This production includes explicit language and simulated violence. Not recommended for audiences under age 13.
Nominated for 12 Tony Awards (including Best Musical) The Life tells the story of Queen, and her fellow sex workers, who strive for a better life against oppressive forces in post-disco Times Square. Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Award-winning artist Billy Porter (Pose, Kinky Boots) reinvents this musical for a whole new generation to bring forth the gritty, dangerous, and exciting decadence of New York City in 1980.
As concert adapter and director, Porter has received the full blessing of the Cy Coleman, Ira Gasman, and David Newman estates to reshape a classic music-comedy into a powerful musical drama, humanizing the production’s Black characters in their struggles, passions, and desperate bids for success. Featuring new, funk-infused arrangements and orchestrations by James Sampliner and new vocal arrangements by Michael McElroy, this bold revival reclaims The Life through Porter’s singular lens.
The production includes Jelani Alladin as Lou, Alexandra Grey as Queen, Antwayn Hopper as Memphis, Grammy nominee Mykal Kilgore as Young JoJo, Grammy Award winner Ledisi as Sonja, Erika Olson as Mary, Destan Owens as Old Jojo, and Ken Robinson as Fleetwood.
Programming subject to change.
JELANI ALLADIN (Lou) most recently co-starred in The Walking Dead World Beyond for AMC while also appearing on Law and Order: SVU as well as FBI. On stage he was last seen as Hercules in Public Work’s musical adaptation of Disney’s Hercules. He made his Broadway debut starring as Kristoff in Disney’s Frozen earning him a Drama Desk nomination for Best Leading Actor and a Drama League nomination for Distinguished Performance. He recently completed filming the independent feature Beneath the Fold, and will next be co-starring in the Disney+ series Beauty and The Beast prequel, alongside Luke Evans and Josh Gad.
ALEXANDRA GRAY (Queen) is an actress, musician, writer and activist. She recently starred as Parker Phillips on the CBS action/adventure series MacGyver, and portrayed Lucy Hicks Anderson in the HBO Max docuseries Equal. Other notable roles include playing Elizah Parks on the hit Amazon series Transparent and superstar singer Melody Barnes on the Fox musical drama series Empire, for which she also released several singles (Hollywood Records). Gray has also guest-starred on shows such as Angel of Darkness, How to Get Away with Murder, Drunk History,and the critically acclaimed ABC mini-series When We Rise directed by Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black. She plays the title role in the feature film Gossamer Folds (Paperclip Ltd), and also leads in the upcoming indies Replica and Dope Queens. As a proud trans woman of color, Gray continues to use her platform to blaze a trail for her community. She recently appeared on the cover of Out magazine (February 2021) and has featured in articles in publications such as Variety, Deadline and Forbes.
ANTWAYN HOPPER (Memphis) Broadway: Hair. Select Off-Broadway/NY: Pulitzer Prize-winning A Strange Loop (Playwrights Horizons/Woolly Mammoth), The Loophole (The Public Theater), Civil War Christmas (NYTW), and This Ain’t No Disco (NYSF). Select Regional: A Ghost in Satin (Williamstown Theatre Festival), Nick's Flamingo Grill (Alliance Theatre), Camino Real (Goodman Theatre), The Brothers Size (The Old Globe), Rent (Syracuse Stage), Jesus Christ Superstar (Lyric Opera House), Smokey Joe's Café (New Theatre). Film: A Thousand and One (Upcoming), Girl Most Likely, Citizen Zero. TV: The Knick, Blacklist, Royal Pains, Z: The Beginning of Everything, Girl Most Likely, Shades of Blue, A Gifted Man. Recordings/In Concert: The Double-Threat Trio (Demo, PCLO), Muscles, The Sun God (Jim Rado, Steve Margoshes), Voices in Ohio with The Bengsons (Ars Nova), Showboat (Carnegie Hall). Trained at School of Drama at Carnegie Mellon. Obie Award in 2020 and Craig Noel Award for Best Ensemble (Brothers Size).
MYKAL KILGORE (Young Jojo) is an award-winning actor and a Grammy and NAACP Image Award nominated singer/songwriter. Most recently seen performing at The Met Gala, his theatre credits include Songs For A New World at Encores! Off-Center, Motown the Musical and Hair on Broadway, and Book of Mormon (1st National Tour.) He has also appeared in TV and film in NBC’s Jesus Christ Superstar, The Wiz Live, and Collateral Beauty. #blacklivesmatter #translivesmatter
LEDISI (Sonja) Born in New Orleans and raised in Oakland, CA, Grammy Award-winner Ledisi has been nominated for three Soul Train Music awards, one NAACP Theater Award, and 11 NAACP Image Award nominations. She has also received two LA Alliance Ovation Award nominations, one for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. Theater credits include Caroline or Change (Broadway, 2004), Witness Uganda (Off-Broadway), and The Color Purple (Workshop). In 2019 she co-wrote and co-produced her one woman show, The Legend of Little Girl Blue. The show premiered at the Wallis Theatre in Beverly Hills to rave reviews. She is currently the President of the Recording Academy Los Angeles chapter. Utilizing and developing her versatile skills as a singer/songwriter, music producer, author, playwright, and film producer, she is now CEO of her record label Listen Back Entertainment/BMG.
