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BB Casting Agency: Patina Miller as West Side Story’s Maria

Broadway Black

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One of my favorite musicals is West Side Story, that timeless Shakespearean romantic tale of young lovers who fight against the odds to be together. The story, set in New York’s West side in the mid-1950s during a time of racial tension, explores the rivalry between two street gangs. The Jets are a white gang and the Sharks are from Puerto Rico. In the midst of this drama, “Tony,” a former member of the Jets and best friend of the gang leader, “Riff,” falls in love with “Maria,” the sister of “Bernardo,” the leader of the Sharks. Unfortunately, their love escalates the tension between the gangs and leads to a tragic ending.

West Side Story-America

Bernardo (George Chakiris) and Anita (Rita Moreno)are hot, hot, hot! Everyone in this film is excellent, but these two really stand out. No wonder they both got Oscars for the role. I also include the little drama before the song because I love seeing them bickering like an old married couple.

In my version of West Side Story, instead of Puerto Rican and white gangs, we’d replace those with African American and Latino gangs. With that switch, the perfect actress for the perfect role – the hopeless romantic female lead, “Maria,” – can only be played by Tony Award winner Patina Miller. While the “Maria” character is “supposed” to be a teenager, most of the actresses who’ve played the role on Broadway and on screen have been in their twenties. Carol Lawrence who originated the role in the 1957 Broadway production was 22 and Natalie Wood was 23 when she played the role on-screen. Miller, at 30, is older but she looks young enough to pull it off.

Miller made her West End and Broadway debuts playing “Deloris Van Cartier” in Sister Act and won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her lead role in Pippin. Vocally, she will excel with the Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim tunes, although the role calls for a soprano. But, it’s my dream, so we’ll have the musical arranger work out those details. She has boundless energy and she’s multitalented enough to pull off any role. Even one that was written for a young Puerto Rican girl.

Patina Miller and the cast of the 2013 Broadway revival of the musical PIPPIN, perform the number “Simple Joys” live on the Late Show with David Letterman.

PIPPIN (Broadway) – “Simple Joys” [LIVE @ David Letterman]

Patina Miller and the cast of the 2013 Broadway revival of the musical PIPPIN, perform the number “Simple Joys” live on the Late Show with David Letterman.

Seriously, is there someone out there who can make this happen?

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Nuri Abdur-Rauf

    October 23, 2015 at 10:51 PM

    i’m ALL for this. she would kill it.

  2. Jaz

    October 24, 2015 at 11:00 PM

    Saw her in Pippin fell in love with that voice. I’m so game to have her as Maria!

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BB Casting Agency

Hello, Dolly! The Past, The Present, and The Prospective Future

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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hello, dolly!

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.

Hello Dolly!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.

DuImage result for pearl bailey hello dollye 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.

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BB Casting Agency

How Do You Solve A Hiatus Like Audra?

Broadway Black

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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:

Adrienne Warren
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.”

Marisha Wallace
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!

 

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