A musical about the life of Grammy-winning, veteran blues and R&B singer-performer Bobby Rush, Slippin’ Through the Cracks, is currently in development. Tonight and tomorrow (7/8), an invitation-only industry presentation of the show will take place as a developmental reading of the project.
Rush’s eventful story, with all its triumphs and tragedies, is being portrayed by a cast of 15 actors and five musicians, including three who play the lead role: Walter Russell III as the young Rush, Cedric Lamar as the main character, and Mark Henderson as the older man. In the coda, Rush himself, now aged 89, joins the company to perform a closing song. The New York presentation follows a three-week workshop at the New Stage Theatre in Jackson, MS.
Russell himself, who is 14, became one of the youngest artists to win a Grammy for Opeera Recording at this year’s awards, as the principal soloist in the opera Blanchard: Fire Shut Up In My Bones. He previously portrayed the young Michael Jackson on Broadway in MJ the Musical.
“The show encompasses from the time I was a sharecropper kid picking cotton to today,” he tells Lauren Leadingham in American Blues Scene, “my blues journey from then to now.” Rush himself has written the music and lyrics for the musical, and co-wrote the book with its co-director Stephen Lloyd Helper, who conceived the Broadway hit Smokey Joe’s Café. His fellow co-director is Arminda Thomas, and musical direction is by Felton Offard.
Rush’s career stretches over some 70 years and includes 27 studio albums, from which the latter-day recognition of his unique talents led to Grammys for Best Blues Recording for both 2016’s Porcupine Meat and 2020’s Rawer Than Raw. He has won 14 Blues Music Awards in a lifetime in which he has suffered the loss of three children, a bus crash in which one of his band was killed, and many other challenges.
“I come out and sing and dance with the cast,” says Rush. “Steve wants this to make sure everybody knows I’m still going strong after all I’ve been through.”
Buy or stream Bobby Rush’s Porcupine Meat.