“There Was a Boy” Is Coming to Morgan State

Benjamin McKnight

Opera at Morgan will present the Broadway-style jazz opera “There Was a Boy” at the Murphy Fine Arts Center for the first time this beginning this Thursday through the weekend.

Nat King Cole’s talented voice gained the attention of Capital Records from 1943 to 1965, bringing him sought after fame. Through his career as a traditional pop artist, though now known as jazz, he longed for his father’s approval. The jazz opera is told through the eyes of his father who was a Baptist preacher.

Writer James Rich plays the role of Nat King Cole. Vice President of Student Affairs Kevin Banks plays the role of his father. A small group of Morgan students and faculty sing as a choir during each musical number with operatic elements.

The cast will perform each song with scripts in hand in a “theatrical workshop environment”.

“This is not really an opera. This is not a full production. I like to call it a work in progress, like a workshop,” Rich said.

Rich has a musical theater background with experience in soap operas, commercial and a little television. His first time performing for audiences was in the 1996 production of “Rent” in New York. From a young age, always knew he was creative and wanted to be an artist.

“I felt like I didn’t have a choice but to be an artist and sing since I was a kid,” he said.

He said he sings all kinds of music, but his favorite is traditional pop. With this “workshop”, he wanted to tell the story of Cole in a creative way through song..

Classical voice major Jazmin Bangurn hopes for a successful show as she tries something new, singing as Cole’s love interest in the production.

“My preferred genre [to sing] is jazz,” said Bangurn, who has been performing at the Baltimore School for the Arts for five years. “When I heard they were doing a cool jazz style opera, I was all for it. The music is great. The experience is awesome.”

The cast has been practicing for weeks in a small choir room, letting their voices fill the space, accompanied by a grand piano.

The light-hearted, entertaining workshop, directed by Murphy Fine Arts production manager Dwight R.B. Cook, is open to the public, as well as faculty and students.

Tickets can be purchased at Murphy or Ticketmaster. Student matinee groups can reserves spaces by calling the ticket office.