Barrington Stage bringing back ‘Happiest Man on Earth’ by Mark St. Germain

Stage and screen veteran Kenneth Tigar is the sole actor in “The Happiest Man on Earth,” based on the bestselling 2020 memoir by then-100-year-old Holocaust survivor Eddie Jaku.

Season-opening show returning for performances from Sept. 22 to Oct. 8

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Longtime TV and film actor Kenneth Tigar will return to the role of a 100-year-old Holocaust survivor in Barrington Stage Company’s production of the one-character play “The Happiest Man on Earth,” running Sept. 22 to Oct. 8 on BSC’s intimate the St. Germain Stage.

Tigar created the role for the production’s season-opening run from May 24 to June 17. Of the the 27 performances, a dozen were sold out, and reviews were universally positive

“The Happiest Man on Earth” was written by Barrington Stage’s longtime close associate Mark St. Germain, who has had 14 plays produced by the company. It is is based on a bestselling 2020 memoir of the same name, published when its author, Eddie Jaku, was 100 years old. Born in Leipzig in 1920, Eddie was the son of Polish-immigrant parents who were proud German Jews until the rise of the Nazis destroyed their lives.

During the 80-minute play, Tigar alternates between playing Eddie as a centenarian, finally telling his story to a synagogue audience in his adopted homeland of Australia, and multiple characters, from family to friends to fellow prisoners and Nazis. The play was commissioned by BSC from St. Germain through the Sydelle Blatt New Works Commission Fund. The stage named after St. Germain is in a building endowed by philanthropists Sydelle and Lee Blatt.

Performances from Sept. 22 to Oct. 8 will be at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday, with Saturday matinees at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 23 and Oct. 7. Tickets, at $60 for adults and $25 for youth, are available online at or by calling 413-236-8888.   

Article by Steve Barnes for the Times Union.


Trio of free Staged Readings directed by Tony F. Sias of Karamu House held at Oberlin College’s  Irene and Alan Wurtzel Theater on June 23, 24, and 25  

As communities across the country, and in Northeast Ohio begin the many celebrations  surrounding Juneteenth, the federal holiday commemorating the emancipation of enslaved  African Americans, nationally acclaimed playwright, and novelist Ifa Bayeza is currently writing  a drama, The Rescue of John Price, and will premiere free staged readings with an accomplished cast and crew at the Irene and Alan Wurtzel Theater at 67 Main Street on the  campus of Oberlin College, June 23, 24,25, 2023 at 7:00 pm. 

Bayeza has been commissioned by The Oberlin-Wellington Rescue Theater Project founded by  Pat Spitzer and her husband automotive business leader Alan Spitzer to complete the play in  2024. Based on historical events, The Rescue of John Price is about a runaway slave who in  1858 traveled from Kentucky to the abolitionist sanctuary and utopian college town of Oberlin,  at the height of the frenzy over the Fugitive Slave Act. When slave catchers threatened to  kidnap John back into slavery, hundreds of Oberlin and Wellington citizens led by a  revolutionary group of rescuers prevented his capture and helped him on his quest for true  freedom.  

“Through this distilled dramatization of the rescue of this one man from the ravages of slavery,  I hope that audiences will ponder today, the pivotal role, the essential role, that African  Americans have played in the making of this nation and the fulfillment of its promise,” said  Bayeza. “That journey, from enslavement to freedom, which has been hard-fought and is  ongoing, has brought benefit to all lovers of democracy.”  

Tony F. Sias, the CEO & President of the Karamu Performing Arts Center in Cleveland is the  director of the anticipated drama and the staged readings. “The Rescue of John Price is not just entertainment,” said Sias. “It’s about educating the community about this historically seminal  moment in time.”

Bayeza is also educating the community by conducting several workshops, discussions,  interviews, and a host of other activities, She also hopes to get feedback about her work thus  far. On Monday, June 19, the official Juneteenth Holiday, there will be a “Conversation with Ifa” at the Burrell House in Sheffield, Ohio Metroparks. This landmark is the last known location  where John Price stayed before being whisked to freedom in Canada.  

The event is hosted by The Oberlin-Wellington Rescue Theater Project and the Lorain County  Racial Equity Center and the African American Fund, an affiliate fund of the Community  Foundation of Lorain County. 

