A Portrait of Ray, the brainchild of Dwayne Clark and his wife Janice Freeman Clark. They wrote the show as a tribute to Ray Charles and it has been getting rave reviews ever since. A Portrait of Ray will next appear at the Cutting Room, 44 E. 32nd St. in New York City Monday night April 22.
The Clarks came into WBGO to talk to News Director Doug Doyle.
The show takes audiences on an exhilarating journey back to 1967 at the height of Ray Charles' career and is set during a homecoming concert in Greenville, Florida.
Newark native Dwayne Clark (The Color Purple, Spiderman, In the Heights, Rent, Smokey Joe’s Cafe, Tarzan and Urinetown) portrays the complicated yet charismatic entertainer Ray Charles.
"There's something about the spirit of Ray that I can connect to him for some reason. My dad used to play his records when I was a boy growing up and I really didn't know what I was listening to back then, honestly. Something about his journey, it's like when I put on the glasses something just happens to me."
Throughout A Portrait of Ray, the legendary musicians guides his infamous background singers, the Raelettes, and a jazz orchestra through such favorites such as 'Hit the Road Jack.’ ‘Georgia,’ ‘What'd I Say,’ ‘ I Can't Stop Loving You’ and many more.
Janeece Freeman Clark, a Broadway veteran who also runs the Vanguard Theater Company in Maplewood, is also the producer of A Portrait of Ray.
"The goal for this piece has always been to kind of feel like you're in a dinner theater-type vibe. You know supper clubs just don't exist as much anymore and I think they're so fun. It's such a way of just going out and experience live music and live entertainment."
Dwayne Clark says the show has been performed in different venues over the past several years. He thinks it will eventually make its way to Broadway. Clark got emotional talking about it.
"It would be an absolute dream come true. I am into self-visualization. Many years ago when we sat and starting writing this I visualized it, eventually being on Broadway. I believe Janeece and I, the pleasure of just giving the gift the music to people for healing, it would be a tremendous honor."
Janeece Freeman Clark says audiences feel like they've been transported back to that time when Ray Charles was on top.
"Dwayne does an amazing job telling Ray's story. Ray had ups and downs just like we all do and I think he accepted responsibility for the choices he made and he lived his life, he lived his best life. And that's what we want everyone to do is to live their best life."
For more information about A Portrait of Ray, you can go to www.thecuttingroomnyc.com.
Click above to hear the entire interview with Dwayne Clark and Janeece Freeman Clark.