Tony Award winner Melba Moore stars in ROLL ON! A GOSPEL MUSIC this month

Roll! Productions in association with the Center for Nonprofit Advancement and Dasu Productions will present Roll On! A Gospel musical, starring the legendary Tony Award winner and Grammy nominee, Melba Mooreat THEARC Theater in Washington, DC for 21 performances, from Sunday October 9 to Sunday October 30, 2022.

Roll! A Gospel Musical is a spectacular revision of “Roll On! A Drama With Music” staged at the Lincoln Theater in Washington DC in 2006. The Washington Post praised Roll On! as a “serious piece of inspirational entertainment…”. Now a full-fledged musical, Roll On! is set to amaze audiences with new songs and arrangements performed by a hand-picked DMV-based cast, featuring Duke Ellington School of the Arts alumni and Howard University graduates, led by living legend, 5-octave singer, Ms. Melba Moore.

Roll! is a musical about family and faith, and what happens when trust is lost or broken. It tells the story of a teenager, Joshua Johnson, who wants to pastor his family’s church, but the cares of life and family secrets stifle his goal. Along the way, he learns that true love forgives and forgiveness empowers.

Roll! was conceived by playwright Marshall Opie while an engineering student at Howard in the 1980s and first read under the direction of Professor Kelsey E. Collie. The reading featured then-student Mr. Carl Payne, best known for his roles as Cole Brown on the television sitcom Martin and Walter “Cockroach” Bradley on The Cosby Show. Professor Collie then said to Mr Opie: ‘I think you have something, but I think you have to live it first before you finish it.’ No truer word has been spoken.

As playwright and executive producer of Roll On!, Mr. Opie has over 30 years of experience teaching and mentoring youth in the Washington metro area, over 10 years of experience as a director corporate for the Washington, DC-based Clyde’s Restaurant Group, and many years of service to his home church, From the Heart Church Ministries in Suitland, MD, working side-by-side with his wife, Margaret.

Since its creation Roll On! evolved into Roll On! A drama with music in 2006, produced by Dr. Rickey Payton, Sr. – prolific composer and member of the GRAMMY’s – and nurtured under the artistic direction of Michael Bobbitt – currently executive director of the Mass Cultural Council, the highest cultural official in the state of Massachusetts. Together, Dr. Payton and Mr. Bobbitt quickly propelled the playwright’s vision forward.

It was during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic that Mr. Opie enlisted the help of Dr. Daniel Spruill, CEO and Founder of DASU Production, to form a collaboration to write Roll On! as a musical. The two, Dr. Spruill and Mr. Opie, set out to do the next to impossible, including grading, rehearsing, recording and presenting readings to an audience via virtual online platforms.

Roll! was tried and tested and evolved into today’s presentation, Roll On! A Gospel musical book by Marshall Opie, score by Dr. Daniel Spruill, with additional music by Dr. Rickey Payton, Sr., conducted by Eric Ruffin – artistic director of Howard University’s Department of Theater Arts and director of Black Nativity, winning three Helen Hayes Awards -, and choreographed by Sandra Holloway – director of the City at Peace performing arts development program at the Atlas Performing Arts Center.

The men and women behind Roll On! A Gospel Musical embodies DC’s Black Theater at its finest. In 2006, the Washington Post article ended by stating, “Perhaps in the future he will hit oil like a theatrical production.” Since then, the playwright earned his MFA in playwriting from Hollins University and brings his A-game with a team of designers ready to hit the oil.

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