ERIKA OLSON (Mary) is thrilled to be making her City Center debut. Olson originated the lead role of Pamela in the new musical My Very Own British Invasion (Paper Mill Playhouse). Previous theatrical credits include the off-Broadway production of Cyrano (u/s Roxanne), and the national tour of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (Cynthia Weil). TV credits include FBI: Most Wanted, Murphy Brown, and Pose. Special thanks to her family for all their love and support.
DESTAN OWENS (Old Jojo) National Tour: Volta; Broadway: Rent, Chicago, Smokey Joe’s Café, The Who’s Tommy 15th Anniversary Concert; Regional: Dreamgirls, Jesus Christ Superstar Gospel, Stormy Weather The Lena Horne Story, It Happened in Little Rock, Carmen, Trouble in Tahiti, A Little Night Music, Die Fledermaus; TV: 30 Rock; Film: Marie and Bruce, Get Rich or Die Trying, Across the Universe; Soloist with: Oklahoma City Philharmonic, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Sun Valley Opera, Omaha Symphony, Reading Symphony Orchestra, Regina Symphony Orchestra, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, The Jackson Symphony, Southwest Florida Symphony, Florida Orchestra, Memphis Symphony Orchestra, Grand Rapids Symphony, Lake Charles Symphony, Phoenix Symphony, and the Long Island Philharmonic. Member of Broadway Inspirational Voices. Lambda Chi Alpha alumni. BA in Musical Theatre from Oklahoma City University.
KEN ROBINSON (Fleetwood) Broadway: Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, The Color Purple (2016 Revival), Memphis, and Baby It’s You! Regional: Actors Theatre of Louisville, Yale Repertory Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse, Contemporary American Theater Festival, Cleveland Play House, Classical Theatre of Harlem, Marin Theatre Company, Huntington Theatre, and Seattle Rep. Education: MFA in Acting from Yale School of Drama and BA in Economics from Morehouse College.
Music by Cy Coleman
Lyrics by Ira Gasman
Book by David Newman, Ira Gasman, and Cy Coleman
Concert Adaptation by Billy Porter
Scenic Designer Clint Ramos
Costume Designer Anita Yavich
Lighting Designer Driscoll Otto
Co-Sound Designers Kai Harada and Megumi Katayama
Projection Designer Zachary Borovay
Wig & Hair Designer Tom Watson
Casting by The Telsey Office
Choreography by AC Ciulla
New Arrangements & Orchestrations James Sampliner
Featuring The Encores! Orchestra
Guest Music Director James Sampliner
Directed by Billy Porter
Starring Jelani Alladin, Alexandra Grey, Antwayn Hopper, Mykal Kilgore, Ledisi, Erika Olson, Destan Owens, and Ken Robinson
With Joe Beauregard, Angelica Maria Beliard, Angela Brydon, Adee David, Tyler Eisenreich, Asmeret Ghebremichael, Semhar Ghebremichael, Albert Guerzon, Jeff Gorti, Heather Lang, Nathan Lucrezio, Tiffany Mann, LaQuet Sharnell Pringle, Devin L. Roberts, MiMi Scardulla, Jaquez André Sims, Anastasia Talley, and Tanairi Vazquez
Encores! Artistic Leadership
Lear deBessonet | Artistic Director
Rob Berman | Music Director
Clint Ramos | Producing Creative Director
Josh Clayton | Supervisor of Music Administration & Score Restoration
Adrian Alea | Creative Associate
Camille A. Brown, Eisa Davis, and Robert O'Hara
Producer of Musical Theater
For nearly 30 years we’ve watched our Encores! series bring a community together through a shared love of song and dance. Now there has never been a more important time to return this flagship program, like a beacon of hope, back to our New York community. Please consider making a gift today to support this beloved series.
Leadership Support for Encores!
Stacey and Eric Mindich Fund for Musical Theater
Major Support for Encores! is provided by
Encores! Season Sponsors
Roz and Jerry Meyer
The Shubert Foundation
Stephanie and Fred Shuman Fund for Encores!
Joseph S. and Diane H. Steinberg Charitable Trust
Additional support for Encores! is provided by
The Kaplen Brothers Fund
The Frederick Loewe Foundation
Daryl and Steven Roth
The Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, Inc.
The SHS Foundation
The Ted Snowdon Foundation
Production videography by Bardo Arts/Alex Pearlman
Production photos by Joan Marcus
Art by Ben Wiseman