All posts by LaRita Shelby

LaRita "Jazzy Rita" Shelby is a broadcast media & marketing professional. She serves as V.P. of Marketing and Special Programming at Additionally she is an actress, singer/songwriter who has appeared on TV and in film.
motown the musical1

Casting Announced for LA Engagement of ‘Motown the Musical’

motown the musical
*Producers Kevin McCollum, Doug Morris, Berry Gordy and the Nederlander Organization are pleased to announce full casting for the eagerly anticipated L.A. engagement of MOTOWN THE MUSICAL. Performances will begin at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre on Tuesday, April 28, 2015 for a limited six-week engagement through Sunday, June 7, 2015.

Tickets are now on sale and are available for purchase at or, by phone at 800-982-2787, and at the Hollywood Pantages Box Office (6233 Hollywood Boulevard). The box office opens daily at 10am except for Holidays.

MOTOWN THE MUSICAL concluded its Broadway run as both a critical and audience favorite and a commercial hit, having recouped its $18 million investment at the end of 2014. Most recently, the First National Tour recouped its $8.5 million dollar capitalization cost in less than ten months on the road. MOTOWN THE MUSICAL is planning a UK production for Spring 2016 and a Broadway return for Summer 2016.

Julius Thomas III and Allison Semmes will star in the leading roles of Berry Gordy and Diana Ross.  Portraying groundbreaking Motown artists, Jesse Nager will play Smokey Robinson and Jarran Muse will play Marvin Gaye.  Leon Outlaw, Jr. and Reed L. Shannon will portray Berry Gordy’s boyhood counterpart and the roles of young stars Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder.

MOTOWN THE MUSICAL will also feature Erick Buckley, Patrice Covington, Jamarice Daughtry, Tamar Davis, Lynorris Evans, Melanie Evans, Anissa Felix, Devon Goffman, Jennie Harney, Rod Harrelson, Robert Hartwell, Rodney Earl Jackson, Jr., Trisha Jeffrey, Elijah Ahmad Lewis, Jarvis B. Manning, Jr., Krisha Marcano, Marq Moss, Rashad Naylor, Chadaè Nichol, Ramone Owens, Nicholas Ryan, Jamison Scott, Joey Stone, Doug Storm, Martina Sykes and Galen J. Williams.

Directed by Charles Randolph-Wright, MOTOWN THE MUSICAL is the true American dream story of Motown founder Berry Gordy’s journey from featherweight boxer to the heavyweight music mogul who launched the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and so many more.

Featuring more than 40 classic hits such as “My Girl” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,”

MOTOWN THE MUSICAL tells the story behind the hits as Diana, Smokey, Berry and the whole Motown family fight against the odds to create the soundtrack of change in America. Motown shattered barriers, shaped our lives and made us all move to the same beat.

MOTOWN THE MUSICAL features choreography by Patricia Wilcox (A Night with Janis Joplin) and Warren Adams (Toy Story), scenic design by David Korins (Bring It On: The Musical, Annie), costume design by Tony Award® nominee ESosa (The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, “Project Runway”), lighting design by Tony Award® winner Natasha Katz (Once, Sister Act), sound design by Tony Award® nominee Peter Hylenski (Rock of Ages, The Scottsboro Boys), projection design by Daniel Brodie (Jekyll and Hyde), hair and wig design by Charles LaPointe (Memphis) and casting by Telsey + Company.

MOTOWN THE MUSICAL’s arrangements and orchestrations are by Grammy and Tony Award® nominee Ethan Popp (Rock of Ages), who also serves as music supervisor in reproducing the classic “Sound of Young America,” with co-orchestrations and additional arrangements by Tony Award® nominee Bryan Crook (“Smash”) and dance arrangements by Zane Mark (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels).

MOTOWN THE MUSICAL is produced by Tony Award® winning producer Kevin McCollum (Rent, In the Heights, Avenue Q), Chairman and CEO of SONY Music Entertainment Doug Morris and Motown founder Berry Gordy.

The performance schedule for MOTOWN THE MUSICAL is Tuesday through Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm & 8pm, and Sunday at 1pm & 6:30pm. Opening Night is Thursday, April 30, 2015 at 8pm.

