I love Elle Woods. I love the color pink. And when I’m indulging in my sensitive side, I love stories about love.
I also love the ability to challenge perspective. I love the idea of a sophisticated, fun, attractive, and driven female lead.
I love the idea of that woman being black.
Delta Nu’s favorite lawyer may be known for her beach blonde hair and pink skirt suits, but I’m sure Elle Woods would agree that blonde is more than a color– it’s a lifestyle. A lifestyle is not constrained or reserved for a woman of any specific race. With that being said, I believe rising star, Alysha Deslorieux (Hamilton, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical) should be cast as Elle Woods in a revival of Legally Blonde.
Legally Blonde will forever hold a special place in my heart because it’s the first professional show I experienced. I sat in the balcony of the theatre, with a couple of tears in my eyes, moved by the energy and enthusiasm behind Laurence O’Keefe’s music. I’ve always been in love with the story of a girl rising to the occasion and discovering that she’s “So Much Better” than what her peers thought of her, and even how she valued herself. Seeing the show on stage further fed into one of my life mantras: nonconformity still reigns.
Elle’s character represents transformation. She has everything going for her but the attention and love of the man she followed to Harvard Law. Everything that glitters isn’t gold and that rings true even with Malibu’s finest. When she’s directed within, we are introduced to a woman that understands her worth and teaches us the importance of forming a “Chip on Your Shoulder” to achieve the goals set for ourselves, while unapologetically refusing to change who we are. A woman that embodies strength, sincerity, and sex appeal must shatter expectations… by being portrayed by a Black woman.
Alysha Deslorieux made her Broadway debut in 2012 in Sister Act. However, I was first introduced to her through her work at University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music. Deslorieux has a commandng presence even in her supporting roles. I can’t wait to see her conquer a leading lady. You can hear Deslorieux on the Beautiful and Hamilton cast albums. She’s currently understudying all three Schyuler sisters in Hamilton.
Light, yet soulful, Deslorieux will send the heart of audiences soaring as they connect with the first Black Elle Woods.
I’ll be in the audience cheering in all pink!
Hello, Dolly! The Past, The Present, and The Prospective Future
A few weeks ago, previews began for the Bette Midler-led revival of Hello, Dolly! over at the Shubert Theatre. Midler last appeared on Broadway in her hilarious one-woman show I’ll Eat You Last at the Booth three years ago, and Fiddler on the Roof in 1967, when the actress had last starred in a musical on the Great White Way.
This revival of Hello, Dolly! marks the fourth incarnation of the Michael Stewart and Jerry Herman musical since its first inception in 1964, starring Carol Channing. The original production played well, but after three years and a slight decline in ticket sales, producer David Merrick decided he needed to shake things up a bit.
What better way to achieve shock value than to recast the show and create an all-Black version with the amazingly talented Pearl Bailey as matchmaker Dolly Levi and Cab Calloway as Horace Vandergelder.
Nowadays, a stunt like this would surprise no one, but in the late 1960s –a time of war and protest, racism and hate– the casting was nearly unheard of. The cast, however, didn’t deter people from seeing the show.
In fact, Hello, Dolly! opened to glowing reviews on November 12, 1967, at the St. James Theatre. This new version would later close on December 27, 1970, bringing the total cumulative Broadway run to 2,844 performances, thus making it the longest-running musical of its time.
Due to popularity, producers released another cast recording with the all-Black cast and Bailey received a Special Tony Award in 1968. She would eventually reprise her role in a short-lived revival in 1975 with Billy Daniels.
After her successful run as Dolly, more opportunities opened up for Black actresses to step into the role of the meddling matchmaker including: Thelma Carpenter, who actually went on as Bailey’s alternate on Wednesday matinees and performed in over 100 performances, Edwina Lewis, and E. Faye Bulter — whose 1990 version included the cut song “Love, Look in My Window.”
Looking back on this amazing production, and with the revival set to officially open in April, we got to thinking: If we could recast Hello, Dolly! today, who are some Black actresses we’d like to see?
Check out some of Team BB answers below:
JHD: Jenifer Lewis. She can blow, she has sass, she needs to be on Broadway since yesterday. And she would absolutely make an amazing Dolly. She actually played the title role back in 2009 in a Seattle Regional Production. If not a Broadway reprisal, we’ll settle for a revival of Mame too.
Tristan: Whoopi Goldberg, Queen Latifah, or Vanessa Williams. Here for all three of them, though the Ugly Betty fan in me is truly here for a Wilhelmina Slater-inspired Dolly.
Who would YOU cast? Sound off in the comments below.
How Do You Solve A Hiatus Like Audra?
Taking over a lead role early in the run of a high cost, highly anticipated musical could be daunting for any performer. Taking over the lead role for an actress with more Tony awards than any other woman in history could be down right horrific.
So, no pressure to the sweet soul who will step into Audra McDonald’s shoes in Shuffle Along, Or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed when the six-time Tony award winner takes a scheduled hiatus June 21 – Sept. 25 to fulfill a prior commitment. And OH, what large tap-dancing shoes they are. Here’s who we think has the chops to succeed the diva and thrill the masses while she’s away:
We have to imagine that production knew Audra would be stepping out for a few months before completing casting and thus prepared accordingly when adding this stunning performer to the Shuffle Along roster. This lady would be beautifully suited to assume the role of “Lottie Gee” in Audra’s absence. Warren, who is most known for her role in Bring it On: The Musical, is a strong singer, skilled dancer and versatile actress, as seen in her roles on shows like “Blue Bloods” and “Orange is the New Black.”
For those of you who haven’t seen Something Rotten, maybe you’re not familiar with this tap-dancing kid, but the Baptized by Broadway star is definitely a force to be reckoned with. Not only is she a hoofin’ fool, but a powerhouse belter who could definitely keep up with the likes of Savion Glover, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Billy Porter. Something we’d LOVE to watch.
Vanessa Williams, Brenda Braxton, Adriane Lenox
Shuffle Along could take a page out of the After Midnight book and feature a rotating lineup of special guests over the three month span to appeal to audiences in the headliner’s absence. These three ladies are just a few of the guest entertainers who made After Midnight special and could definitely bring the same star power to the Shuffle Along stage. Williams with that velvety voice, Braxton with those flawless moves and Lenox…just being Lenox, would each make it a beautifully unique and exciting experience.
There have been no details as to what Audra’s “prior commitment” is, but with “Hello Again!” and the “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar” HBO Special in the works, it could be anything. McDonald will return to Shuffle Along Sept. 27, but we will be waiting with bated breathe to hear who she’ll pass the torch to and you know Broadway Black will have it first. Hopefully, they’ll take our suggestions into consideration. Stay tuned!