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Billy Porter Presents The Soul Of Richard Rodgers Album Out April 14th

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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We can add producer and content curator to his already rapidly growing resume as Tony and Grammy Award winner Billy Porter returns with a new studio album, Billy Porter Presents The Soul of Richard Rodgers, due for an April 14th release.

If you remember a few months ago, Broadway Black posted an article speculating what Porter was up to after he posted multiple photos in a recording studio with Amber ImanAdrienne Warren, Rema Webb, Nicolette Robinson, and Leslie Odom, Jr., on social media. Well, it seems we were right to speculate there might be something in the works in the form of a full-fledged album.

Cover Artwork The album, which features fresh, soulful takes on classic Richard Rodgers songs includes solos and duets from YouTube sensation and recent Kinky Boots alum Todrick Hall, Tony and Grammy winners Cynthia Erivo, Renee Elise Goldsberry, and Leslie Odom Jr., Tony Award winner Patina Miller, Tony nominees Joshua Henry, Brandon Victor Dixon, and Christopher Jackson, and Grammy winners and nominees India.Aire, Deborah Cox, and Ledisi.

“I’d like to think of this as the Richard Rodgers version of the Hamilton Mixtapes,” Porter said in a press release. “There are classic songs that everybody knows and loves, and I’m so excited for people to hear them in a brand new day.”

In March, Porter plans to launch a national tour, kicking off at the Queensborough Performing Arts Center in New York on March 19th.

Preorder the album here.

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A Must See

Michael R. Jackson’s “A Stange Loop” Musical at 54 Below Tonight

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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54 Below announced it’s newest “New Musicals at 54,” this time featuring Michael R. Jackson’s A Strange Loop. New Musicals at 54 is a series that showcases new and diverse musicals by a selection of talented up-and-coming writers, many whose shows premiere in New York City for the first time.

From the Feinstiens/54 Below website:

Bookwriter and composer-lyricist Michael R. Jackson takes us on a concert-style jaunt through his seriocomic concept musical A Strange Loop. The show follows Usher, a black, gay musical theater writer who works as an usher in the back of the house at a long-running Broadway show. This show serves as the literal and metaphorical backdrop for the war he wages against the thoughts in his own head… while struggling to write a self-referential musical called A Strange Loop. The concert will feature several special guest stars who will portray Usher and an ensemble of men who will portray his thoughts manifested in forms including his parents, men on online sex apps, and Tyler Perry gospel play stage characters. A Strange Loop follows Usher as he fights to disrupt the static repetition he feels in his life… until he is swept into a painful confrontation with his long held negative perception of himself.

I for one am excited about this concert. As a person who fully believes in supporting new works, especially by people of color, A Strange Loop comes at an important time in theatre. Where we have a 45th street that is decorated with black and brown people and amazing things happening uptown and downtown alike.

A Strange Loop was developed with the support of Musical Theatre Factory and features Carl Ryan Clemons-Hopkins, Derrick Cobey, Elijah Caldwell, Nathan Lee Graham, Larry Hamilton, Darius Anthony Harper, James Jackson, John-Andrew Morrison, Larry Owens, Cartreze Tucker, Jamaal Clark Turpin, Jason Veasey, and Reggie D. White.

There is a cover charge that ranges from $30 – $40. An additional $5 will be charged if you purchase tickets at the door. The show is Tuesday April 26 at 7pm (doors open at 5:15) and 9:30 (doors open at 8:45) tickets can be purchased here.

 

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A Must See

Intiman Theatre Fest Features Black Women Playwrights

Leah Marché

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When it opens May 24, the 2016 Intiman Theatre Festival – in its fifth year – will place the greater Seattle area in the center of the national conversation about race and equity with a spotlight on Black women playwrights.

Festival passes are now on sale for a lineup that includes Lydia R. Diamond’s Stick Fly (May 24-June 19) and Alice ChildressWedding Band: A Love/Hate Story in Black and White (Sept. 6-Oct. 2).

The Festival also will feature the second year of its emerging artist program (June 27-Aug. 12). In an effort to diversify the theatre industry,  30 local artists will be selected for free professional training and development as they participate in a culminating showcase of Adrienne Kennedy’s work.

According to Producing Artistic Director Andrew Russell, “We’re having critical conversations right now – locally and globally – about race and equity; how we see ourselves and others, how we communicate across our differences, how we develop empathy and compassion for others.”

Having garnered more than $75,000 from 500-plus donors in two weeks for its online fundraising campaign, Intiman – with a 40-year history – demonstrates the appetite for such stories and artists.

The co-curator of the Festival is Valerie Curtis-Newton, head of acting, and director at University of Washington’s School of Drama and founder of theatre lab The Hansberry Project. “We believe that the stories these writers tell are important for everyone to hear. And we are just brave enough and just crazy enough to take the leap,” she said.

Additional Festival events include:

  • Can You Hear Me Now? Plays by Black Women (July 12-16): A reading series of contemporary plays by Dominique Morisseau, Mfonsio Udofia, Tanya Barfield and Shontina Vernon as well as a sampler of work from Seattle-based writers.
  • Untamed – Body, Hair Attitude (July 17-18): An evening of short plays presented by The Hansberry Project on themes of beauty, image and representation. Curated by Morisseau, works by Chisa Hutchison, Cori Thomas, Lenelle Moise, Jocelyn Bioh and Nikkole Salter will be featured.
  • Black Women Wisdom (Sept. 23-25): A private summit for the participants with a public conversation facilitated by Curtis-Newton.

