Musical Will Explore the Life of ‘Inventor of Jazz’ Jelly Roll Morton

Magic, death, music and transformation will take center stage in the Yale School of Drama’s cabaret-style production of “Jelly’s Last Jam,” a play about the pivotal jazz figure Jelly Roll Morton (1890-1941) and the African-American experience of his era.

The musical, which will be directed by Patricia McGregor, will run Friday-Wednesday, Feb. 13-18 at the University Theatre, 222 York St.

In this drama, Creole jazz man and self-proclaimed “inventor of jazz” Jelly Roll Morton is visited by an otherworldly stranger, the Chimney Man. Helped by the denizens of the “Jungle Inn,” the Chimney Man forces Jelly to replay, in a searingly honest key, the highest and lowest notes of his life.

“Jelly’s Last Jam is an exploration of our cultural and artistic roots, an examination of the color of the soul, and an exorcism of the lies and deeds that haunt us,” says McGregor. “When we’ve ‘given up the ghost,’ what do we leave behind?”

Written by George C. Wolfe, “Jelly’s Last Jam” features lyrics by Susan Birkenhead and music by Morton and Luther Henderson. The cast includes Christina Maria Acosta, Eddie Brown, Trai Byers, Austin Durant, Marcus Henderson, Emily Jenda, Andrew Kelsey, Aja-Naomi King, Irene Sofia Lucio, Quincy O’Neal, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Ken Robinson, Baback Tafti, Nondumiso Tembe and Emily Trask.

The performance features choreography by Clarence Agbi, Paloma McGregor, Jennifer Harrison Newman and Tiffany Rachelle Stewart; sets by German Cardenas Alaminos; costumes by Elizabeth Groth; lights by Marie Yokoyama; and sound by Charles Coes.

The School of Drama is creating a series of behind-the-scenes videos that follow the creative process of this production of “Jelly’s Last Jam,” including access to rehearsals and interviews with the director, cast and other members of the creative team. The video blog is available on three websites:, YouTube and Facebook.

Performances of “Jelly’s Last Jam” take place at 8 p.m. each night (except Sunday), with an additional 2 p.m. matinee show on Saturday, Feb. 14. Tickets are $20 general admission, $15 for seniors and $10 for students. Discounted rates for groups of 10 or more are also available. Tickets may be purchased online at or by calling (203) 432-1234. Tickets can also be purchased in person at the Yale Repertory Theatre box office at 1120 Chapel St. (at York Street).

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