Carole, Norm and Mark

Montclair residents Mark Blackman, the founding co-director of ArtsPower National Touring Theatre, and Carole Lakin, group multi-cultural relations manager for Enterprise Rent-A-Car in New York and New Jersey, were joined by Norm Lewis, the co-star of Broadway’s Porgy and Bess, at ArtsPower’s Four Score and Seven Years Ago at The Schomburg Center Auditorium in Harlem on April 3rd. Enterprise Holdings Foundation funded the two free ArtsPower performances that were attended by more than 300 Harlem middle school students.

Mr. Lewis, who has performed in 10 Broadway shows and is presently starring as Porgy opposite four-time Tony Award-winner Audra McDonald in Porgy and Bess, played the lead role in ArtsPower’s Four Score and Seven Years Ago production in 1990. It marked his first professional acting job in New York City.

“Coming back to see the very first musical I performed in after moving to New York City is like watching my child grow up,” Mr. Lewis said during his brief introduction to the audience of students and teachers in Harlem. “I have very fond memories of touring the country with this wonderful ArtsPower musical.”

“Having Norm Lewis, a Broadway star, come back to see the play that started his theatrical career is an amazing experience,” said Lakin. “We are equally happy to have the opportunity to bring performances like Four Score and Seven Years Ago to children throughout New York and New Jersey. We support the arts –  especially what ArtsPower does –  and we look forward to continuing to provide opportunities like this for the communities in which we live and work.”

Four Score and Seven Years Ago is an original musical written by ArtsPower’s artistic director Greg Gunning and Kathleen Huber, with music and lyrics by John Forster. It portrays the story of Lemuel, a young slave who escaped the South and has settled in Gettysburg just prior to the infamous battle there in 1863. When the Confederate Army occupies Gettysburg for a weekend in July 1863, Lemuel befriends Jacob McLain, a Confederate soldier who happens to be the nephew of his shopkeeper-boss and good friend, Mrs. McIlheney. When Lemuel comes to Jacob’s aid after Jacob is injured in battle, he must make a decision that could cost him his life.

“We present these professional theatre performances to motivate children throughout the nation to not only appreciate reading and the theatre, but also to love and respect all their fellow human-beings,” said Mark Blackman. “To see these children respond in such a positive way, and to have Norm return to support ArtsPower and the Four Score and Seven Years Ago production again, make what we do all the more worthwhile. We truly thank Enterprise Rent-A-Car for their ongoing and loyal support. Without them, none of this would be possible.”

Founded in 1985 by Mark Blackman and his twin brother Gary of Glen Ridge, ArtsPower National Touring Theatre is one of America’s preeminent professional theatres for young and family audiences. Based in Verona, New Jersey, ArtsPower tours 10 different, literature-based musicals and dramas annually throughout New Jersey and 47 other states for more than 400,000 young people and adults.

(Photo: Carole Lakin, group multi-cultural relations manager at Enterprise Rent a Car in Wayne, is joined by Norm Lewis, center, star of Broadway’s Porgy and Bess, and Mark Blackman, founding co-director of ArtsPower National Touring Theatre at The Schomburg Center in Harlem.)