Intiman Theatre Announces 2016 Festival Dedicated to Black Female Playwrights

In 2016, Intiman will produce a festival dedicated to incredible American theatre written by award-winning black women, co-curated by nationally renowned director Valerie Curtis-Newton. #Intiman2016 Learn more and get involved: http://www.intiman.org Videography by Matt Holmes

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How Do We Feel

Hughie, Starring Forest Whitaker To Close March 27

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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Hughie, a 55-minute Eugene O’Neill one-act play starring Forest Whitaker in his Broadway debut, is set to close early because of low ticket sales.

The revival, which just opened a few weeks ago on Feb. 25, will close on March 27, after a total of 55 performances, including previews. It had originally been scheduled to run through June 12.

Despite getting generally good reviews in major print publications and all the star power behind the show, it was ultimately the ticket sales that caused the show to close. The producers, who had raised $3 million to mount the show, issued a statement Thursday evening saying they were closing the show “due to limited advance ticket sales.”

In Hughie, which takes place  in the lobby of a crummy New York City hotel in the late 1920s, Whitaker plays “Erie Smith,” a small-town hustler whose luck has gone bad after the death of his friend and former hotel clerk, Hughie.

If you haven’t made your way to the Booth Theatre, there are only 3 more weeks left to check out the show, you can get tickets here.

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Awards Nominees & Winners

Eric Owens has a Triumphant Return in Lost In The Sky

April Reign

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At Washington DC’s Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater, the Washington National Opera (WNO) welcomes the return of bass-baritone Eric Owens in Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson’s Lost in the Sky. Based on Alan Paton’s classic 1948 novel “Cry, the Beloved Country,” this opera tells the story of Stephen Kumalo, a minister in apartheid-era South Africa who travels from his small village to Johannesburg to find his troubled son and retrieve his nephew. When a tragic accident threatens to further ignite racial tensions, Kumalo is faced with a crisis of faith. Does he counsel his son to tell the truth, assuring his death, or to lie and live with the moral consequences?

Owens, a two-time Grammy winner and one of the most sought after voices of our time, is wonderful in this production. He is accompanied by several talented performers, including tenor Sean Panikkar as The Leader, who is known as a member of Forte, an operatic tenor group that first found crossover success on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.” The cast also features soprano Lauren Michelle, who was the American representative in the 2015 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition. She sings the role of Absalom’s lover Irina in her WNO debut.

Lost in the Sky is an engaging production that, in some ways, feels more like a stage musical instead of an opera. The story is easily accessible and the music is perfectly complementary, without feeling forced. This is an opera that would be a comfortable entré into the genre.

Lost in the Sky runs through February 20. Tickets start at $69 and are available HERE, in person at the Kennedy Center Box Office, and by calling (202) 467-4600 or (800) 444-1324.

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Learn Your History

The York Theatre Company Presents Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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The York Theatre Company’s Musicals in Mufti Series (Mufti means in street clothes; without the usual trappings) has officially launched, and leading the season is a limited engagement of Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope (which officially opened February 28, 2016) for 10 performances only February 27 – March 6, 2016, at Saint Peter’s (619 Lexington Avenue, entrance on East 54th Street, just east of Lexington Avenue).

Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope illuminates the African-American experience through a dynamic mixture of gospel, jazz, funk, soul, calypso, and soft rock. With five 1972 Tony nominations (including Best Musical) and an Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical the same year, the show also earned Micki Grant a Grammy Award for Best Score—the first female to be so honored. Described as “a cultural pulse-taking of the challenges facing the black community in America,” it was the first Broadway musical written entirely by a woman, and the first Broadway production to be directed by a female African-American.

Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope features a book, music, and lyrics by Micki Grant, was conceived by Vinnette Carroll, and will be directed by Leslie Dockery. The show stars Jelani Alladin, Darilyn Castillo, Doug Eskew, Tina Fabrique, Marva Hicks, Devin L. Roberts, Raun Ruffin, and Debra Walton. 

The performance schedule for Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope is Wednesday, March 2 at 7:00 p.m., Thursday, March 3 and Friday, March 4 at 8:00 p.m., Saturday, March 5 at 2:30 p.m (this show also features a talk-back) & 8:00 p.m., and Sunday, March 6 at 2:30 p.m.  For tickets click here or call (212)-935-5820. 

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Events and Happenings

New Musical Josephine Starring Deborah Cox Approaches World Premiere in Florida

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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Around this time last year news that a new musical was going to play at Asolo Repertory Theatre in Florida, with hopes the show would then be Broadway Bound. The time has finally come and Asolo Repertory Theatre will present the world premiere of the new musical Josephine beginning April 27, with an official opening May 6.

The musical stars Deborah Cox (Aida) with a book by Ellen Weston and Mark Hampton, music by Stephen Dorff, lyrics by John Bettis, based on a story by Kenneth Waissman, and directed and choreographed by Joey McKneely.

The musical is described on the Asolo Rep Theatre website as;

Romance, intrigue and plenty of excitement will fill the stage next spring when Asolo Rep presents the world-premiere of Josephine, the original new musical bound for Broadway following its Sarasota run. The entrancing Josephine Baker was beautiful, ambitious, and the toast of Europe at the height of her fame in the 1920s-30s. Born into poverty in St. Louis, she rose to become an icon of the Jazz Age, captivating Paris audiences as a dancer, singer, actress and the twentieth-century’s first international black female sex symbol. Directed and choreographed by Tony nominated Joey McKneely and starring Grammy-nominated, platinum-selling recording artist Deborah Cox, this dazzling new musical revolves around Baker’s stint as the star of the Folies-Bergere in Paris from 1939-45, her scandalous affair with Swedish Crown Prince Gustav IV, and her service in the French Resistance during World War II.

The show will run from April 27 until May 29 at Asolo Rep Theatre’s Mertz Theatre (5555 N. Tamiami Tr.  Sarasota, FL  34243). Tickets are now available for purchase here.

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