Considering our current cultural climate, Bayeza added that we can all learn from The Rescue of  John Price. “The respectful and earnest collaboration of Oberliners, white and black, men and  women, old and young in creating what was almost a utopia, one that we struggle to envision  even today, is central to this story – people of all backgrounds, persuasions, and experiences,  living and working together for the progress of all.” 

Oberlin-Wellington Rescue Theater Project Co-Founder Pat Spitzer conceived the idea of  creating a play about a historic event even 30 years ago and is thrilled Bayeza is bringing that  vision to life. “For progress to be made, we must work together. I think people want to walk the  walk with this history. I would just like to see the day when everybody wants to help  everybody. That’s the ultimate goal.” 

This summer’s staged readings of The Rescue of John Price are made possible by a  generous legacy gift from the Fischer Family (Michael and Susann), in honor of the late Gay  Fischer, who cherished her years at Oberlin College in the 1950s. Ifa’s community events are  thanks to support from the Community Foundation of Lorain County. Free tickets for the  staged readings are available on the website,, or through Eventbrite. For other  community events, go to: 


Ifa Bayeza is an award-winning playwright, director, novelist, and educator. Plays include THE  TILL TRILOGY (The Ballad of Emmett Till, That Summer in Sumner and Benevolence); String  Theory; Welcome to Wandaland; Infants of the Spring; the musicals Charleston Olio, Bunk  Johnson … a blues poem and KID ZERO and the novel, Some Sing, Some Cry, co-authored with  her sister Ntozake Shange. A finalist for the 2020 Herb Alpert Award in Theatre and for the 2020  Francesca Primus Prize, Bayeza is the recipient of two commissions from the National Trust for  Historic Preservation and a 2022 MacDowell fellowship. Bayeza holds an MFA in Theater from  UMass Amherst and is a graduate of Harvard University. The TILL TRILOGY (The Ballad of  Emmett Till, That Summer in Sumner, and Benevolence) made its world premiere, in rotating  repertory, at Mosaic Theatre Company of DC in October 2022.

New version of ‘The Wiz’ will be led by Wayne Brady and Alan Mingo Jr. sharing the title role

By MARK KENNEDY for the Associated Press

FILE - Wayne Brady attends the Paramount 2022 Upfront party in New York on May 18, 2022. Brady and Alan Mingo Jr. will star as the Wiz in San Francisco from Jan. 16-Feb. 11 at the Golden Gate Theatre, and in Los Angeles from Feb. 13–March 3, before hitting Broadway in spring 2024. (Photo by Christopher Smith/Invision/AP, File)
Wayne Brady attends the Paramount 2022 Upfront party in New York on May 18, 2022. Brady and Alan Mingo Jr. will star as the Wiz in San Francisco from Jan. 16-Feb. 11 at the Golden Gate Theatre, and in Los Angeles from Feb. 13–March 3, before hitting Broadway in spring 2024. (Photo by Christopher Smith/Invision/AP, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Two men who stepped into 6-inch heels for “Kinky Boots” on Broadway will play the title character behind the curtain when “The Wiz” tours the U.S. starting this fall and lands on Broadway in 2024 — Wayne Brady and Alan Mingo Jr.

“Me and Wayne go way back to where we were friends in Los Angeles as actors,” says Minho. “So what better way to share a gig with your friends?” Adds Brady: “It’s a dream. It truly is a dream.”

Brady will star as the Wiz in San Francisco from Jan. 16-Feb. 11 at the Golden Gate Theatre, and in Los Angeles from Feb. 13–March 3, before hitting Broadway in spring 2024.

Mingo will play the Wiz in the remaining cities of the national tour, starting with the launch in Baltimore and including Cleveland; Washington, D.C.; Pittsburgh; Charlotte, North Carolina; Atlanta; Greenville, South Carolina; Chicago; Des Moines, Iowa; Tempe, Arizona and San Diego.

The two actors were last on Broadway in “Kinky Boots” playing Lola. Brady handed the role to Mingo and “now I’ll go on the road and then hand him the baton,” says Mingo.

“The Wiz” was one of two shows that a young Brady always dreamed of one day performing in. “I always wanted to be in ‘The Wiz.’ I always wanted to be in ‘Dreamgirls.’ Those were two of the classics that, as a kid, were kind of the North Star of theater. It was like, ‘Hey, if you can be in one of these shows, then that means that you’ve made it.’”

The cast will also include Kyle Ramar Freeman as the Lion, Phillip Johnson Richardson as the Tin Man and Avery Wilson as the Scarecrow. Schele Williams will be directing, saying she hopes the show becomes a “touchstone for a new generation.”

