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Musical on Martin Luther King’s life to hit Hackney Empire

PUBLISHED: 10:37 31 May 2018

King in Concert

King in Concert

Archant

Two special performances of King in Concert will run on June 30 and July 1.

Hackney Empire is staging two special performances of the musical King to mark 50 years since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr and 30 years since the first production of the show.

Accompanied by the London Musical Theatre Orchestra, King tells the story of the inspirational civil rights leader and his wife Coretta Scott - from their first meeting at college in the early 1950s to fighting for African American rights in a divided USA in the 1960s. The musical tracks their relationship as it develops at the forefront of a movement that changed the course of history.

“It looks at key moments of the civil rights movement against the backdrop of a love story,” said Susie McKenna, director of King and associate director at Hackney Empire - where she has worked for 20 years. “It’s been such a privilege to work on the piece. I can honestly say the music is beautiful.”

A cohort of West End actors star in the performances, with Cedric Neal as Martin Luther King Jr., Sharon D. Clarke as Alberta King and Debbie Kurup as Coretta King. As well as telling the tale of romance between Martin and Coretta King, the production highlights her role as an activist which historically hasn’t always been as well recognised.

“We’re bringing to the fore Coretta King’s role in the civil rights movement and making sure we celebrate that. I don’t think it’s common knowledge that she gave up a promising singing career when she married Martin Luther King and moved south to Alabama,” McKenna explained. “They uprooted and went into the viper’s nest.”

The concert also features Hackney Empire’s Community Choir performing songs that span gospel and soul genres. Some members of the choir were part of the original King performance by Martin Smith, who sadly died in 1994 at the age of 37 and was unable to see his vision develop.

McKenna sees incorporating Hackney’s community as a vital aspect of the production: “If anyone was going to do anything theatrically about Martin Luther King it couldn’t be a cold-hearted venture, it needed to embrace his values of inclusivity and diversity. Having the community involved is important for that.”

King is at Hackney Empire June 30 and July 1 hackneyempire.co.uk

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