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Vanessa Williams joins producing team of ‘A Wonderful World’ musical; full cast announced for pre-Broadway run

The James Monroe Iglehart-led musical will bow in Chicago and New Orleans later this year.

Vanessa Williams (Credit: Abeiku Arthur)

Ahead of its New Orleans and Chicago runs set for October, “A Wonderful World, A New Musical About the Life and Loves of Louis Armstrong” has announced its full cast, plus the addition of Vanessa Williams to its producing team.

Williams, a Tony, Grammy and Emmy Award nominee, was last seen on Broadway in “POTUS.” Her additional Main Stem credits include “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” “Into the Woods,” “Sondheim on Sondheim,” “The Trip to Bountiful” and “After Midnight.” “A Wonderful World” marks her first theatrical producing credit.

“I became interested in joining the producing team after I worked with Carl White and Greg Rae on a play I am starring in and co-producing called ‘One Reach Away,’” Williams said in a statement. “They told me about this Louis Armstrong piece, and I had to read it. What captured me was the life of Louis was told through the perspectives of his four wives, and that’s when my producing partner Liz Curtis and I dove in.”

“We felt it was important to have a deeper dive into how this iconic man loved and transformed throughout his career while embracing these four dynamic forces,” Williams continued. “Louis Armstrong had an incredible career that truly crossed over musical genres, worldwide cultures and show business mediums that few have ever achieved. I’m honored to help bring this story to the stage and contribute to the magic of the Wonderful World that it helps to create.”

“A Wonderful World” will play the Saenger Theatre in New Orleans from Oct. 1-8 before moving to the Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago from Oct. 11-29. Producers shared their intent to then move the production to Broadway.

Joining the previously announced James Monroe Iglehart as Louis Armstrong for the New Orleans and Chicago engagements are Ta’Rea Campbell as Lucille Wilson, Jennie Harney-Fleming as Lil Hardin, Brennyn Lark as Alpha Smith and Khalifa White as Daisy Parker.

The cast will also include DeWitt Fleming Jr., Gavin Gregory, Matthew Greenwood, Matt Wolpe, Ronnie Bowman, Eean Cochran, Lindsey Corey, Jamal Christopher Douglas, Alexandra Frohlinger, Afra Hines, Alan Kelly, Ashley McManus, Aurelia Michael, Alysha Morgan, Jarran Muse, Aaron Michael Ray, Khadijah Rolle, Dave Schoonover, Brett Sturgis, Renell Taylor and Dori Waymer. Casting is by Duncan Stewart of RWS Entertainment Group.

“A Wonderful World” is conceived by Tony nominee Christopher Renshaw and novelist Andrew Delaplaine, and features an original book by Aurin Squire and music made popular by Armstrong. Real-life married team Annastasia Victory and Michael O. Mitchell provide original music, arrangements, orchestrations and music direction for the bio-musical.

Renshaw will direct and Rickey Tripp will choreograph, with specialty tap choreography by cast member Fleming. Christina Sajous serves as associate director and Aurelia Michael as associate choreographer. The production will also include scenic and projection design by Adam Koch and Steven Royal, costume design by Toni-Leslie James, lighting design by Cory Pattak and sound design by Kai Harada.

“A Wonderful World” is being produced by Thomas E. Rodgers Jr., Renee Rodgers, Andrew Delaplaine, Liz Curtis and Martian Entertainment (Carl D. White and Gregory Rae).