The show is adapted from “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum, with a book by William F. Brown, and music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls.

“The Wiz” opened on Broadway in 1975 and won seven Tonys, including best musical. It has such classic songs as “What Would I Do If I Could Feel” and “Ease On Down the Road.”

A 1978 movie version of “The Wiz” starred Diana Ross, Lena Horne and Richard Pryor as the Wiz. Michael Jackson co-starred as the Scarecrow, with Nipsey Russell as the Tin Man and Ted Ross as the Lion. NBC televised a live version in 2015 with Queen Latifah, Ne-Yo and David Alan Grier.

Both Brady and Mingo say the show — featuring Black actors front and center — has a new resonance as it eases on down the road over the coming months.

“I think of all these people of color on this stage telling the story of a young woman who’s lost and looking for something. She’s disenfranchised and she happens to meet three other young people who are all looking for something and they can’t get the answers from the older people around them because the world is in chaos. She has to step up to the plate and find her way — absolutely now is the time.”

Mingo, who was in the original runs of “Rent” and “The Little Mermaid,” said “The Wiz” had an important part in inspiring his career.

“It sparked me to get into this business,” he says. “I love to share our art with a new set of audiences. Hopefully they’ll turn into wonderful patrons, if not turn to the arts themselves.”

The original Broadway production featured Stephanie Mills as Dorothy, Dee Dee Bridgewater as good witch Glinda and Andre De Shields as the Wiz.

Brady, who won a Primetime Emmy Award with “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” says he’ll pitch his Wiz somewhere between Prior and De Shields.

“I already know that I’ve got two places that I can pull from for inspiration. I loved Richard’s dark turn and I loved Andre’s star turn and his panache and all the grandiosity,” he says. “So I think somewhere in the middle will I lay my guy. I think I can bring a certain charm and light to it.”

Paris Ray Dozier Receives 2022 Jonathan Larson Grants

The honorees will each receive an unrestricted grant of $15,000, as well as additional support in the form of residencies, concerts and recording grants.?

By: Chloe Rabinowitz for Broadway World

The American Theatre Wing has revealed the recipients of the 2022 Jonathan Larson Grant. This year’s honorees – Christie Baugher (Music, Lyrics & Book), Paris Ray Dozier (Music & Lyrics), and Jaime Lozano (Music) – will each receive an unrestricted grant of $15,000, as well as additional support in the form of residencies, concerts and recording grants.?A special ceremony honoring the artists, and featuring performances of their recent work, will be announced at a later date.

“We are so delighted to celebrate the talents of these three incredible artists, who have been awarded this year’s Jonathan Larson Grants,” said Heather A. Hitchens, President & CEO of the American Theatre Wing. “This initiative is so vital to our mission as an arts organization, and our commitment to doing all we can to help remove the barriers talented young artists face when entering a career in the theatre. We’re ecstatic to see the continued development of the brilliant work being created by Christie, Paris and Jaime, through this most essential program.”

The Jonathan Larson Grants are an unconditional annual investment in individual talent. They are awarded to musical theatre composers, lyricists, and librettists, or writing teams, early in their career, to support artistic endeavors and safeguard long-term music writing careers. Recipients are given free rein to put the grant’s resources towards what they see as the best use for furthering their creative endeavors with the hope that the grant will provide the support necessary for artists to see their work from concept to cultural success. The grant is a clear indicator of what is new and next in musical theatre, and provides recipients with a platform to amplify stories and figures that can shape contemporary culture. Rather than financing a specific piece or project, the grant provides emerging artists with enhancement opportunities in addition to general funding in an effort to promote lifelong development as creatives.

Recipients were selected by an expert panel consisting of Producer Amanda DuBois (The Lehman Trilogy, Spring Awakening), General Manager and ShowTown Theatricals CEO Nathan Gehan (Parade, Into the Woods), Opera Composer Kamala Sankaram (Thumbprint, The Last Stand) and Composer/Lyricist Max Vernon (KPOP; 2015 Larson Grant Recipient).

Previous grant recipients include Grace McLean (In the Green), Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin (The Prom, Elf), Shaina Taub (Suffs), Benj Pasek & Justin Paul (Dear Evan Hansen, La La Land), Laurence O’Keefe (Legally Blonde: The Musical), Joe Iconis (Be More Chill), Dave Malloy (Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812), Amanda Green (Hands on a Hardbody), Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey (Next to Normal), Michael R. Jackson (A Strange Loop), and many more.


