Play “Sugar Ray” Opens At Gene Frankel Theatre Jan. 6th

Reginald L. Wilson's play "Sugar Ray," about boxer Sugar Ray Robinson,
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Reginald L. Wilson's play "Sugar Ray," about boxer Sugar Ray Robinson, will make its theatrical premiere at the Gene Frankel Theatre and will run from Jan. 6th to 23rd.

Sugar Ray Robinson was, pound for pound, the greatest boxer of all time. In his 25-year professional career, from 1940 to 1965, he was boxing history's first winner of five divisional championships (in the middle weight and welterweight divisions).

This "King of Harlem" was renowned for his litheness, his power and his flamboyant lifestyle outside the ring. His career peaked between 1947 and 1950, before the era of TV boxing, so his style and legacy are less preserved today than those of other boxers, including his admirer, Muhammed Ali. That's why "Sugar Ray" by playwright Laurence Holder is so significant. It recaptures Robinson's life and boxing legacy in a biographical solo show that is exciting to those who idolized him and illuminating to those who grew up after his era.

The play will have its theatrical premiere January 6 to 23, 2022 at Gene Frankel Theatre, 24 Bond Street, presented by 24 Bond Arts Center in association with Faith Steps Productions and performed by AUDELCO-winnner Reginald L. Wilson. The theater's playing area will be transformed into a boxing ring for the production. Luther D. Wells directs.

Wilson performed the show in New York once before, in 2016, in a site-specific dinner theater presentation at New Harlem Besame Restaurant at 2070 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. That location was the original home of Sugar Ray's bar/restaurant and business offices during the 50's and 60's. Directed by Woodie King Jr., the production received plaudits from the critics and was visited by notables including Ray Robinson II (the last surviving son of the famed boxer); Jimmy Hayes, a member of the vocal group The Persuasions; and Johnny Barnes,who played Sugar Ray in "The Raging Bull."

Praise for "Sugar Ray"

NEW YORK TIMES (Ken Jaworowski) "I've never formally met Reginald L. Wilson. But if I see him on the street, it will be tough not to give him a bro-hug. Indeed, even though he portrays a hard-hitting fighter in 'Sugar Ray,' this friendly actor exudes warmth, and that helps make a fairly good play quite a bit better….At the end of Mr. Holder’s script, we experience only a little sorrow for the champ, despite his constant money problems and his early death. That’s partly because seeing a life this full makes it easy to feel happy for Robinson, and partly because an actor this upbeat makes it hard to feel sad."

WOMAN AROUND TOWN (Alix Cohen) "Riveting....The strong, sympathetic piece is wisely framed as if in Robinson's own words and stunningly brought to life by actor Reginald L. Wilson who works the room with grace, energy, charisma, and focus….Pacing is pitch perfect. Gestures feel natural, emotions credible….Bravo."

BLACK STAR NEWS (Deardre Schuller) "Via his outstanding talent, actor Reginald L. Wilson, brought the one-man play alive with considerable verve, wit and humor."

NEW YORK BEACON (Ernece Kelly) "a fascinating re-telling of Robinson's life. With few props--a boxer's satin robe, sparring gloves, and a bowler hat--Wilson takes us back to his beginning with Golden Glove victories all the way to the Madison Square Garden tribute to him in 1965 where he was dubbed 'The Greatest Fighter Ever.' Wilson, with his physical resemblance to Robinson and his exceptional limberness, is convincing as an embodiment of the man who insisted he was a 'gladiator.'"

AMSTERDAM NEWS (Linda Armstrong) "Playwright Laurence Holder has lovingly, humorously and powerfully created a one-man show about the life of the champ….Wilson delivers a dynamite punch as he takes the audience on a journey through the life and times of Robinson….'Sugar Ray' is living history and something memorable to experience."

BERKSHIRE FINE ARTS (Susan Hall) "Advanced footwork and punching power are brought from ring to stage in Reginald Wilson’s one man show as Sugar Ray Robinson….Even if you didn't enjoy boxing prior to this performance it was impossible to resist watching Wilson. He moved in a dedicated space across the front of the dining room with grace. Props are created in the mind's eye by Wilson. Only boxing gloves, the winner’s belt and a phone are palpable. With hands sketching other props and even a partner at dancing school, Wilson creates the boxing champ’s world over time….Laurence Holder has captured Sugar's lingo and rhythms. The biographical material does not shy away from Sugar's philandering heart or a detours into drugs. It honestly portrays an athlete who trained to peak performance and was a lively, contributing member of his community."

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