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A Must See

Amber Riley & Uzo Aduba Join The Cast of NBC’s The Wiz Live

Broadway Black

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The hits just keep on coming! Broadway Black has learned that Amber Riley will be playing Addaperle in NBC’s “The Wiz Live!” that will air on December 3. Addaperle is the Good Witch of the North, sister to Glinda of the South. We talked here about the rumors that Uzo Aduba might be playing Glinda. Well, now she is! While Glinda is graceful and poised, Addaperle is hysterically clumsy, carrying around her magic “wanga,” which doesn’t always work so well. Clarice Taylor played Addaperle in the 1974 original Broadway cast and Thelma Carpenter had fun with the role in the 1978 movie adaptation. Glinda the Good was originally played by Dee Dee Bridgewater on Broadway, which won her a Tony Award, and by Lena Horne in the movie.

Riley & Aduba will join newbie Shanice Willams, who will play Dorothy, Tony nominee David Alan Grier who will take on the role of “The Cowardly Lion”, as well as join the Academy Award nomineeQueen Latifah & Grammy Award winner Mary J. Blige in the cast of The Wiz Live. Latifah will play “The Wiz” & Blige will portray the role of “Evillene”, the horrible wicked witch known for the upbeat “Don’t Nobody Bring Me No Bad News.” In addition to Stephanie Mills as “Aunt Em”, who was also previously announced.

The original 1975 production of The Wiz featured music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls and a book by William F. Brown and is a re-imagining of L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” The Broadway production won seven Tony Awards including Best Musical. In 1978, Motown Productions and Universal Pictures produced a film adaptation starring Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell, Ted Ross, Lena Horne, and Richard Pryor as “The Wiz”.

This upcoming retelling of “The Wiz” will be directed by Tony Award winner Kenny Leon (Raisin in the Sun) and will feature stunning acrobatics by Cirque du Soleil Theatrical, choreography by Fatima Robinson, and updated material by Harvey Fierstein (Kinky Boots, La Cage aux Folles, Newsies).

We know from her time on Fox’s “Glee!” that Amber Riley has serious acting and singing skills. We can’t wait to hear her belt out “He’s The Wiz!,” Addaperle’s signature tune. Riley will also rock out on the NBC production stage. In 2013, she became the first Black woman to win Dancing With the Stars.

Uzo Aduba is mostly known from her work on Orange Is The New Black as “Crazy Eyes” but is no stranger to the theatre. Aduba is an amazing vocalist and would be right at home on a Broadway-style sound stage. Before being cast on OITNB, she was on Broadway, and starred in the revival of Godspell. She’s also classically trained if you didn’t know.

We think Amber Riley is a great, youthful choice to play Addaperle. And Uzo Aduba is the best choice for Glinda The Good. Talk back to us in the comments and let us know what you think!

 

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A Must See

We Were There: Sojourners & Her Portmanteau

Jerrica White

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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Playwright, educator, opera singer, and Queen, Mfoniso Udofia has two plays running at New York Theatre Workshop. *pause* TWO PLAYS. In the SAME season!?!? *ends congratulatory gasp* Sojourners and Her Portmanteau are performed in repertory, as two chapters of Udofia’s sweeping, nine-part saga, The Ufot Cycle.  Admittedly, before researching each show, I didn’t know the definition of either word; and in the spirit of keeping it consistent with the honesty, I didn’t like either play. I loved them.

Sojourners

Minimalism seems to be the name of the game these days.  I sat down to a completely black stage, sans a multimedia display lodged on the ceiling at a 45-degree angle.  Clutching my all white program and bobbing my head to the ‘70s pop rock pre-show music, I prepared my heart for the story of Sojourners, well at least that was the plan.  The stage begins to rotate and we meet Abasiama (Chinasa Ogbuagu) and Ukpong (Hubert Point-Du Jour), Nigerian expatriates sojourning in Houston, Texas with the plan to start a family, earn their degrees, and go back to Nigeria until life happens.

Charming and handsome, Ukpong becomes defined by his leather jacket, shoulder work and shimmy which match the fascination and yearning for freedom that illuminates his eyes every time he talks of peace, protest, and Prince–all shaping his view of 1970s America, and consequently, the American Dream.  But does leather compensate for grit? Is a movement or vibe really a panacea for disappointment, aimlessness, and a need to find yourself?  Abasiama enters the play pregnant, purposed, and outfitted in pieces of Nigerian garb, grounded in duty showing a stark contrast to Ukpong who floats in desire.  What’s lost in your household is found elsewhere, and this is when we start to see, and root for, Abasiama’s transformation from timid to tenacious.