Paris Ray Dozier

(Music & Lyrics) is a composer & lyricist from Los Angeles, California, whose Musical Theatre productions have opened across the United States. Dozier’s career began when he was 15, after attending the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute. He went on to write songs for artists on Disney Music Group’s Hollywood Records, where he was also signed as a singer-songwriter and producer. After Hollywood Records, Dozier headed up the music department for B InTune TV, which broadcasted to 100 million households worldwide on NBC and Fox. Dozier also composed the music & lyrics for musicals and plays including Last Stop on Market Street, The Watsons Go to Birmingham, Mr. Chickee’s Funny Money and X Marks the Spot. In 2018, he composed Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Empower Youth Musical: We Got Next. In 2021, Dozier was brought on to write the music & lyrics for Emerald City, at Seattle Repertory Theatre.

“The Happiest Man on Earth,” by Mark St. Germain, is an Eloquent Tale of Brutality Turning to Love of Life

Kenneth Tiger in The Happiest Man on Earth

There are some stories so brutal and emotionally draining that you fear hearing them.

The thing about such painful memories is that when expressed as art they can become tales that are so eloquent you are not only thrilled that you experienced it, but you want everyone to share in the experience.

That is how I felt leaving the world premiere performance of “The Happiest Man on Earth” playing at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, MA. I hope the play has a long life after it closes here on June 17.

And, if it does, I hope it stars Kenneth Tigar who gives one of those performances in which actor and character merge to the point where you cannot tell one from another. Rarely have I seen an actor so inhabit a character than Tigar does with Eddie Jaku.

“The Happiest Man on Earth” is adapted from the memoir of the same name telling the story of Jaku’s experience in Nazi concentration camps.

Though those experiences take up the bulk of the play, the take away is how Jaku could let go of his hatred of so many people who thrived on committing horrid inhumane acts, as well as exterminating 6-million Jews.

By the way, the biography was published when Jaku was 100 years old.

Because Tigar, directed by Ron Lagomarsino, tells of Jaku’s beatings in such an articulate manner, the loss of his parents, his many attempts to escape and the soul crushing betrayals and other in unimaginable experiences become real when he speaks.

Certainly you are affected by the horrors he experienced. But even as you are often in despair wondering how human beings can be so cruel to each other, you also are in awe at the tenacity and will-to-live exhibited by Jaku, and others like him.

You are also in awe of the devotion and love of family and friends that Jaku experienced. His courage and generosity of spirit makes his story inspirational on many levels.

However, if there is a disappointment in the work, it is that we learn little of Jaku’s post-war life. He tells us he became the happiest man on earth, and we believe it. Yet, it seems to come like a bolt from the blue when his first son was born.

What is missing is how the man used the rest of his life as a philosopher of peace, love and happiness.

The play by Mark St. Germain is simply brilliant. He is a familiar voice at Barrington Stage having had 14 of his plays staged there. This, to me, is his finest play. He condensed years into a speedy 90-minutes, which likely explains the omission of Jacu’s later day accomplishments.

Again, condensing might explain moments which seem confusing and lacking in detail. One minute he’s naked and ill, the next he has money for bathing. However, what is important is the playwright never loses the essence of Jaku’s torturous life or his indomitable spirit.

St. Germain not only makes vivid the attempted extermination of a culture, he emphasizes the reason such atrocities could happen.

While condemning the specific actions of the Nazis, St. Germain makes it clear that the regime was successful because it bred fear and distrust among friends and neighbors while giving the populace a common enemy to hate.

It should go without saying the Holocaust must never be forgotten. St. Germain and Tigar make it clear the economic and social problems that permitted the Holocaust to happen seem dangerously contemporary.

In the play, a world-wide distrust of other nationalities is shown when Belgians refuse to help the escapee because he is German and possibly a spy.

Jaku realizes he is rejected in Belgium because he is German. But in his native country the Germans deny his origins and define him as a Jew. This taught him that any reason for cultural hatred is artificial.

For the rest of his life Jaku lived by his father’s guide to life. “Family first. Family second, and last. And everyone is family.”

“The Happiest Man on Earth” plays at Barrington Stage in Pittsfield, MA through June 17. For tickets and schedule go to

Read the full article by Bob Goepfert here.