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West Side Story’s Cool Reimagined by Los York Studios And It’s Pretty… Cool!

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As described in their mission statement, Los York is “an integrated production company that executes live action, design, and experimental projects.” An older project of the company resurfaced recently, a reimagined rendition of West Side Story‘s “Cool” scene, is now circulating throughout the internet. The Emmy Award winner and director of the video, Seth Epstein has brilliantly captured the story of rivalry within two different ethnic groups, but this time with more melanin!

The video also features music by Jimek (Run the World Dave Aude Club Remix), and choreography by Keone and Mari Madrid (SYTYCD).

The electrifying footwork, where pirouettes are replaced with pop locking and break dancing in the place of battements, provides hope for bridging racial gaps and relieving tensions. This style is more interpretive, with urban based movements that add an extra layer to some of the barriers printed in the original 1957 production.One thing that I appreciate about the classic musical West Side Story is its transcendent nature and ability to comfortably conform to whatever generation of interest.

Above all else, West Side Story is a love story, a modernized interpretation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The timelessness in the modernized story–tension between two lovers of opposite gangs–reveals past and present issues found in American society however old and reoccurring they may be. The Los York video demonstrates that flexibility and once again creates an even bigger space for a fabulous classic.

Watch for yourself!

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Stunning First Look of Condola Rashad as Joan of Arc Met with Racist Fury

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Previously it was announced that three-time Tony nominee Condola Rashad would star on Broadway in Saint Joan, playing the iconic role of “Joan of Arc.” However, it was the first look photo, released this weekend by Manhattan Theatre Club, that caused quite the stir. Broadway is no stranger to rolling the dice with shaking up the race and gender of a role, yet this time the response was immediate and toxic, and even racist at times. As commentary flooded social media, people questioned the appropriateness of changing the race of the 15th-century heroine from white to black, and if changing historical black characters to white would ever be acceptable. According to Shadow and Act, Rashad is only the second black actress to play Saint Joan on Broadway, the first being Diana Sands (the original Beneatha Younger in the stage and film versions of A Raisin in the Sun) in the 1968 Broadway revival.

Gorgeous, right?!


…and these are just a few reactions, some receiving more attention than the original post.

The theatre has always been a place of challenging the status quo across gender, sex, and race, changing the identity of characters to create new storylines and ways of thought around lived experiences. Broadway has long stood as one of the first places where social change can take place in a more radical sense to be dispersed to the masses, and appreciated.

In response to some of the “outrage”, Manhattan Theatre Club released this statement to Broadway Black:

“Manhattan Theatre Club is proud to be producing Bernard Shaw’s timeless and powerful play SAINT JOAN on Broadway at our Friedman Theatre starting performances April 3rd.

The role of Joan has been played on Broadway by some of the finest actresses of their generation and we are thrilled that Condola Rashad will continue that tradition and star in our production directed by Daniel Sullivan.”

This is not the first instance of a show changing the race of a cast to present historical figures in a different light. In 2016, the musical Hamilton took the history of the founding fathers and flipped it entirely on its head. Rather than cast white actors, historical figures like Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton, George Washington and others were played by African Americans and Latino’s; using rap as the vessel of dialogue in the play discussing the birth of America, and life of Alexander Hamilton after the revolutionary war. The play took home 11 Tony Awards and was the first sign of a noted shift in how actors of color could play roles traditionally meant for white actors, and excel.

In 2017, Once on This Island debuted with a spin on traditionally hetero black characters, bringing in Tony Award winner for Miss Saigon, Lea Salonga to play Erzulie, and Alex Newell of Glee fame to play Mother Nature. They also decided to take the role of Papa Ge, traditionally played by a black man and cast Merle Dandridge. Director Michael Arden stated “In casting the Gods that inhabit our island, it became imperative for me to break expectations and stretch beyond the bounds in which Gods are traditionally represented. It felt important that young people watching our production see themselves reflected back from the stage at them. The Gods are simply that: Gods. They are not bound by gender, race, sexuality or being human at all. I’m so very pleased to be collaborating with these four artists exploring the important and timely themes of this musical through their unique and incredible abilities.”

It is necessary for Broadway to continue to show representation and visibility in a new light, continuing to break barriers and stereotypes in an effort to create change in the way we see one another in society. As roles for actors of color are limited, they are often placed in situations where they must audition for characters traditionally played by white actors and actresses. Furthermore, Broadway continues to struggle with green lighting new productions that call for casting that requires actors of color. As diverse as the 2016 Tony Awards was, 2017 reverted back to the “Great White Way” seeing James Earl Jones received an untelevised lifetime achievement award, and August Wilson’s Jitney take home Best Revival of a Play.

