jazz singer



An interrogation of the first feature film with synchronized dialogue, The Jazz Singer.

Created by Nehemiah Luckett and Joshua William Gelb


jazz singer is a theatrical exhumation of the first feature-length “sound film” The Jazz Singer, reinterpreted by Joshua William Gelb and Nehemiah Luckett. Set on the Lower East Side, the 1927 film tells the story of a “jazz crooner” forced to choose between his immigrant Jewish heritage and his aspirations to become a Broadway star. Though the film is historically significant for its integration of synchronized sound, it is also remembered for its controversial use of blackface. Gelb and Luckett’s musical rendering offers a contemporary take on a distinctly U.S. American story, one that interrogates appropriation, assimilation, atonement, and whether escape from the specter of blackface is possible.

Directed by Joshua William Gelb

Composed and Music Directed by Nehemiah Luckett

Dramaturgy by Zhailon Levingston

Assistant Directed by Johnny Lloyd

Presented by Abrons Arts Center

Performed by Joshua William Gelb, Nehemiah Luckett, Cristina Pitter, Stanley Mathabane, and a different featured guest Jazz artist every performance. 

Stage Manager: Lindsey Hurley

Assistant Stage Manager: Ellen Minchinski

Scenic Design by Jian Jung

Lighting Design by Marika Kent

Projections and Video Design by Lianne Arnold

Sound Design by Kate Marvin & Stanley Mathabane

Costume Design by Rodrigo Muñoz

Associate Scenic & Props Design by Brian Bernhard

Production Manager & Technical Director Sean McGrath

Guest Artists Curated by Alphonso Home

Produced by Frank Nicholas Poon

jazz singer was created in residence at Abrons Arts Center, with the support of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Art NY and sponsor Ben Feldman. It has been created through several developmental showings including Little Theater (feat. Joshua William Gelb, Nehemiah Luckett, and Moe Yousuf) and Prelude 2018 (feat. Gelb, Luckett, Tracey Conyer Lee, and Nathan Stevens).