cAST ANNOUNCED FOR tALAWA'S tWELFTH nIGht inspired musical, Play On!

18 Jun 2024

Talawa's Black Joy season presents
A new Jazz musical based on Twelfth Night 

Cast announced for Talawa’s Twelfth Night-inspired musical Play On!
UK tour, September 2024 – February 2025

The cast has been announced for the UK premiere of Play On!, the jazz-fuelled, Twelfth Night-inspired musical that will tour the UK from September 2024 – February 2025, including a winter run at Lyric Hammersmith. From Talawa, the UK’s outstanding Black theatre company, this joyous, musical retelling of Shakespeare’s beloved play brings to life the 1940s New York jazz scene, set to a timeless, toe-tapping Duke Ellington score.

The cast comprises Tsemaye Bob-Egbe (SIX The Musical and TINA: The Tina Turner Musical, West End) as Viola, who sets forth to make a name for herself in the New York jazz scene. Lady Liv is played by Kori Hedgemon (Lovin’ Vegas and We Are One, Carnival Cruise Line; Hairspray, Pratville Theatre), the star singer at The Cotton Club. The club’s world famous song writer The Duke is played by Earl Gregory (TINA: The Tina Turner Musical, West End; Kinky Boots, The Fugard Theatre).

Making up the cast are Llewellyn Jamal (TINA: The Tina Turner Musical, and Get Up, Stand Up!, West End) as Jester; Cameron Bernard Jones (Ain’t Too Proud, Prince Edward Theatre; The Burnt City, Punchdrunk; The Wiz, Hope Mill Theatre) as Rev; Lifford Shillingford (Britain’s Got Talent, ITV; Tarantino Live, Riverside Studios) as Sweets; Tanya Edwards (Sister Act The Musical, UK tour) as Miss Mary; and Gleanne Purcell-Brown (Living, Lionsgate UK; Curtains, West End; Spamalot, UK tour) as Ceecee.

The ensemble comprises Natalia Brown (Sister Act The Musical, West End); Freya Karlettis (Sleeping Beauty, Ipswich Regent Theatre; Hairspray, Royal Caribbean Cruises); Amber Cayasso (The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Bridge Theatre); Jarnéia Richard-Noel (SIX The Musical, West End; Madagascar The Musical, UK tour); Andre Coulson (Five Guys Named Moe, The Gatehouse Theatre; To The Streets!, China Plate/Birmingham Hippodrome); Alex Okoampa (TINA: The Tina Turner Musical, West End; Motown The Musical, UK tour; The Five, Sky); Spin (Sinatra, Birmingham Rep; We Will Rock You, UK tour); and Dylan Blake-Colbet in his stage debut.

This exciting jazz musical is conceived by Sheldon Epps, with a book by Cheryl L. West.

In the Cotton Club, New York City, a young songwriter arrives ready to make her name – but disguising herself as a man will give her a better shot in a male-dominated music world. As she meets club owner The Duke and sensational singer Lady Liv, Vy is swept up in a syncopated symphony of melodies, mistaken identities and romance.

Play On! is directed by Talawa’s Artistic Director Michael Buffong (A Kind of People, Royal Court; Guys and Dolls, Talawa); Kenrick Sandy (Artistic Associate, Barbican; Boy Blue; Free Your Mind, Aviva Studios) is the Choreographer; and Liam Godwin (The Big Life, Theatre Royal Stratford East; West End Musical Christmas, Adelphi Theatre; Bat Boy, London Palladium) is the Musical Supervisor.

Play On! will tour to the Belgrade Theatre, Birmingham Hippodrome, Bristol Old Vic, Liverpool Playhouse, Salisbury Playhouse and Lyric Hammersmith Theatre from September 2024 – February 2025. Play On! is produced by Talawa Theatre Company and Belgrade Theatre, Coventry in partnership with J Clare Productions and Chuchu Nwagu Productions, with co-producers Birmingham Hippodrome; Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse Theatres; Lyric Hammersmith Theatre; and Wiltshire Creative, Salisbury.

Talawa and partners are proud that Play On! will provide opportunities for mid-career global majority talent to work on a large-scale production and tour. In line with Talawa’s commitment to platforming African diaspora actors and creatives, the season’s Associate Programme and seed commissions address under-representation in the sector.

The partners are committed to supporting Black artists to create theatre across the country. Play On! is at the heart of Talawa’s 2024 Black Joy season, which is generously supported by Arts Council England and National Lottery.

About Talawa Theatre Company
Talawa is the UK’s outstanding Black British theatre company. Our purpose is to champion Black Excellence in theatre, to nurture talent in emerging and established artists of African or Caribbean heritage and to tell inspirational and passionate stories, reflecting Black experiences through art like no other.

About Belgrade Theatre
The Belgrade is Coventry’s largest professional theatre, producing and presenting a diverse range of shows, events and ground-breaking community and education initiatives. In its landmark building, across the region, the UK and online, it uses theatre to entertain, inspire, share the city’s stories, uncover hidden histories, and unleash the creativity of diverse communities.

The theatre is now striding into a new future, led by CEO Laura Elliot and Creative Director Corey Campbell. These leaders have ambitious plans to build on the Theatre’s rich history of pioneering theatre, participation, and talent development - to realise a lasting place of sanctuary for creatives and communities.


They lead a people first approach; prioritising co-creation and cultural democracy; aiming to be a leading example of a regional inclusive learning theatre that sits at the heart of its community

Find out more about the show
Play On!