James Earl Jones’ Entire Lifetime Achievement Award Acceptance Speech

Sunday evening, the incredibly brilliant multi-talented Mr. James Earl Jones, received the Special Tony Award for his lifetime achievements on the Broadway Stage. Unfortunately, the Tony Awards decided to air only a taped portion of Mr. Jones speech rather than allowing him to speak live, …

Condola Rashad continues to wow audiences in every role she has ever tackled, and this will be no different. Broadway Black is excited to see Ms. Rashad take on the lead role of heroine Joan of Arc, where her performance and not her race will be the main talk of the town.

Saint Joan is set to begin previews at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on Broadway April 3, 2018, ahead of an April 25 opening. The show will complete MTC’s 2017–2018 season lineup.

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Did You Know? It’s Been Only 30 Years Since The Rockettes Were Integrated #RepresentationMatters

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Last month, the Radio City Rockettes kicked up their precision heels at the 71st Annual Tony Awards for the first time since 2005. They marched on stage with the cast from Come From Away in the opening number with host Kevin Spacey, then later performed a full routine to “New York, New York” sung by the incomparable duo Cynthia Erivo and Joshua Henry (who starred together in last year’s one-night-only performance of Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years.)

The 36 dancers took the stage at Radio City Music Hall, which has been their home since 1932, to welcome their guests with dazzling routines, costumes and award winning smiles. Comedians Nick Kroll and John Mulaney of Oh, Hello! fame introduced them by shouting, “A baby boy born during their last performance would be bar mitzvahed today!” While 13 years seems like a long time to that young boy (and congrats, whoever you are!), it has been a scant 30 years since another Rockettes milestone; the addition of dancers of color.

The Rockettes have been high-kicking in unison since they were founded by Russell Markert in St. Louis, Mo in 1925. Markert wanted to create the world’s most precise dancing troupe and as of today, his vision was a success. However, like most things during that time, that vision did not include people of color. Markert’s dancers, who were all white, were not allowed to sun tan lest they look “like a colored girl.”, ironically representing one of the most diverse places on the planet.

The Civil rights movement decades later did little to change the minds of the people in charge. In 1982, the director at the time, Violet Holmes stated, “One or two black girls in the line would definitely distract. You would lose the whole look of precision, which is the hallmark of the Rockettes.” This ridiculous notion was removed from the standard Radio City practice only five years later when Jennifer Jones became the first black woman to kick alongside her 35 Rockette sisters. (video of her debut performance)

One might expect Corny Collins from Hairspray to slide in and declare at that moment the Rockettes were “officially integrated!” Thankfully, he did not, as one can only take so much of a man named Corny sliding anywhere announcing anything. Nevertheless, the West Coast cast of the Rockettes already cast a Black dancer earlier that year and the NYC cast hired Japan-born Setsuko Maruhashi to dance with the troupe a year earlier.

Things continue to look up for the Rockettes since they have embraced equal-opportunity casting. Aside from the January 2017 kerfuffle where only half of the kickline performed at President Trump’s Inaugural Ball, (a gig that Dreamgirl Jennifer Holliday declined) the talented women continue their rigorous winter and spring schedules without incident. Now young Black dancers can see themselves represented on stage and as one blogger said ecstatically, “Someone with hair like mine is in the Rockettes!” That #BlackJoy is something we can all celebrate.

Follow two of the #BlackGirlMagic Rockettes on Instagram! Sam Berger and Danelle Morgan!

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Top 15 #ShakespeareInTheTrump Julius Caesar Tweets

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[vc_row][vc_column css_animation=”bounceInDown”][vc_column_text css_animation=”rotateInDownLeft”]The Public Theater‘s Julius Caesar, directed by Oskar Eustis for #ShakespeareInThePark closes today after waves of controversy threatened the very stage upon which it was performed. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern…, I mean Delta Airlines and Bank of America withdrew their support from the production when it was clear that the actor playing Caesar, Gregg Henry, would resemble President Trump. Comparisons have been drawn to the 2012 staging of the same play by the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis where Caesar was played by Bjorn DuPaty, a Black man meant to portray President Obama.

Guthrie Theater’s Julius Caesar starring Bjorn Dupaty | Photo: Heidi Bohnenkamp

The historical account of Caesar’s downfall have permeated the arts many times and has often resembled current events. However, many of President Trump’s supporters have taken particular offense to this year’s offering and on June 16th, a blogger named Laura Loomer charged the stage immediately after the titular character’s death in Act 3; shouting that the play promoted normalization of violence against the right-wing. Loomer and another protester were removed from the theater and charged with trespassing.