MOTOWN THE MUSICAL is recommended for ages 10 and up. (Children under 5 will not be admitted to the theatre. All patrons must have a ticket, regardless of age.)

Individual tickets for MOTOWN THE MUSICAL start at $25.  Prices are subject to change without notice.

For more information on MOTOWN THE MUSICAL, visit

For tickets or more information about the Los Angeles engagement of MOTOWN THE MUSICAL, please visit the official website for Hollywood Pantages Theatre:


kecia Lewis

Tony Award Winning ‘Cinderella’ Opens at the Ahmanson in LA

Fran Drescher

Fran Drescher joins Los Angeles run of Cinderella at The Ahmanson through April 26th 2015

*Paige Faure, Fran Drescher, Andy Huntington Jones and Kecia Lewis  are among the spirited, multi-talented and multi-cultural cast of Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella now playing at the Ahmanson Theatre in downtown Los Angeles through April 26.

From the creators of “South Pacific” and “The Sound of Music,” this Tony Award Winning musical and romantic classic has been revived by Douglass Carter Beane’s new book.  The slight adjustments in the characters add a whimsical and socially conscious spin on the love story between the forlorn Cinderella and her handsome (yet insecure) prince. Of course it’s a familiar happily ever after ending, but director Mark Brokaw and choreographer Josh Rhodes have outdone themselves as the actors sing, dance, leap and lunge their way through one magical moment after another.  As if the Rogers and Hammerstein fairy tale were not dazzling enough, it is made even more enchanting by every stitch and seam of William Ivey Long’s costumes and Anna Louizos’ fanciful scene designs that transform before your very eyes!

This musical wonder stars Paige Faure as the darling Ella, who desires to be the object of Prince Topher’s (Andy Huntington Jones) attention. Two time Tony Award winner and Golden Globe nominee Fran Drescher (of CBS’ The Nanny) brings on the salt, the style and the sass of the evil step-mother, and Kecia Lewis stuns the crowd as Marie, who morphs into the godmother that inspires Cinderella to take a leap of faith and realize everything that she has ever dared to dream.

Kecia Lewis and Paige Faure in Cinderella

Kecia Lewis (Marie) plays fairy godmother of Paige Faure (Ella) in Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella now at The Ahmanson Theatre (in Los Angeles) thru April 26

EURweb spoke with Miss Lewis about her role in Cinderella and Douglass Carter Beane’s contemporary spin.

Kecia Lewis: “It’s a beautiful classic fairy tale, but this version has a bit of an updated story line where Cinderella is more socially conscious  about what is going on in the world around her.  The prince falls for her, not just because she got a makeover from the fairy godmother, but he falls for her because she exhibits three special qualities; charity, generosity & kindness, and those are the themes of the show.”

Kecia Lewis also told EURweb more about her vital role: “When I got the role, I knew that I had to do it.  I knew that it was extremely important for our nation that audiences across America are able to see a woman of color portraying this role and it has been unbelievably fulfilling.”

Kecia Lewis has also appeared on Broadway in Leap of Faith, Chicago, Shrek, The Drowsy Chaperone, Dreamgirls, The Gospel at Colonus, Ain’t Misbehavin’ and more.  As for the current version of  Cinderella, Jay Alger, David Chase and Danny Troob are also to be commended on the music that scores this spectacular stage presentation from the overture to the curtain call.  And of course The Center Theatre Group is always certain to host a five star event.

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella” plays now through  April 26, 2015, at the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre. For an exclusive family four pack use code: Midnight at Ahmanson (Offer ends March 27th 2015).  For general tickets and other info go to:

This tour is produced by Robyn Goodman, Jill Furman, Stephen Kocis, Edward Walson, Venetian Glass Productions, The Araca Group, Caiola Productions, Roy Furman, Peter May, Sanford Robertson, Eric Schmidt, James Spry and Blanket Fort Productions, as well as generous support from Olivia and Anthony Neece. The Ahmanson Theatre is located at 135 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

antonio fargas

Antonio Fargas Turns it Up with The New Jump Blues Band (Watch)

Antonio Fargas with New Jump Blues Band

Antonio Fargas is the new singing, swinging front man with the New Jump Blues Band on Ahi-Nama Records.

