Boundary-breaking Pianist Jade Simmons Tapped to Portray Legendary Entertainer Lillette Harris

Classical Music's #1 Maverick makes stage debut in new musical & PBS documentary on the life of legendary concert jazz pianist Lillette Harris. Jade and Lillette to perform preview concerts in September 10-13 at Murray Theater, Clearwater, Florida.
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Jade Simmons
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Ruth Eckerd Hall


Houston - Texas - US


HOUSTON - July 24, 2015 - PRLog -- Acclaimed concert pianist Jade Simmons has been tapped to portray legendary concert jazz pianist & composer Lillette Harris in the upcoming biopic and musical stage play Lillette’s Rhythm Club. Jade will also be featured in the PBS documentary about the world renowned and widely respected artist. After a long, worldwide search, Simmons was handpicked by Adrienne Lillette Harris, daughter of Lillette to play the lead role.

Of Simmons, Adrienne Lillette Harris says, "They told me I would never find my Lillette. They were wrong!"

Lillette, 91 years young and ready for her final bow, will pass the torch to concert pianist Jade Simmons in a series of farewell performances presented by the Murray Theatre at Ruth Eckerd Hall on Thursday, September 10 through Sunday, September 13. All performances are at 8 pm. Tickets go on sale Saturday, July 25th at 10 am. This farewell concert will have Jade alongside Lillette in performances of some of the composer's storied Classical Gospel arrangements as well as highlights from the stage play scheduled to tour in early 2016. Public television station WEDU will film this performance for the upcoming documentary.  For the multitalented Simmons, these concerts and the musical will mark her acting, singing and dancing debut.  The play and concert are produced by Fame Multimedia Productions of which Adrienne Lillette Harris is  founder and Senior Partner.

Lillette and her actor-comedian husband Bud Harris were African-American entertainment royalty in an era of segregation and discrimination against Blacks in entertainment. Their establishment, Lillette's Rhythm Club, was the first African-American-owned Casino, nightclub and hotel in Reno-Sparks, Nevada in 1945 and was frequented by the biggest names in the business.  Known since the 1940s as “Queen of the Keys,” Lillette (known today as Lillette Jenkins-Wisner) has shared the spotlight with artists such as Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Josephine Baker, Nat King Cole, Lena Horne, Ray Charles, B.B. King and most recently Billy Joel. Today, she still rules the throne as one of the last revered multi-talented female musicians of this century. Lillette’s musical career extend from her days as a child protégé in New York, to military USO tours, film, television, Broadway musicals and worldwide concerts. Earlier this year, at the Sarasota Jazz Festival, The Jazz Club of Sarasota presented Lillette the Satchmo Award for her outstanding contributions to jazz.

Called a "musical force of nature,” Jade Simmons is easily one of the most exciting and versatile artists on the scene today. Her repertoire spans Rachmaninoff to rap with forays into self-produced electronics and world-class storytelling in between. In addition to performances on renowned stages, including the hallowed halls of the White House and the US Supreme Court, her multiple talents make her a true Renaissance woman of the millennium as best-selling author, a sought-after professional speaker, webcast host for the Van Cliburn International Piano competition, writer for the Huffington Post and a former Miss Chicago, Miss Illinois and 1st runner-up at Miss America. Currently, you can hear her playing the classical selections in the new, highly acclaimed Nina Simone documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone? She has been recognized by Symphony magazine, Ebony, and has made Essence magazine's inaugural Style and Substance List alongside First Lady Michelle Obama. Spring of 2014, Jade made waves as one of the rare classical artists invited to perform at the taste making South by Southwest Festival where her show was ultimately branded one of the Best of SXSW 2014.

"I feel both uniquely qualified and sufficiently challenged to step into these big shoes. I'm honored to have been given the chance to portray a living legend like Lillette who has made such a broad dent in the fabric of American music, civil rights and women's history," says Simmons. Starting with her first meeting with Lillette in Florida, the artist will chronicle her journey live on social media in Becoming Lillette, a reality experience on Periscope. Interested viewers can tune in by following her on Twitter @jadesimmons

Tickets for the September farewell concerts are priced at $50 and are available at the Ruth Eckerd Hall Ticket Office, by calling 727.791.7400 or visiting The Ruth Eckerd Hall Ticket Office is open Monday through Saturday, 10 am to 6 pm and one hour prior to show time. In addition, a limited number of VIP packages, priced at $100 are also available which include a premium seat, signed item and meet & greet reception with Lillette and Jade.

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