Soon after, the hashtag #ShakespeareInTheTrump went viral on Twitter when blogger John Aravosis queried, “What if all of Shakespeare was really written about Donald Trump? What would the titles be?” The Shakespeare fans of the Internet swarmed with responses and we’ve compiled the best 15 just for you!

John Aravosis on Twitter

What if all of Shakespeare was really written about Donald Trump? What would the titles be? King Lear –> King Leer. #ShakespeareInTheTrump

King Leer was an instant internet favorite with a play on King Lear and the reports that Trump would often enter dressing rooms of beauty pageants unannounced.

rahaeli on Twitter

A little more than kin, and less than unqualified #ShakespeareInTheTrump

This line from Hamlet uttered by the title character displays his disregard for the familial ties to his murderous uncle. The tweet seems to point at Trump’s lack of public service experience before taking office.

sander gusinow on Twitter

It is my opinion that the entire Tempest was a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese. #ShakespeareInTheTrump

Ah, yes! Climate change is a hoax! Or so tweeted our illustrious leader in 2012. But Shakespeare’s The Tempest is certainly no hoax… or is it?!?!? [editor’s note: I just checked. both climate change and The Tempest are real. As you were.]

Momo Pnano on Twitter

ShakespeareInTheTrump I hope some street vendor is smart enough to be serving Orange Julius Caesars after the show.

Oy, now I’m craving Orange Julius! They should include a discount to anyone who whispers, “Et tu, Brute?” after their delicious citrus drink is stabbed by eight straws.

Shelby Lynn on Twitter

Now is the 4 years of our discontent… #ShakespeareInTheTrump

We hear you, Shelby. Roughly quoting the first line of The Tragedy of King Richard III shows how most of Trump’s policies have really put down minorities and other marginalized groups since he took office.

Kate on Twitter

Yon Comey has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much; such men are dangerous. #ShakespeareInTheTrump

Caesar’s line from Act I about Brutus shows that J.C. just can’t trust skinny people… or thinkers. This tweet points at Trump’s removal of former FBI Director James Comey in mid-April. And at 6’8″ tall, Comey certainly fits the lean description!

Preach, Sean! Mr. Patrick Thomas made his Broadway debut in 2014 featured in Broadway revival of A Raisin In The Sun starring Denzel Washington. Here he references Shakespeare’s play All’s Well That Ends Well. His acting chops seem to range from Saving The Last Dance to 14th-century literature so we hope to see him on a stage again soon!

As we mentioned above, Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis staged a production in 2012. That’s Julius there on the ground, covered in blood. Are we surprised that people are treating the deaths of a Black man and a white man differently? WE ARE NOT.


G.E. Filtefish on Twitter

If you prick us do we not have blood coming out of our wherever? #ShakespeareInTheTrump

Ok, so this one is farther down the list but IT IS GOLD! Remember early August 2015? The good old days? Trump was displeased with debate moderator Megyn Kelly’s job and said, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.” If I could meet The Merchant of Venice, from whence this quote comes, I’d buy a time machine just to go back to this time, when we had a different president. And a pound of meat. I hear he deals in meat. [editor furtively whispers in my ear] Oh, human hearts. Nevermind. I pass.

Mark Hamill on Twitter

The Merchant of Venom-King Leer-Much Ado About Twitter-All’s Well That Ends Well With Mueller-Covfefeolanus #ShakespeareinThetRump

Luke Skywalker couldn’t stick to just one pun! Five titles crammed into one tweet but the cherry on top is the riff on Coriolanus and Trump’s incomprehensible tweet from later last month, covfefe.

Cali Dreaming NaphiSoc on Twitter

shakespeareinthetrump Lord, what fools these mortals be

Fools indeed. I offer this submission to anyone who needs something to mutter under their breath when ridiculous things happen, as Puck does with this phrase from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Beau Willimon on Twitter

Hell is empty and all the devils are here.” #ShakespeareInTheTrump

And here we have another winner! This line from The Tempest sums up the current administration perfectly. And Mr. Willimon would know. He’s the creator of “House of Cards,” a man who has filled his share of fictional D.C. swamps.

Christian Christensen on Twitter

Henry Pleads the Vth #shakespeareinthetrump

Attorney General Jeff Sessions refused to say much of anything during congressional hearings last week about possible collusion with Russia during the Trump campaign. Is there possible collusion with The Life of Henry V? He’s not saying.

