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Musical tribute to the late Ray Charles

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

A NEW musical tribute to one of the industries all-time greats and fittingly entitled, The Genius of Ray Charles, opens at the Theatre Royal Haymarket on June 21, 2005 (previews from June 16) for a limited eight-week period - to August 13, 2005.

In spite of overwhelming odds (blinded at the age of six and orphaned just nine years later) Ray Charles became one of the major influences on both black and white popular music in the 20th century.

Singer, composer and pianist, his repetoire was endless and embraced not only blues, gospel and jazz but even 'pop', Broadway classics and country and western.

He continued performing until the last years of his life and in 2004, at the age of 73, died of acute liver disease. His last album, Genius Loves Company, was posthumously released and went on to win numerous Grammy Awards.

The Genius of Ray Charles follows close on the heels of last year's Hollywood biopic, Ray, which saw Jamie Foxx, in the title role, pick up an Oscar for Best Actor.

The musical had its US premiere only last month in Eldorado, Nevada and the 32-strong American company of singers, dancers and musicians are expected to reprise their performances in the West End.

Amongst the Charles' songs featured, are Georgia on My Mind, Hit the Road Jack, I Can't Stop Loving You and Unchain My Heart.

The Genius of Ray Charles follows Victoria Wood's Acorn Antiques and will itself be followed, later this summer, by Aaron Sorkin's A Few Good Men, the vehicle for Rob Lowe's West End stage debut.

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