News: Retro Productions Presents New Play "Bettye and the Jockettes Spinning Records at the Holiday Inn" Beginning May 3rd

Heather E. Cunningham stars as Bettye in Bettye and the Jockettes Spinning Records at the Holiday Inn. Photo courtesy of Retro Productions

Travel back to the atomic age in Christie Perfetti Williams's new play Bettye and the Jockettes Spinning Records at the Holiday Inn, making its world premiere from May 3-18 at the Gene Frankel Theatre in NoHo. Opening night is scheduled for Friday, May 3 at 8pm.

The new comedy takes place at the 1950’s radio station WHER - 1000 Beautiful Watts. It’s July 3, 1956 and the jockettes of WHER, America’s first all-girl radio station in Memphis, Tennessee, are having one hell of a day; the copywriter has run off to elope, they have just found out that the Elvis Presley is coming to the station to be interviewed on-air, and their star DJ Bettye has shown up… in pants. When Elvis’s record promoter arrives and is none other than Bettye’s former flame Benjamin, sarcastic zingers fly, sisterhoods are forged, and secrets are exposed.

The production was inspired in part by the book The Next Elvis: Searching for Stardom at Sun Records, by Barbara Barnes Sims. WHER-Memphis was “America’s first all-girl radio station,” created by sound legend/record producer Sam Phillips, who produced recordings with Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis, among others. The station was co-owned by Kemmons Wilson, who founded the Holiday Inn hotel chain. He offered space in a Holiday Inn which served as the station's first offices. The station went on the air in 1955 and was run exclusively by women. They sold the advertising, produced commercials, directed, created and engineered programming, ran the station’s control boards, interviewed local celebrities, reported the news, and played popular records.

Sara Thigpen, who was awarded the 2019 New York Innovative Theatre Award (NYITA) for Outstanding Director, directs the production's story of the WHER jockettes. This production marks Retro’s second collaboration with playwright Christie Perfetti Williams, who previously wrote An Appeal to the Woman of the House (nominated for a NYITA for Outstanding Original Full-length Script), which Retro produced in 2014.

The cast features Tracey Beltrano (Chucky/Syfy Network), Heather E. Cunningham (White on White/Hoi Polloi - NYTimes Critics Pick), Joe Mathers (First Flight New Play Festival/Boomerang Theatre), Marie Elena O'Brien (Rose By Any Other Name/Chain Theatre), Alisha Spielmann (This Stretch of Montpelier/The Fire This Time Festival), Matthew Tarricone (American Sports Story/FX), and Morgan Nadia Williams (She Kills Monsters/Stella Adler Studio).

The creative team includes choreography by Ricardo Rust, set design by Lauren Barber, costume design by Viviane Galloway, lighting design by Ndanu Mutisya, sound design by Robert A.K. Gonyo, and properties design by Heather E. Cunningham, with Stage Management by Jodi Witherell. Bettye and the Jockettes Spinning Records at the Holiday Inn is produced by Retro Productions under the direction of Artistic Director Heather E. Cunningham, and Montserrat Mendez of the MozzleStead Company serves as associate producer.

Performances run May 3 – 18, with shows running Thursday – Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 3pm, with additional performances on Monday, May 6 at 8pm and Wednesday, May 15 at 8pm. Please note there is no performance on Thursday, May 9, and there is a special matinee performance on Saturday, May 11 at 2pm. The running time is 90 minutes. 

The Gene Frankel Theatre is located at 24 Bond Street (Between Lafayette & Bowery) in Manhattan (subways: 6 to Bleecker Street, B/D/F/M to Broadway/Lafayette). Tickets are $22 for students/seniors and $30 for general admission and are available at www.retroproductions.org/buy-tickets.html.

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