It’s absolutely great when magical things happen and you can bring cool people together through the power of journalism.
That’s what happened Friday night when Augusta resident Emira Lymon Bryant, widow of 1960s rock legend Frankie Lymon, got to meet the Los Angeles actor portraying her late husband in a touring musical.
My column last week was about Fool in Love, a touring musical booked at Imperial Theatre about the life of teenage classic rock sensation Lymon.
Lymon died on Feb. 27, 1968, at age 25 in New York City reportedly of a heroin overdose.
And my column noted those behind the free concert including sponsor American Family Insurance had overlooked inviting Lymon’s widow, Emira Lymon Bryant, a retired Richmond County schoolteacher, to the show.
Bryant had married Lymon on June 30, 1967, in a small ceremony at Beulah Grove Baptist Church near Paine College when Lymon was stationed that year at Fort Gordon.
In December 1989, the New York Supreme Court ruled that Bryant was Lymon’s only legal wife. The hit movie Why Do Fools Fall in Love centered on three women, including Bryant, who claimed to be Lymon’s lawful widow.
Within an hour or so after my column was posted online last Wednesday, I got a call from Atlanta from Rita Love Owens, a representative for American Family Insurance, who said they did not intentionally overlook Bryant but were not sure whether she still was alive or how to get in touch with her.
I gave her Bryant’s number, which resulted in Bryant and her husband, Leroy Bryant, sitting front center Friday night at the Imperial.
And, at the start of the show, she was recognized in the audience and asked to stand and be honored with applause.
After the show, the three cast members – Anthony Manough of Los Angeles, playing Lymon, and Amber Iman of New York City and Roz White of Washington, D.C., representing others in Lymon’s life and singing lead and backup vocals – eagerly came from backstage to meet Lymon’s widow and her family.
It was a very emotional moment for both Bryant and the cast members. Manough, upon meeting her, even knelt at her feet and kissed her hand. Bryant took Manough’s hand and talked with him quietly; a truly unique experience of real life and theatrical life coming together in a music history moment.
“Emira basically said that she enjoyed the performance and that she thought we had done a good job of encapsulating Frankie’s life and she liked my characterization,” Manough e-mailed me over the weekend. “She and her current husband both said they were glad to have seen the show.”
The three-member cast and the three-member, jazz-blues-’60s rock musical combo presented a fast-paced and intensely professional show that easily ranks among the best of the thousands of shows I have seen over the past 50 years.
Westobou organizers would be very smart to book this show for their festival for rarely does a musical deal with someone in the show business world or any world tied to Augusta.
But beyond that, it is just an incredibly entertaining show that evokes the classic rock and blues and jazz of Augusta and the nation as it was in the 1950s and ’60s.
Manough is one of the most surprising unknown artists to grace an Augusta stage. He is a great singer. He is a great dancer, and he is a great actor.
He grew up in Washington, D.C., and graduated from both the Duke Ellington School of the Arts and also Howard University in the nation’s capital.
Manough has performed on Broadway as a supporting role apostle in the revival of Jesus Christ Superstar and as an understudy to lead role apostle Peter. He also was an understudy for the actor who played Banzai in The Lion King.
He has appeared in the video version of the Broadway musical Naked Boys Singing and starred with Roz White in a Washington, D.C., area production of the jazz musical Ladies Swing The Blues.
Manough comes by his young success through hard work along with his talents.
“My mother worked for the U.S. Postal Service, and when my dad passed when I was very young, she became the single family provider,” Manough related by phone earlier this week. “That is where a bunch of my work ethic and drive come from.
“And when I was four or five, my only brother died of leukemia. I remember that well because of the effect it had on my mom. She, more or less, concentrated so much of her free time on me.”
Manough originally auditioned for the Duke Ellington School of the Arts as a visual artist but, when he started attending classes, he realized if he pursued theater, “I could do it all.”
He began recognizing his talents for singing when he began working with a pianist at Howard University, where Augusta’s own opera star, Jessye Norman, once studied.
What lies in his future? He doesn’t really know but hopes to find some good things related to music.
“I moved to L.A. to try my hand in television and films,” he said, “and I’m working on a CD of songs you probably know with a jazz spin. And what happens after that, we’ll just have to see.”