The Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts presents the West Coast premiere of The Wallis’ production of Witness Uganda, a groundbreaking documentary musical by Matt Gould and Griffin Matthews starring twelve-time Grammy nominee Ledisi, Jamar Williams (Wild Goose Dreams), Amber Iman (Hamilton) and Emma Hunton (Wicked), directed by Matthews with music direction by Gould, from Tuesday, February 5 – Saturday, February 23, 2019, in The Wallis’s Lovelace Studio Theater. After a successful Off-Broadway run, this new and revised production documents the story of a man battling to find his place in a world full of injustice and inhumanity.
In addition to Ledisi (Rain Lady/Church Lady), Jamar Williams (Griffin), Amber Iman (Joy) and Emma Hunton (Ryan), the cast features Kameron Richardson (Jacob), Naärai (Grace), Sha’leah Nikole (Eden), Dexter Darden (Ibrahim), Jordan Barrow (Ronny), Jai’Len Josey (Vocalist/Understudy for Rain Lady/Church Lady) and Antwone Barnes, aKennan D Washington and Thurzday in the Ensemble. Ledisi will not perform on the evening of Friday, February 15 and for both shows on Sunday, February 17. In her absence, Jai’Len Josey will play the roles of Rain Lady/Church Lady. Witness Uganda is choreographed by Abdur-Rahim Jackson, with music supervision by Remy Kurs, set design by Connor MacPhee, lighting design by David Hernandez, costumes by Carlton Jones and sound design by Martin Carillo. Assistant Director is Mark Jacob Chaitin and Stage Manager is Sara Sahin. Casting is by Chad Murnane of Binder Casting.
Based on a true story, Witness Uganda follows Griffin, a New York City-based American volunteer, as he arrives in Uganda to help build a village school and escape his church’s condemnation of his sexuality. When he falls into a complicated relationship with a group of destitute, orphaned teenagers, he finds himself driven by a mission that will change his and their lives forever. From the rolling hills of the Ugandan countryside to a stifling apartment in New York City, from a joyous celebration of African youth to a terrifying abduction 8,000 miles away, Witness Uganda explores the question, “is changing the world even possible?”
According to CBS, Witness Uganda is, "an awesomely powerful musical that will thrill you to the bones." Associated Press called it, "a vibrant, pulsating musical,” and TimeOut NY described it as, "exuberant and soulful… releases gale-force waves of faith, hope and love." The show has received the Richard Rodgers Award, Harold Adamson Award and Dean Kay Award.
Witness Uganda has been performed in concert by Gould and Matthews around the country and around the world since 2008. It had its world premiere at Harvard University’s American Repertory Theater in 2014 and premiered off-Broadway at New York City's Second Stage Theater under the name Invisible Thread, both under the direction of Tony winner Diane Paulus. Witness Uganda has helped to raise over $275,000 for UgandaProject, an organization founded by Matthews and co-directed by Gould that sponsors the education of a group of students living in Kampala, Uganda. Both Matthews and Gould have each spent time living and working in Africa. Gould was a Peace Corps volunteer in The Islamic Republic of Mauritania from 2001 to 2003, and Griffin first went to Uganda in 2005 on an aid trip. For more than a decade since, the two have visited Uganda. They created Witness Uganda based on interviews with UgandaProject staff and students, weaving music through the words of the people.
“This production gets back to the roots of Witness Uganda,” says Gould, and Matthews adds, "We're excited to share this raw, real story about the complexity of helping others. It feels more relevant now than ever.”
“From the beginning of my association with Matt and Griffin and this show, I have always connected with their story of this young man on his epic journey," says The Wallis' artistic director Paul Crewes. "It’s been a wonderful experience to work with them at The Wallis on this West Coast premiere."
Tickets, $50, are on sale now and, available at TheWallis.org/Witness. The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts is located at 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills. To purchase tickets and for more information, please call 310-746-4000 or visit: TheWallis.org/Witness.