2017 Regional Theatre Tony Award®
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STAGGER LEE: The Characters (posted 01-29-2015)

Stagger Lee brings popular African American folk characters to life and juxtaposes them with historical events, tracing the evolution of African American culture and music over the past 125 years. 

In 1895, Billy, his beloved wife Delilah, Delilah’s brother Johnny, and Johnny’s girlfriend Frankie migrate from the oppressive Jim Crow South in search of new opportunities. The magical realism of the storytelling brings them to St. Louis in 1910, Harlem in 1930, Chicago in 1951, Oakland in 1973, Detroit in 1987, and a suburban community in the present day. The music that pulses through each time period serves as the backbeat of their story: jazz, big band, doo-wop, soul, R&B, and hip-hop.

Billy, Delilah, Johnny and Frankie are followed through time and space by the menacing Stagger Lee, a powerful figure who threatens their new lives in each new era and each new community. It is an aspirational tale about pursuing the American Dream while being chased by a haunting and relentless past. 
 


William “Billy” Lyons
A young African American man who is constantly in search of a better life for his wife and three children. After escaping slavery in his home of Lyon, Mississippi, he moves his family to different cities in the United States in hopes of finding the “right” place to settle down and provide for his family. Sometimes, his darker side comes out when he’s in the company of his dangerous friend, Stagger Lee. At his core, Billy is a hardworking man with a kind heart, who only wants the very best for his family and will do anything for them. 
(Played by CEDRIC NEAL)

Delilah Lyons
Billy’s wife. The mother of three children, Delilah is a woman desperately pursuing the American Dream – her own house where she can protect her beautiful family. After leaving her children in Mississippi, Delilah joins her husband in St. Louis to begin their search for a home in the North, in hopes of sending for her children when they finally find their footing. Delilah senses danger instantly and staves it off, which makes Stagger Lee, the most dangerous man of all, her greatest enemy. 
(Played by TIFFANY MANN)
 

Betty Hightower (Frankie Theena Sue)
Frankie, originally from the South, changes her name to Betty Hightower when she moves to St. Louis in order to fit in with the aristocratic black culture that has developed there over the years. She’s Delilah’s best friend and remains Johnny’s devoted wife, regardless of his actions. 
(Played by SAYCON SENGBLOH)

Stagger Lee
A large, hulking man with violent tendencies, hailing from Billy’s hometown of Lyon, Mississippi. All his life, Stagger Lee has been the man on top, and when he follows the Lyons family to St. Louis, Missouri, he can’t help but search for ways to make his presence known. In whatever way he can, Stagger Lee uses his size, strength, and powers of intimidation to get what he wants. However, many in the community refer to him as a protective hero instead of a villain. 
(Played by J. BERNARD CALLOWAY)

Long Lost John
An ex-slave who escaped from prison and has never stopped running. Originally, he was a prisoner who escaped by wearing special shoes with a double heel, making strange marks in the mud and confusing catchers about which way he might have gone. Long Lost John, because he’s escaping, is constantly on the run from those who might throw him back in jail. In Stagger Lee, he runs so fast that he actually crosses through time.
(Played by RICKY TRIPP)

 

 

Pictured at top: RICKY TRIPP (Long Lost John), J. BERNARD CALLOWAY (Stagger Lee), BRANDON GILL (Johnny), SAYCON SENGBLOH (Frankie, aka Betty Hightower), TIFFANY MANN (Delilah), CEDRIC NEAL (Billy). Photos by Karen Almond.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 2018
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