ShakespeareofThrones on Twitter

Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.” – Hamlet, III.i #ShakespeareInTheTrump

For some reason this picture reminds me of cold toothpaste and orange juice but I can’t figure why. It could be the madness that Hamlet is trying to warn us about.

And finally we have the protesters who have clearly never heard the phrase, “The Show Must Go ON!” Of course, it’s not Shakespeare so maybe it was beyond them. Not only is this dudebro incapable of spelling Julius Caesar, he was also incapable of actually shutting anything down.

Your turn! What crazy Shakespeare title/quote might speak to you today, on this the day of my daughter’s wedding? [editor’s note: That’s from “The Godfather” and not Shakespeare.][/vc_column_text][vc_gallery interval=”5″ images=”18752,18751,18750,18749,18741,18740,18738″ img_size=”large” css_animation=”none” title=”The Public Theater’s Julius Caesar” css=”.vc_custom_1498096200124{background-color: #ffffff !important;background-position: 0 0 !important;background-repeat: no-repeat !important;}”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Our production of JULIUS CAESAR in no way advocates violence towards anyone. Shakespeare’s play, and our production, make the opposite point: those who attempt to defend democracy by undemocratic means pay a terrible price and destroy the very thing they are fighting to save. For over 400 years, Shakespeare’s play has told this story and we are proud to be telling it again in Central Park.

The Public Theater stands completely behind our production of JULIUS CAESAR.  We understand and respect the right of our sponsors and supporters to allocate their funding in line with their own values.  We recognize that our interpretation of the play has provoked heated discussion; audiences, sponsors and supporters have expressed varying viewpoints and opinions.

Such discussion is exactly the goal of our civically-engaged theater; this discourse is the basis of a healthy democracy.


[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”” title=”Julius Caesar #ShakespeareInThePark Opening Remarks by Director Oskar Eustis “][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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Cynthia Erivo, Ariana DeBose, and More Perform at 2017 Broadway Backwards

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Cynthia Erivo, Queen Regnant of Broadway, Snatcher of Wigs has slain us again! Erivo took the stage at Broadway Backwards, an annual concert that brings Broadway’s stars together for a night of gender-bending performances, in solidarity with LGBT community.

At this year’s concert, Erivo ended the evening with a gospel-infused version of Ragtime’s “Make Them Hear You,” leading the Broadway Backwards ensemble with the same passion we remember from her days at The Color Purple.

Ariana DeBose, joined by Megan Sikora, performed “It’s De-Lovely” from Anything Goes. Having appeared in five Broadway shows, DeBose has gone from ensemble member in Bring It On and Hamilton to lead in A Bronx Tale. The triple threat brought her charm and musicality to the Broadway Backwards performance, with her irresistible smile and killer choreography leaving the crowd swooning in her wake.

Sold Out Broadway Backwards Embraces Solidarity, Empowerment

Other performers included Clyde Alves, Elizabeth Stanley (On the Town), Sierra Boggess (The Little Mermaid, The Phantom of the Opera), Josh Groban (The Great Comet of 1812), and Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd).

Creator Robert Bartley wrote, directed, and choreographed this year’s show, with additional choreography by Penny Ayn Maas, Christopher Rice, and Adam Roberts.

Broadway Backwards has raised money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS for more than a decade. Previous concerts have featured performances by Brian Stokes Mitchell, Titus Burgess, Norm Lewis, and Billy Porter, raising as much as $480,287 for the fight against HIV/AIDS. This year, the concert brought in a whopping $522,870! This event is just one of the many annual fundraisers; upcoming events include Easter Bonnet Competition and Broadway Bares.

Find out more about the events here!




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James Earl Jones and Donald Glover Join Live-Action Lion King Remake

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In today’s latest “we didn’t know we needed this until now” news, Variety has reported that recent Golden Globe-winner Donald Glover will lead the upcoming live-action Disney remake of The Lion King, directed by John Favreau, as Simba. Additionally joining him is original Mufasa himself, James Earl Jones, reprising the role he voiced in the 1994 animated film. And we couldn’t be more thrilled!

Favreau expressed his excitement on Twitter.

Tony and Emmy-winner Jones, one of the most distinguished actors of all time, reappeared on Broadway last season opposite Cicely Tyson in The Gin Game. Prior to that, his career has spanned more than 60 years.

No word yet on whether or not this will include songs, like its predecessor, or if it will incorporate live-action with a mix of CGI. Jeff Nathanson will provide the screenplay.

