Of all the great female jazz singers of the mid-twentieth century, Nina Simone was perhaps the most distinctive, enigmatic, occasionally bewildering. And so it makes sense that An Evening With Nina, Shadow Theatre Companys new musical about her life, would be similarly hard to describe. Its a sort-of-musical about a group of traveling musicians living Simones life story after her death; they encounter the same biographical moments that Simone did and sing her songs. Also, Simones ghost is a character.
I kind of used it as a writing exercise, to see if I could tell someones story through the eyes of others, explains writer/director Hugo Sayles. So its a biography without being a biography, if that makes any sense. Its also, of course, a vehicle for Simones poignant music and Shadow commissioned new recordings, allowing for good fidelity and stirring renditions from the actors. Ive had more theater moments putting this together than Ive had in years meaning I was watching this play instead of being the director, Sayles reflects. I have a real good feeling about it.