Actress Salli Richardson-Whitfield is looking to bring the life and career of Lena Horne to the stage in a new bioplay that will provide a more candid look than ever before.
According to Richardson-Whitfield’s Kickstarter campaign, “A Lady Must Live” is set backstage after the first preview of her 1981 Broadway revue “A Lady and Her Music” as Horne “wrestles– emotionally and physically– with her ghosts, struggling to rework her show to recount her life story with more candor and complexity.”
“I’ve always had a love for Lena Horne and I’d really love to do it as a movie, but she loved singing and being on Broadway in New York,” Richardson-Whitfield said in a recent interview with Shadow and Act. “She actually left Hollywood to go back to performing on stage. So I thought that it should be a Broadway show, because that really was true to her heart.”
Richardson– who previously played Horne at the Jenesse Silver Rose Gala in 2011– will also produce the show alongside Craig Dorfman, with director Rikki Beadle-Blair helming the project. She added that she’s been working with a voice coach for several years to perfect her vocals for the role.
“The whole time I’m developing this, learning all of her songs, I started performing in clubs,” she explained. “If you’re doing a Broadway show, you’ve got to be ready to sing every night. And if you’re going to be Lena, you need to know what it’s like to perform in those clubs and really own that. So it’s been a journey of being really ready and prepared for this.”
Richardson-Whitfield also said she’s got her mind made up that she’d like veteran actress Jenifer Lewis to play her mother in the bioplay.
“I’ve always had in mind for Jenifer Lewis to play Lena’s mother. When the playwright started writing, we sat down with Jenifer, and when we did our original table read Jenifer was there reading it,” she said. “People see Jenifer in all these movies, but they don’t realize this is a woman who’s been on Broadway with Meryl Streep and Bette Midler and she’s amazing on stage. So as long as Jenifer is available, it’s Jenifer.”
To date, the campaign has raised more than $4,000 of its $40,000 goal. The fundraiser ends May 16.