CHICAGO: Grammy Award winning singers and music icons Lena Horne and Nancy Wilson are celebrated in Black Ensemble Theater’s latest musical play, Style and Grace: In Tribute to Lena Horne and Nancy Wilson. In Kylah Frye’s directorial debut at BET, Style and Grace tells the story of two African American women whose extraordinary lives as singers, helped shaped the sound of early jazz music.
“What a great way to start!” elates Kylah, writer and director of Style and Grace. Kylah is a longtime ensemble member and Black Ensemble Theater’s newest Associate Director. “One of the most exciting aspects of this play is that we get to enjoy the variety that comes with two different time periods.”
Lena Horne was born on June 30, 1917 in Bedford New York. At the age of 16, Lena’s career flourished where she worked in jazz clubs like the Cotton Club in New York City alongside jazz artists like Cab Calloway, before moving to Hollywood.
In her lifespan Lena was featured as a singer, actress, and dancer in over three hundred Broadway plays and was highly praised for her memorable performances in Broadway musicals Stormy Weather and Porgy and Bess. Lena Horne died on May 9, 2010.
Nancy Wilson was born on February 20, 1937 in Chillicothe Ohio. Nancy’s career spanned over five decades, from the mid–1950s until her retirement in early 2010. She was notable for her music single (You Don't Know) How Glad I Am and her soulful version of the hit song Guess Who I Saw Today. Wilson recorded more than 70 albums and won three Grammy Awards for her work. Nancy Wilson recently died last year on December 13, 2018.
Although born two decades apart, Lena and Nancy’s stories are told from early childhood to their adult lives, sharing stories of family struggles, racism, and the many challenges they faced while working in the music industry. “In Style and Grace, we see examples of timeless music and personal style,” describes Kylah, "so be prepared for the whole package. You’ll get Lena and Nancy’s intelligence, tenacity, and incredible musical styling with a heavy dose of enjoyment.”
Both Lena and Nancy are portrayed magnificently by four actresses, Aeriel Williams (Young Lena Horne), Chante Joy (Older Lena Horne), Jayla Craig (Young Nancy Wilson) and Rhonda Preston (Older Nancy Wilson). Kelvin Harris and Vincent Jordan both perform as the play’s Co-Host and ensemble members.
Style and Grace: In Tribute to Lena Horne and Nancy Wilson is an unforgettable stage performance of storytelling that features an array of memorable songs under the music direction of BET’s Robert Reddrick. Produced by Black Ensemble Theater’s founder and CEO Jackie Taylor and directed by Kylah Frye, Style and Grace combines elaborate hair, makeup and fashionable costume designs to transform the stage to the glitz and glamour of early jazz.
Style and Grace: In Tribute to Lena Horne and Nancy Wilson performs through June 30, 2019. For tickets and box office information visit Black Ensemble Theater online at www.blackensemble.org.