World Premiere NEED YOUR LOVE Adds New Musical Chapters in the Life of R&B Singer Little Willie John

Follow-Up to the Hugely Popular CINCINNATI KING Begins Oct. 30

PIP_Need Your Love promo

Photo by Tony Arrasmith/Arrasmith & Associates.

CINCINNATI – Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park continues its season with a second world premiere: NEED YOUR LOVE by writer-director KJ Sanchez. The production, beginning Oct. 30 continues the unforgettable story of R&B singer Little Willie John, the King Records star who was first featured in the 2018 world premiere production Cincinnati King. Made possible thanks to support from the Rosenthal Family Foundation, NEED YOUR LOVE runs through Dec. 12. Official opening night is Thursday, Nov. 4.

With live performances of “Fever,” “My Love Is,” “Shakin'” and “Need Your Love So Bad,” the musical docudrama will please audiences who enjoy R&B renditions of some of music’s greatest songs as will fans of prior shows like Cincinnati King, Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, Million Dollar Quartet and Low Down Dirty Blues.

“From the first day of auditions for Cincinnati King, we could tell that Little Willie John was going to be an exciting character, and then our first preview proved how much the audience was connected with him — especially when he sang!” Sanchez says. “There was always a deep interest in Willie, and I always had a passion for spreading the word about his brilliance.”

Like Cincinnati King, NEED YOUR LOVE features an onstage band for John’s musical performances. Musicians Richard Livingston Huntley, Ralph Huntley and Cincinnati’s own Terrell Montgomery return for musical accompaniment along with Joel Greenberg. Richard Livingston Huntley also returns as Music Director.

“The story of Little Willie John is so powerful and compelling, and his music is so engrossing and current that I’m very excited to be able to share his music and story with more people,” says Livingston Huntley.

In addition to the music, NEED YOUR LOVE tells the story of Little Willie John’s childhood in Detroit, how he got his first record with Syd Nathan’s King Records, and much more about his time and life before his tragic death at age 30, including stories from his sister, Mable John, who Sanchez interviewed for the play.

“He was one of the finest singers to have ever lived. He could sing anything, and he should still be alive today,” says Sanchez, who noted his performances inspired the likes of James Brown.

Sanchez began writing NEED YOUR LOVE when the Black Lives Matter movement swept across social media in 2020, and she thought of his own life cut short – with songs unsung and stories untold – resulting in a production that’s relevant to our lives today.

“Each and every day we should be asking, what are we doing with our talent? What are we passionate about? How do we honor those that have fallen between the cracks? Who tells our story?” Sanchez explains.

Antonio Michael Woodard (Antonio/Little Willie John)

KJ Sanchez (playwright/director); Richard Livingston Huntley (music director); Josafath Reynoso (set designer); Rachel Anne Healy (costume designer); Amber Whatley (lighting designer); Lindsay Jones (sound designer); Stephanie Klapper, CSA (casting director); Brooke Redler (stage manager); Suann Pollack (second stage manager)

To purchase tickets or for more information, call the Playhouse Box Office at 513-421-3888 (toll-free in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana at 800-582-3208) or visit Patrons who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, deaf blind or speech disabled: dial 711 to connect to the Box Office via Ohio Relay Services.

Performances on Tuesdays through Saturdays will begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m. There is one Wednesday matinee at 1 p.m. on Nov. 17. Individual tickets start at just $35. Student tickets are just $15 on the day of the show for all other performances. Discounted ticket prices for teens are available for all productions and are $30 to $45, depending on show and seat location.

ADVISORY: Recommended for adults and teenage audiences. This musical docudrama celebrates the life of a talented R&B singer, whose behind-the-scenes tales feature some mild adult language and mature themes.

Patrons will need to be masked and fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test to attend an indoor performance. Visit the Health & Safety page for details.

Production Sponsors are Digi and Mike Schueler and Jennifer and Woody Taft. Honorary Producers are Linda and Gary Greenberg and Barbara M. Weyand, with additional support from the Harold and Mimi Weinberg Charitable Trust. Rosenthal Shelterhouse Season Sponsor is Heidelberg Distributing Company. Season Sponsor of New Work is the Rosenthal Family Foundation.

The Playhouse is supported by the generosity of more than 40,000 contributors to the ArtsWave Community Campaign. The Ohio Arts Council helps fund the Playhouse with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence, and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans. The Playhouse also receives funding from the Shubert Foundation.

The Playhouse is fully accessible. Audio enhancement receivers, large print programs, and complete wheelchair access are available.


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