RiseMagazine | Sarasota

The Premier Lifestyle Magazine of Florida's Black Communities

From Europe with Love, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe

Members of the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (WBTT) have just returned from a performance of Soul Crooners in Detmold, Germany, at the 60th birthday celebration and 35th business anniversary party of Horst Thurau, one of their patrons. The group left June 14th and returned June 19th. Their invitation came from Thurau, who is a part-time Sarasota resident. Thurau was so very taken with Soul Crooners last summer that he invited the entire cast and musical team to come to perform at this important celebration. The invitation was an all-expenses paid trip.

“We are still pinching ourselves at this great honor,” remarked Nate Jacobs, founder and artistic director. “To have Mr. Thurau invite us, at his expense, to perform at his party and commemorate these milestones in his life was quite astounding. The performance was held at the GOP Variety Theatre, a dinner theater style setting. We performed in front of 330 guests. Individual Troupe members have performed in Europe before but we have never gone as a group representing WBTT. It was an experience of a lifetime, one we will never forget!”

The WBTT group included cast members Nate Jacobs, Michael Mendez, Leon S. Pitts II, Sheldon Rhoden, and Charles Manning; band members Jay Dodge, Todd Bellamy, Etienne Porter and Jamar Camp. Executive Director Christine Jennings and Trustee Marian Moss also accompanied the group. Cast members last performed Soul Crooners as part of the 2011 summer season and again last October. The show is a celebration of the music that ushered in a new era of soul during the 70s. It was known for combining lush orchestrations with great vocalists who could sing unforgettable melodies and heavenly harmonies. The song list included approximately 40 hits sung by the all-male ensemble.

“Being with Mr. Thurau for this four-day trip was just amazing,”
continued Christine Jennings, President and CEO of WBTT. “He told us he wanted the Troupe to preform at this special celebration because of his love for soul music AND for the way the Troupe seems to feel what they sing. It was a great compliment and heartfelt praise. The Troupe members felt the embrace from the audience and were moved to know that their music crossed cultural and international boundaries. We are very fortunate to have such a fan as Horst Thurau.”

According to Thurau, “ I have loved Soul music since childhood. As a longtime visitor to Sarasota, I was thrilled to have discovered WBTT. I wanted to bring them to my milestone celebration so that all my friends could hear Soul music from the authentic people who feel the music deep within themselves. These young men were wholesome and extremely respectful to everyone. They were so terrific; people here want to have them come back. I look forward to working with them again in the future.”

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