Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Charles Bernard Murray 4th aka “CB” : Celebrating Pearl Bailey


The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we hit it."
- Michelangelo Buonarroti, Renaissance artist

 I discovered CB Murray through LinkedIn. Charles is an accomplished producer, singer, actor, director, choreographer, published composer and author. Last night, October 17th, 2012, CB's latest project opened, celebrating the legacy and life of his great aunt, Pearl Bailey! I went to the first performance of "Pearl" last night; everybody who was there was asking the same question: "why the show is not on Broadway?" The acting is wonderful, the plot is smart, the songs are beautiful. I sure enjoyed it more than several shows I've seen recently.
 Charles started his career in New York City as a teenager working with the A.M.A.S. Repertory Company under Rosetta LeNoire. I also knew Rosetta, one of the nicest people I ever encountered in this crazy business.
Pearl Bailey is a legend in the entertainment industry.
At age fifteen she won the famed Apollo Theater Amateur Contest and quit high school to star as a Vaudeville Entertainer during The Great Depression.
PEARL became one of the most popular and sought after female performers of her time in the 1930’s and 1940’s.  This is the PEARL that CB Murray is bringing back to life on stage. Pearl Bailey was CB’s Great Aunt.
Jevon McFerrin, ,Jennie Harney as Pearl, Eric Whitehead
 PEARL released close to thirty albums with countless hit songs, starred in movies; received an Emmy Award and the prestigious Tony Award. She defied segregation barriers marrying her soul mate, famed Italian/American drummer and orchestrator Louis Bellson, in 1952. PEARL was the first female African American entertainer to have her own network television show.

Two United States Presidents awarded her the rank of Ambassador with an honorary seat in the United Nations.
 And that’s only scratching the surface of this Historic American icon’s life.

I reached out to him because of the book I am writing celebrating fifty years of Hello, Dolly! After talking to
Jennie Harney as Pearl, Eric Whitehead
CB, I decided to do a blog feature on him in anticipation for what I hope is a happy and joyous road with his new musical. May it run longer than Dolly!

 If you are in New York, please go to Studio 501 at CAP21, 18 W. 18th Street, 5th floor to celebrate the birth of a new show.
CB is bringing this historic figure back to life this fall in New York City in the musical PEARL

You have a few more chances to catch Pearl.
 Thursday, October 18th @ 7pm
Friday, October 19th @ 7pm
•    Saturday, October 20th @ 2pm
•    Saturday October 20th @ 7pm
•    Sunday October 21st @ 4pm

She left an indelible mark in his family. PEARL is a story that deserves to be told, needs to be herd and screams to be made alive on stage.
The above quote is a philosophy that CB has certainly adopted for himself. We can all achieve things that are greater than our expectations.
 When I asked CB who he thinks is the greatest person to revolutionize Broadway, his response is Michael
 Bennett.
CB made his Broadway debut in Dreamgirls. A Chorus Line was groundbreaking and Bennett was a giver.
He got these amazing artists together. He picked them out of their personal testimonies and their real lives.
He made a story out of it and they receive royalties for life.
Nobody had ever done that before.

He made money but everybody that was part of that show made money.
There are many turning points in CB’s life that convinced him to forge ahead.
He has reinvented himself six or seven times.
Growing up, he was not into theater or anything having to do with show business. At one point, he wanted to be a professional tennis player. A cousin invited him to stay in her apartment in New York for the summer while he was in college.
 CB made some friends and was so taken by New York that he wouldn’t go back home.
He just stayed. That was in August and by December, he had his Equity card! It was because he was
CB Murray
supposed to be here.
That does not normally happen.
The perfect day for CB is to wake up and meditate. He always does that and plans his day. Then he starts creating something.
 He is at his best when he’s creating, whether it’s writing music, a book, or a play, or choreographing, or directing, also, getting some time at the gym, and cooking dinner for his mom. She is in her eighties and he helps taking care of her. He reflects on the goals he has set for himself. He started out as a ghetto/street dancer.
When he came to New York, he thought he was going to be the next Luther Vandross. 
Everything started well – he was making progress, he felt great about what he was doing, and he was excited about future possibilities. He ended up meeting Rosetta LaNoir.
She was amazing. He was nineteen years old and she kept him off the streets.
She put him in AMAS, a company devoted to discovering new musicals, in four shows in a row.
His experience with AMAS brought him face to face with some amazing talents. This was the 1978-1980. CB “Charles” Brown was there.
 He could go on and on. Also, working with Bernard Johnson among others.
Louis Johnson and Sandra Reid Phillips were there.
He was a kid, he didn’t know anything. Rosetta and Sandra Reid Phillips took CB under their wings. They were his first stage mothers. He had friends that put him in a ballet class. Frank Hatchett took CB in his class for free. The next thing he knew, he had changed his career path. This is something he loved. He felt free in New York as an artist.
He felt that he could see life in colors that he had never seen before.
 It completely changed his life.
He made a U-turn and left the building at one point. He got out of show business through bad advice.
The Dalai Lama says we have the greatest responsibility as artists because we have the largest audience. As artists, we should always have something to say or stand for something. When we are doing anything, whether it’s a song or a production or a movie, we should be helping. CB has worked as an artist here in New York City for over 30 years performing, writing, directing and creating.
 He feel that now is the perfect time to share Pearl Bailey's story, struggles, accomplishments and legacy with the world. Make it a priority to go see PEARL. He wants to be a world betterer and he desires to do it through the arts.
At this age, CB feels that it is time to give back. He has three amazing sons and they are grown and have children of their own.
He now sees himself giving back to young artists. He has been working with these kids coming right out of school, doing showcases with them, and he is mentoring a young man now who is about to release his first CD.
 CB loves doing what he does. He loves creating things. To him, the new generation of kids is phenomenal.
They are doing things we wished we could do. It is like the evolution of the artist. They are singing with greater range and as far as dancing is concerned, it’s as if they have wings on their feet.
It is just amazing and CB loves doing things with young people.
He just loves that energy that he gets working with them. That keeps him young.

