIN, which recently delighted audiences Off-Broadway at the York Theatre in New York City.

TODD ELLISON (Composer/Musical Director/Vocal Arranger) As a Broadway Music Director Todd’s credits include La Cage, Spamalot, Lestat, 42nd Street, Amour, The Wild Party, On the Town, Once Upon a Mattress, How to Succeed…, She Loves Me, Cats, Starlight Express, Annie 2, Radio City Christmas Spectacular, Encores!- No, No, Nanette, and On the Town. He wrote the incidental music for A Class Act,  and Taller than a Dwarf. He has conducted orchestras internationally such as: Vienna Konzerthaus with Jerry Hadley, Dawn Upshaw. Carnegie Hall: Jubilee, Dublin Film Orchestra, Radio City Christmas Spectacular-Mexico City, World Science Festival-Lincoln Center. He has accompanied such stars as  Nicole Kidman, Barry Manilow, Meryl Streep, Tyne Daly, Matthew Broderick, Sarah Jessica Parker.

Todd and Stephen, both members of ASCAP, have written songs for a musical version of Betty Boop and have had the good fortune of having three of their songs recorded. “The Long Way” is featured on Emily Skinner’s CD and “Gettin’ Nowhere Fast” is a highlight of Guy Haines (Bruce Kimmel’s) album. Todd and Stephen also have a brand new Christmas song entitled “Christmas Day” recorded by the cast of Spamalot for BC/EFA.

The Black and White Ball  is their latest work under construction as we speak!