Loosely based on Hamlet, the Oscar-winning film tells the story of a young lion cub who flees his home into exile following the murder of his father by his power-hungry uncle. With the help of a ragtag duo and his childhood friend, an adult Simba must learn to face the past and accept his role as King of the Pridelands.

Featuring music by Elton John and Tim Rice, the animated feature has subsequently spawned two sequels, a spin-off, several animated television series, two Walt Disney Parks and Resorts attractions, and a Tony and Olivier Award-winning Broadway musical.

Now in its 20th year, The Lion King is the third longest running show on Broadway, with multi-lingual productions all over the world. With direction by Julie Taymor, it received five Tony Awards, including “Best Musical,” and has since grossed over $1 billion dollars, the highest of any show ever.

Scar and Mufasa face off in The Lion King.

Image: Joan Marcus

The Lion King is only one of many of Disney’s upcoming live-action features, including Mulan, Dumbo, Winnie the Pooh, The Little Mermaid, Pinocchio, and the widely-anticipated Beauty and the Beast, featuring Audra McDonald, in theaters next March.

In relation to his on-screen father, Glover will also make an appearance in another Disney movie, the Star Wars Han Solo spin-off, which has begun shooting.

Glover, also a rapper under the name “Childish Gambino,” won two Golden Globes for his critically-acclaimed show Atlanta on FX. We already know he’ll kill it as one of the most beloved characters of the Disney Renaissance.

(Calling it now: Cynthia Erivo as Nala. Make it happen).

Dream-cast. Go!



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Dreamgirl Jennifer Holliday Pulls Out of Presidential Inauguration

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Screen Shot 2017-01-13 at 6.03.30 PM

Sheryl Lee Ralph’s (@diva3482) Instagram comment

The power of a ruthless dragging! As previously reported, Dreamgirls and The Color Purple star Jennifer Holliday had confirmed that she’d perform at the Presidential Inauguration “Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration” of The Color Orange on January 19th, claiming to do it “for the people.”

However, we’ve just received word that the Tony winner has opted to pull her performance after facing heavy backlash from the LGBT-community. Several members of the Broadway theatre community, including her former co-star Sheryl Lee Ralph, met the news with confusion and distress.


In a letter provided to The Wrap, Holliday apologized for being uneducated and “causing such dismay and heartbreak to [her] fans.” She further explained that she changed her mind after reading a story from The Daily Beast: “Jennifer Holliday Will Perform at Trump’s Inauguration, Which Is Heartbreaking to Gay Fans.”

We commend her for making the right choice. (read full letter below)

Previous performers who’ve announced their decision to drop out include Paul Anka and Andrea Bocelli. As of now, Court Jester King Louie and his team are still struggling to snatch up any performer who might need a paycheck.

Confirmed artists include 3 Doors Down, Lee Greenwood, The Piano Guys, Toby Keith, The Radio City Rockettes, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and The Talladega Marching Tornados.

Ch’, some line-up.

Read Holliday’s full letter below:


Please allow me this opportunity to speak to you directly and to explain why I originally made my decision to perform at the inauguration which was what I had thought would be my simply keeping in my tradition of being a “bi-partisan songbird” having sung for Presidents Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush.

I was asked to sing a song for what was presented to me as the “Welcome Concert For The People”– in my mind I was reflecting on the past times of being asked to sing for presidents and I only focused on the phrase “For The People”… I thought, For America!

I was honestly just thinking that I wanted my voice to be a healing and unifying force for hope through music to help our deeply polarized country… Regretfully, I did not take into consideration that my performing for the concert would actually instead be taken as a political act against my own personal beliefs and be mistaken for support of Donald Trump and Mike Pence.

In light of the information pointed out to me via the Daily Beast article on yesterday, my only choice must now be to stand with the LGBT Community and to state unequivocally that I WILL NOT PERFORM FOR THE WELCOME CONCERT OR FOR ANY OF THE INAUGURATION FESTIVITIES!

I sincerely apologize for my lapse of judgement, for being uneducated on the issues that affect every American at this crucial time in history and for causing such dismay and heartbreak to my fans.

Please know that I HEAR YOU and I feel your pain. The LGBT Community was mostly responsible for birthing my career and I am deeply indebted to you… You have loved me faithfully and unconditionally and for so many years you provided me with work even though my star had long since faded.

Thank you for communicating with me, I had no idea that I still meant so much to all of you.

Thank you for your posted comments both the good supportive ones as well as the ugly hurtful ones.

With LOVE & Appreciation,

“The Original DreamGirl”

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