CB has performed in Off Broadway shows directed by Louis Johnson, Israel Hicks and Arthur Faria; made his Broadway debut in the Michael Bennett’s original company of Dreamgirls in 1981; he was also on Broadway in the musical Honky Tonk Nights.
CB has performed with 8 is Never Enough in the Off  Broadway Hit Comedy "LMAO" . He has performed at Carnegie Hall, in films, on television, in videos and on stages around the world.
The advice that he would give to anyone desiring to go into this business is to learn the business. So many kids try to come into this business with all of these wide-eyed ideals.
They want to become stars. They look at Glee and think that that is all there is to it. They don’t take any business courses in school. They don’t understand that this is “show” and “business”. It’s fifty-fifty. It is a career choice and they need voices in their ears to let them know what they are good at and what they are not good at.
Everybody cannot do everything. For young people, they need mentors that will tell them the truth, the hard truth. “Ok, you’re not a very good dancer, but let’s work on your acting.” Or “You’re not a very good actor but you can really sing.” Or perhaps they need to be in the production end of show business. They need someone to tell them the truth.
CB and I spoke on Saturday afternoon at 1:30 PM. I asked him what work he had done that day on his career and/or craft. He works on both sides of his brain. He is an artist but he is also a business man. He does marketing every morning. He markets, he markets, he markets. He networks. He does that part of the business. Then he sets his day to go out and do something on his art or craft.
That could include going to the gym to make sure that he is in peak condition for what needs to be done, or going to class, or vocalizing. He has done The Artists’ Way twice. He always does his morning pages and he is always writing something down, whether it’s an idea for a show, or an idea for something.

What makes CB the happiest? Opening night!
Linda Purl, a great actress/singer, gave me this next question. When CB is in trouble, who does he pray to? He prays to God. He becomes the most devout person you will ever know when he’s in trouble.

The one change he would like to see in today’s industry is accountability.

How is CB reaching audiences in today’s frenzied world? Like me, CB is on the web A LOT. He has found that paper fliers have become waste of money for him. He now has digital fliers. He utilizes websites, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, among others. Nothing ever beats word of mouth. He realizes that he can’t do it by himself. He employees the help of his peers to also market him and he will market them. By reaching out to others, they will have a reach further than us. When we combine our reaches it works. By collaborating that way with his friends, it helps. 
For this show, it began with a lot of research. He wanted to be saturated with information before he sat down to let inspiration take over.
He read, he asked questions, he investigated, he looked up, and then he sat down and started creating. Then he’ll start editing himself. He’ll do six or seven versions before he will even ask anyone else to read it. Then he looks for people that he trusts to tell him what’s good and what’s bad. He believes that all of us need a “third eye.”   

I asked CB if he went to other art forms for inspiration when working on a project.
He said yes and no. When he is working on something, original, he tries and shy away from other people’s original projects while he is in production. He doesn’t want to subliminally “steal” from their ideas.
While working on a project like Pearl, then he is going back and looking at her and reading everything and studying her. In this instance, he is calling his family more than some of them have heard from over the last thirty years. He wants to make sure that he has facts right and that the show itself is right.  
      CB always wanted his great Aunt Pearl to see him perform. It is a regret that she never did. His entire family on his father’s side was show people.
His father was a jazz drummer. His cousin was an orchestrator and a conductor for the Air Force jazz orchestra for many years.
Everybody was performing. His step-brother was on Broadway when CB was in junior high school. CB always desired the validation. He thought those that were performing were the ones to give it to him as far as the arts were concerned.
The one production of Pearl Bailey’s that CB wishes that he’d seen is St. Louis Woman, her Broadway debut.
 