Enter Moxie (Lakisha May), a colorful prostitute turned protector and friend.  There is a mutual respect despite great differences between her and Abasiama, with their love for one another creating moments that make you believe in the beauty of humanity.  Enter Disciple (Chinaza Uche), another warm and determined hearted immigrant who has come to the United States to study, rounding out the timely additions of love, support, and security when Abasiama needed them the most.

Through and through this is Abasiama’s story and she glows.  Her kindness, her sisterhood, her strength, her worthiness, and the realization of her American Dream, guide her decisions—which is the catalyst behind the entire Ufot Cycle.

Her Portmanteau

Her “portmanteau”, or red suitcase, makes a return as 30 years have passed.  Abasiama now has two daughters, one raised in America and the other who has come from Nigeria to reconnect with her family.

This is a good moment to mention that each story is informed by the other, but can certainly stand alone on substance, content, and the amazing direction of Ed Sylvanus Iskandar.  The staging is exciting and deliberate, while minimal, putting the full focus on the tension and growth to be expected of a family reunited after a substantial amount of time and distance.

Chinasa Ogbuagu returns to the stage, this time as the American-born daughter, Adiagha Ufot, Adepero Oduye as Iniabasi Ekpeyoung (Ukpong and Abasiama’s daughter), and Jenny Jules as the mother, Abasiama Ufot.

Seated on a couch in Adiagha’s small New York Apartment, no amount of preparation readies your mind and spirit to form the words to make up for 30 years of life, connection, and memories missed.  We’re taken on a ride of resentment, hurt, love, and forgiveness, as the portmanteau is literally unpacked.  We watch the teeter-tottering between offense and defense as one sister tries to assimilate into American culture, and the other attempts, albeit stubbornly, to fall in formation in honoring a family she shares blood with, but little time or tangible history.

It’s powerful to see a story of history and continuing a legacy despite lost time, faulty promises, and difficult choices explored with an all-woman cast as far too often the idea of legacy is framed in patriarchy.  Jules admirably takes Abasiama through the fire to heal, to feel, and to fix her family.  The narrative allows us to empathize and understand the struggle that comes with upholding family values versus cultivating a space to achieve personal dreams and happiness.

Her Portmanteau (and Sojourners) is written in a way that finds your soul, gently massaging it with humor, while leaving it with very real questions.  I’ve never felt a greater need to binge read nine stories and simultaneously study the story of my own family tree. I left changed. I left wrapped in the strength of my mom and my mom’s- mom’s sacrifice.  I left pensive and with seeds of future forgiveness planted.  I left changed.

For capturing our hearts with wit and with truth.  For putting Black women at the center of a poignant narrative.  For unapologetically telling a story you haven’t seen told and telling it in the way you want it to be told.

We thank you Mfoniso.  We thank you.

Have you seen the #duetplays? Sound off in the comments below![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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A Must See

Our Story in 2 Plays for 1 Price: Mfoniso Udofia’s Sojourners & Her Portmanteau

Jerrica White

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Last winter, we reported on Sojourners by playwright Mfoniso Udofia, a new play about a Nigerian family who has come to America with the goal of earning a college education, starting a family, and returning to Nigeria. But not without the twists and turns that come along with every plan that seems straightforward.

Image result for Sojourners and Her Portmanteau

Thanks to New York Theatre Workshop, we get to relive this moment and continue the dialogue, decades later, with Her Portmanteau. Performed in repertory, these two chapters of Udofia’s sweeping, nine-part saga, The Ufot Cycle, chronicle the triumphs and losses of the tenacious matriarch of a Nigerian family.

Ed Sylvanus Iskandar directs the two-part story in association with The Playwrights Realm, who premiered Sojourners last winter in a limited engagement world premiere production. Her Portmanteau also received the 2016 Edgerton Foundation New Play Award grant.

The cast includes Jenny JulesLakisha Michelle MayAdepero OduyeChinasa OgbuaguHubert Point-Du Jour, and Chinaza Uche.

As if that wasn’t enough to get excited about, we have an exclusive deal for our Broadway Black readers!

Our Story in 2 Plays for 1 Price!

Yes. That’s two shows for one price! The discount code BWYBLACK will take 50% off tickets to ANY performance(s) if purchased by May 15th! 

Go ahead and grab your tickets. We have ours!

Sojourners and Her Portmanteau plays at NYTW until June 4th.

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