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Broadway’s Larry Marshall to channel Black vaudeville great on MLK Day at St. Mark’s Church

Broadway performer Larry Marshall, joined by musicians, will perform “The Black King of Vaudeville,” Marshall’s tribute to vaudeville great Bert Williams (1874-1922), on Mon., Jan. 15, at St. Mark’s Church, at Second Avenue and 10th Street, at 7 p.m.  (doors open at 6 p.m.).

The free event honors the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Refreshments will be served.

In what Marshall calls a “lecture-tainment,” he will rejuvenate the life and music of Bert Williams. Marshall will be joined by musicians on piano, bass, banjo, trombone, clarinet and flute as he talks about the life of Williams and sings some of his most memorable and amusing songs, including “Nobody,” “Barbershop Chord,” “Let It Alone” and “Save Your Money, John.”

Larry Williams.

Featured on piano will be Rick Cordova, with arrangements by Ayodele Maakheru, last seen on Broadway as a solo guitarist in “Lackawana Blues.”

Bert Williams was one of the preeminent entertainers of the vaudeville era, and one of the most popular comedians for all audiences of his time. In an age when racial inequality and stereotyping were commonplace, he became the first Black American to pioneer leading roles, both on Broadway and in the 1914 film “Darktown Jubilee,” pushing back racial barriers in his three-decade-long career.

Williams was one of the most respected and well-paid performers of his time. Fellow vaudevillian W.C. Fields, who appeared in productions with Williams, described him as “the funniest man I ever saw — and the saddest man I ever knew.”

Larry Marshall began his career as a chorus member in an international tour of “Porgy and Bess.” After graduating from the New England Conservatory, he continued to perform in the opera, touring nationally and appearing on Broadway, eventually earning Tony and Drama Desk award nominations for his portrayal of Sportin’ Life in “Porgy and Bess.”

Marshall’s other Broadway performances include “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” “The Full Monty,” “The Color Purple,” “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Hair.” In films, Marshall portrayed Cab Calloway in “The Cotton Club,” an appearance that was praised by Calloway, and as Simon Zealotes in “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

For more information about the event, call St. Mark’s Church at 212-674-6377.

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