When he embarked on this project, he asked permission. Anyone can write anything they want about someone without asking permission. In CB’s case, he actually called his family.
His oldest living relative was actually closer to Pearl than her son, Tony.
Pearl used to babysit him before she got into show business! She saw him as her “son”. He has a lot of her memorabilia that no one has ever seen before.
 He holds the torch. Everyone else let everything fall by the wayside. CB asked his permission and asked if it was OK to tell the “untold” story.
 He said, “Yes. It’s time.” CB would send him pages. He lives in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
CB’s favorite memories of Pearl Bailey are of her as family as opposed to the entertainer.
 Everyone got together at “Mama Ella’s” funeral. That was Pearl Bailey’s mother and CB’s great grandmother. It was one of the few times that the entire family got together. This was a family that didn’t have family reunions.
If it was a major occasion like a funeral or a wedding, people showed up. EVERYBODY showed up for Ella’s funeral.
After the funeral, it was just awful. She wasn’t a celebrity. She was family. 
 CB served as Pastor at Kingdom of God Ministires in Jersey City, worked on the Board of DREAM PAS, Jersey City's first Charter High School for the Performing Arts and his new book “Prosperity of the Soul: The Evolution of Man” is now available on amazon.com.
This blog started out with a quote from Michelangelo about setting your aim. When Pearl Bailey started out, who would have thought that she would be an Ambassador to the UN? I don’t think that she thought that royalty and the Prince of Saudi Arabia would rather come and stay at her house than to stay at the Waldorf Astoria or that she would do all the things that she did. She was was always able to reinvent herself and move forward. Many female stars careers slow down as they get older. Pearl’s accelerated.
CB tells me that Pearl is not going to be what audiences are expecting. Pearl’s life was groundbreaking. The things that she did went far beyond what they just did for her career. 


 Jennie Harney IS Pearl!
 

Hailing from New York City, Jennie Harney received her training from the renowned LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts and received her certificate in Musical Theater from AMDA (the American Musical and Dramatic Academy) NYC. Jennie has been recognized as a songwriter (winning 1st Prize in Bertelsmann/Sony/BMG/Random House's "World of Expressions" competition), dancer (YMCA's125th International Anniversary Celebration, held in Bombay, India) and singer (Sang The National Anthem at the BNP Paribas Showdown for the Billie Jean King Cup, Madison Square Garden). 
She was also a featured Soloist on the Album recording of Superstar, the Musical. She has been a teaching artist with BAMSS Theatre Works since 2004 and has brought the arts to hundreds of kids throughout the NYC Public School System. Most recently Jennie was showcased in the 2010 Broadway's Rising Stars concert at the Town Hall Theatre (NYC), starred in Theaterworks USA’s national tour of “We the People” as well as both the St. Louis Repertory Theater and the Cincinnati Playhouse’s  productions of Beehive, The 60’s Musical. Jennie returned to the “Children of God” project in 2011and she just returned from Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park where she got rave reviews in “Thunder Knocking On The Door”.
Jennie's Father is Tony Award Winner Ben Harney.


 Thank you CB Murray for the gifts you have given to the world and will continue to give!

With grateful XOXOXs ,


Check out my site celebrating my forthcoming book on Hello, Dolly!

I desire this to be a definitive account of Hello, Dolly!  
If any of you reading this have appeared in any production of Dolly, I'm interested in speaking with you!

Do you have any pics?

If you have anything to add or share, please contact me at Richard@RichardSkipper.com.


NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED.  FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY!



Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!    
               
My next blog will be... My Exclusive interview with Cory English: Barnaby Tucker, Hello, Dolly...Nicole Croisille (Paris), Jo Anne Worley (Theater Under The Stars), Carol Channing (1994 Tour and Broadway Revival)

Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!


  
Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!

I'm celebrating Pamela Luss on Saturday, October 20th, 2012 at 7:00 pm
Pamela with Houston Person at The Metropolitan Room in NYC
Just The Two Of Us and Friends
Hope you can make it. It’s going to be a party!
Reserve today if that date is available! Call me if any questions!
 Richard Skipper 845-365-0720


TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY

Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com                            

 
This Blog is dedicated to ALL THE DOLLYS and ANYONE who has EVER had a connection with ANY of them on ANY Level!





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