The good news is that Gregory Hines
, playing the part of Jelly Roll Morton
in this successful Broadway musical, creates a full-bodied character and performs it with conviction and gusto. His Jelly is proud, impressive, and ultimately tragic. The bad news is that he is also fictional: Writer-director George C. Wolfe
has distorted Jelly Roll Morton
's true story to tell a fable about African-American assimilation and the evolution of jazz. Unfortunately, Luther Henderson's
musical adaptation does to Morton
's music what Wolfe
does to his life, and the result will be frowned upon by jazz fans, even though it conforms to Broadway conventions.