*Antonio Fargas is known around the world for his role as Huggy Bear in the 1970’s television series “Starsky and Hutch.”

Other credits include his iconic portrayals in cinema classics such as “Foxy Brown,” “Across 110th Street,” “Starsky and Hutch,” “I’m Gonna Get You Sucka” and many more.

Lately Antonio has emerged as the charismatic front man for The New Jump Blues Band, featuring Adrian Battle and Bay area, singer/songwriter, dancer and choreographer Airreal Watkins.

The exciting performance troupe blends the ultimate throw back experience that is sassy like the 70’s, nostalgic like the 40’s, classic like the 60’s, energetic like the 50’s and steeped in the timeless wonder of swinging dance songs and clever love songs, backed by a live musicians worthy of the days of Count Basie, Louie Armstrong, Tommy Dorsey and more.  Best of all, The New Jump Blues Band belongs to the here and now, reviving the hope that real music is here to stay!

The New Jump Blues Band is celebrating their debut album on the Ahi-Nama label.  The LA based band is starting to tour the country spreading a jumping, jiving and toe tapping good time everywhere they go.  Get their new album or find out more at

roma benjamin

Dr. Roma Benjamin, On A Mission To Teach Our Kids

Dr. Roma Benjamin

Dr. Roma Benjamin Founder of New Sound Literacy and Technology Center, powered by

*Dr. Roma Benjamin says enough is enough! Benjamin is a former principal of Rowland School in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and she is a youth literacy advocate who was compelled to quit her job to start fresh and teach children the basic skills that they were lacking from the public school system. The New Sound  Literacy and Technology Center is designed to better educate Black children for the future by first teaching them how to read. Her experience as both an educator and community leader has opened her eyes to what is considered an injustice happening in America today. She is speaking across the country with other community leaders empowering them to open their own reading centers to help children lead a better life, one that does not end prematurely due to imprisonment or death.

Dr. Benjamin’s reading center is powered by When asked about the cycle that produced these massive cases of illiteracy, Dr. Benjamin stated that children are continually being passed through the school system but still they cannot read. Lacking such skills would make it impossible for them to navigate through today’s world, or through the business world.

She told that the greatest impact of illiteracy is in urban schools among our Blacks and Latinos, especially our males.

Dr. Roma Benjamin: “Everybody is responsible for this- parents, teachers, pastors and communities. We’re all responsible for this. We have to look at the fact that it has happened.  It has taken place. Now what can we do to stop it from spreading and destroying our children? Sitting in the system watching this on a regular basis and watching this, I was fighting to keep children in school and to get them what they needed, but at the same time the system was fighting against me.”

Instead of merely focusing on who is to blame, ultimately Dr. Benjamin’s methods are based in anecdotes that will inform and empower the community as well as parents who are also affected by these educational challenges.

Dr. Benjamin outlines one of the very first steps that a parent can take: “If you don’t know what level your child reads on, if you don’t understand the assessments that they are being given on a daily basis and you just receive a report card that gives a grade, then you are losing the battle right there. You have to know more of what is going on.”

Another key strategy that Dr. Benjamin offers parents in her purview, is that she walks them through the language of the report and tells them the things to say to help them get their kids what they need to succeed.

Dr. Benjamin clearly states her belief: “Most of the time parents don’t know. It’s not that they don’t care.”

It is the hope that more churches will come on board and start more reading centers across the country to get our children back and usher them into proficiency in reading and technology.

Dr. Benjamin tells’s LaRita Shelby what can be done with the children who are in our immediate proximity.

Roma Benjamin is a native of New York with a Master of Arts in Public School Administration from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Currently Ms. Benjamin is matriculating through her Doctorate degree in Education Leadership at Nova University. She is also the senior pastor of Greater Faith Ministries in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. For more information go to or call (717)545-4594. Special thanks to Dr. Steve Perry, Founder and Principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet in Hartford, Connecticut and Yusuf Salaam, Education Advocate, Publicist and Manager at Bright Minds Speakers.

