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The Music of Otis Redding Take the Stage at IMTF Studios on Lake

For more than 25 years Fort Wayne Summer Music Theatre has provided reliably stellar productions each summer, giving audiences a chance to see how talented our young performers are and how capable they are of helming large scale productions. But as the FWSMT mission expanded to Indiana Music Theatre Foundation, more productions – featuring more than high school students – came to include more plays and cabarets, and one highlight has been the nod to Black History Month, spotlighting one iconic performer. Last year’s show featured the music of Sam Cooke, and this year’s – which runs this weekend at the IMTF studios on Lake Avenue – tackles the gorgeous catalog of Otis Redding. Overseeing the show is Alex Leavell who is very much behind the soulful performances.

“I’ve been a soul music fan my whole life,” Leavell said. “My mom made sure I grew up hearing that music, and I thought music was a great way to celebrate the life and culture of African Americans.”

Redding came to prominence with Stax/Volt Records in Memphis, and while Motown is often more immediately identifiable to casual R&B fans, the music of Stax is second to none.

“Stax was the best and their house band was the greatest,” Leavell said. “I really had a limited knowledge about it until I took a class on rock ‘n roll in college, and that’s when I learned about Stax/Volt and Chess Records in Chicago. That music is so tied into our history and it follows our history and culture.”

Seven singers will take the stage including Albert Brownlee who now resides in Indianapolis but fortunately returns periodically to Fort Wayne stages. Also among the singers is Todd Roth who performs with the six-person band. Leavell thinks audiences will enjoy this change of pace from what is typically offered in the area.

“Community theatre-goers are used to plays and musicals and cabarets,” he said. “I’ve never been a fan of cabarets because I want to be able to get up and sing along and dance. I think people are really going to enjoy themselves because it’s going to be a lot of fun and have a lot of energy.”

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