Chicago Children’s Theatre Announces World Premiere “The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963” Cast & Staff

Chicago Children’s Theatre Announces World Premiere “The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963” Cast & Staff

Chicago Children’s Theatre has announced the cast and creative team for its 13th season finale, the world premiere of “The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963,” a civil rights-era family drama based on the Newberry-winning young adult novel by Christopher Paul Curtis about the 1963 Birmingham church bombing.

Cheryl L. West has adapted the story for the stage, which has been a hot request from Chicago area teachers. The production will also feature original music composed by Paris Ray Dozier. West and Dozier collaborated with CCT on the last year’s hit world premiere “Last Stop on Market Street.”

Chicago director Wardell Julius Clark, who grew up just outside of Birmingham and has personal ties with families affected by the bombing, will make his CCT directing debut. “I am so happy to bring The Watson’s Go to Birmingham – 1963 to CCT. A novel I read as a kid in 6th grade in Birmingham, it is thrilling to be able to bring home to Chicago,” he said. “The story deals with family, love, joy and childhood PTSD when innocence is broken. The reality of the America we continue to live in to this day. It is a deeply personal story, with my mother being longtime friends of the McNair family. I am so excited to share this story with Chicago audiences.”

Clark’s creative team includes Arnel Sancianco, set designer; Sydney Thomas, associate set designer; Jason Lynch, lighting designer; Izumi Inaba, costume designer; Kevin O’Donnell, sound designer; Mealah Heidenreich, props designer; and Smooch Medina, projections designer. The cast includes Bear Bellinger (Daddy), Sharriese Hamilton (Mama), Ian Paul Custer (Buphead), Stephen Allen Jr. (Byron) and Deanna Reed-Foster (Grandma Sands), with young performers Nelson Simmons and Jeremiah Ruwe rotating performances as Kenny, and Lyric Sims and JiGi Fabulous sharing the role of Joetta. Elizabeth Dauterman is production stage manager. Assistant stage manager is Barry Branford.

CCT says “The Watsons Go To Birmingham – 1963” is appropriate for children 9 years old and up, yet sophisticated enough for adults. Weekday school matinees begin March 26. Public performances are March 30-April 28: Saturdays and Sunday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., with no shows Easter Sunday, April 21. Visit or call Chicago Children’s Theatre Guest Services, (312) 374-8835 for tickets and more info.

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