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BET Premieres Book of Negroes

Aunjanue Ellis stars as Aminata Diallo in the BET mini-series The Book of Negroes. (Photo: Joe Alblas, Conquering Lion Pictures, Out of Africa Pictures)

*BET kicked off the mini-series “The Book of Negroes Monday night with a stunning debut by Shailyn Pierre-Dixon as the young Aminata, whose riveting performance set the tone for the gracious and fiercely potent Aunjanue Ellis as the adult Aminata Diallo.

Ms. Ellis added beauty, fluidity and seething bravery to every realistic and detailed account of the woman’s life that began as a girl in the village of Bayo (in Segou, Mali) and who suffered the turmoils of the middle passages, onto the slave trading block, then to the plantation and subsequently navigated every gritty and disgusting episode of her existence in the post Atlantic slave trade in America.

Shailyn Pierre-Dixon

In the midst of it all Diallo maintains her faith, fights for love, clinches her dignity and intertwines with fellow servants, slaves, masters and cohorts.  This is the story according to actual historical documents about former slaves in British America who were granted their freedom by the British as a reward for their loyalty. Those former slaves reportedly migrated to Nova Scotia, Canada. The BET mini-series brilliantly directed by Clement Virgo blends facts as well as fiction and is based on the book by Lawrence Hill.

After much critical acclaim as a novel and as a cinematic production, “The Book of Negros” has trekked around the globe to Washington, D.C., to Cannes, France and to other forums and screenings inspiring and educating audiences about these unsung heroines and heroes who hail from the pages of history.   Actor Lyriq Bent takes on a whole new understanding of black love now that he has played the role of Chekura Tiano.

Actress Aunjanue Ellis demystifies the quintessence of the strong black woman in her portrayal of Aminata Diallo.

For a full cast list and to view “The Book of Negroes” timeline and production profile click here.  “The Book of Negroes” continues on BET tonight, Tuesday, February 17 and concludes tomorrow, Wednesday, February 18 at 8:00 PM/7:00 PM Central.  “The Book of Negroes” is Executive Produced by Damon D’Oliveira.

scott goldman & danny sears (grammy foundation)

GRAMMY Foundation Execs Chime in on Music and Education (Listen)

Scott Goldman and David Sears Grammy Foundation 2015

Scott Goldman, Vice President of The GRAMMY Foundation & MusiCares and David Sears, Executive Education Director of The GRAMMY Foundation at Club Nokia Grammy Week in L.A. 2015 Photo credit: EURweb

*Scott Goldman, Vice President of The GRAMMY Foundation & MusiCares and David Sears, Executive Education Director of The GRAMMY Foundation shared a brief chat with EURweb’s Jazzy Rita at Club Nokia on the occasion of the GRAMMY Foundation’s second annual Music Educator Award™.

On February 4, 2015 more than 400 students from the greater Los Angeles area joined the celebration.  Selected youth also participated in the GRAMMY Foundation’s GRAMMY Camp® Basic Training program at their school with the support of Los Angeles Unified School District’s Beyond The Bell Branch.  Mr. Goldman and Mr. Sears chimed in on the values of acquiring a well rounded experience that will help young artists to cultivate their passion as well as sustain long term careers in music and the performing arts.

Jazzy Rita also solicited shout outs to local Los Angeles music educators Mr. Robin Sharp of North Hollywood High School and Mr. Tony White, acclaimed director of the LAUSD’s Beyond The Bell music program.  The GRAMMY Foundation echoed excitement and respect for all musicians, however they did not waiver from their message of music and education.

Jared Cassedy is the recipient of the 2015 Music Educator Award™ presented by The Recording Academy® and the GRAMMY Foundation®.   He also receives a new Ford car or truck as part of his prize.  The  Ford Motor Company expands commitment to GRAMMY Foundation’s music education outreach by hosting signature Drive 4 UR School events at finalists’ schools.  Ford Motor Company Fund continues GRAMMY Foundation support with honorariums and school grants.

For more information about the Music Educator Award, please visit For more information about the Foundation, please visit For breaking news and exclusive content, please like “GRAMMY in the Schools®” on Facebook, follow the GRAMMY Foundation on Twitter (@GRAMMYFdn) and join us on Instagram (@GRAMMYFdn).white water teaser