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Billy Porter Will Direct Suzan-Lori Parks’ Topdog/Underdog

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With the critically acclaimed Shuffle Along, Or The Making Of The Musical Sensation Of 1921 And All That Followed closing on July 24, Tony Award winner Billy Porter refuses to sit still. He will return to Boston’s Huntington Theatre Company to direct the 2016 production of Suzan-Lori Parks Pulitzer Prize-winning Topdog/Underdog.

The actor, writer, and director who took home a Grammy, Desk Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards for his performance as Lola in the 2013 Broadway production of Kinky Boots, returns to Park’s prize-winning play over a decade after starring in a limited engagement at City Theatre production in Pittsburgh in 2004.

“I am over the moon about returning to the Huntington with such an important work,” says Porter in press statement. “I am humbled that both Huntington Artistic Director Peter DuBois and Suzan-Lori Parks have entrusted me to interpret this material for a new generation. I promise to make you proud!”

Topdog/Underdog tells the story of two co-dependent brothers, Lincoln and Booth, forced to live together and battle poverty, racism, gambling, divorce and abandonment. Lincoln is a former Three-card Monte player, forced to work as an Abraham Lincoln impersonator in a shooting gallery on a boardwalk arcade, while Booth is a grifter turned shoplifter.

The original Broadway run received an overwhelmingly positive response from critics. Topdog/Underdog opened Off-Broadway at the Public Theater in 2001 under the direction of George C. Wolfe and starred Tony Award winner Jeffrey Wright (Angels in America: Perestroika) as Lincoln and Academy Award nominee Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda, Crash) as Booth. When the production opened on Broadway at the Ambassador Theatre in 2002, Cheadle was replaced by hip-hop legend Mos Def. The play transferred to London at the Royal Court Theatre the following year with the same Broadway cast under Wolfe’s direction. For their efforts, Wright was nominated for a Tony Award and both actors took home the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Special Achievement.

In 2015, Porter directed a production of George C. Wolfe’s The Colored Museum at the Huntington Theatre.

In addition, Parks made history as the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for Drama. She also received a number of accolades, including the 2000 Guggenheim Fellowship for Playwriting and the 2001 MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant.

Performances for Topdog/Underdog, helmed by Porter are scheduled for March 10-April 9, 2017, at the BU Theatre/Avenue of the Arts. Cast and creative team to be announced. For subscription information call (617) 266-0800 or visit huntingtontheatre.org/subscribe.

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Tituss Burgess Has New Music, A New Movie, & No Time For Mess + The Preacher’s Wife Musical Update

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Tituss Burgess' Saint Tituss EP cover
Tituss Burgess' Saint Tituss EP cover

On Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen, Tituss Burgess gave us an update on his musical adaptation of the 1996 movie, The Preacher’s Wife – starring Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston. On the late-night talk show, a viewer called in to ask if there had been any updates regarding the show and Burgess shared that:

“ We are very close to signing with a hot-shot producer in New York, which means that the show is closer to appearing in London or here. But there’s also a recent development which could delay it for the better. You’ll find out about it later”

So not only do we know that the musical is still on its way to bless us, but there is an announcement about the show on the way! If you ask me, this is incredibly exciting. Tituss Burgess’ career has gone from stage to screen, and his abilities as an actor and singer are undeniable. Knowing that we are closer to seeing his skills as a musical theatre composer is mad exciting. Watch a clip from the interview above.

While we wait for The Preacher’s Wife Musical, listen to Burgess’ newly released EP Saint Tituss. Burgess sings his face off as he skillfully talks about issues that are personal and political — all while wrapping things up with a joyous celebration of resilience as positivity. He also has two songs that feature Daniel J. Watts including the single 45

St. Tituss is available on Spotify, apple music, and other streaming platforms.

He also has a new movie on the way. “Dolemite Is My Name” starring Eddie Murphy along with Burgess, Mike Epps, Chris Rock, & more will premiere at the Toronto Film Festival. A national release date has not been set as of yet but is sure to be on its way.

 

While discussing the new movie during the same interview, Cohen asked Burgess about his relationship with Murphy. The way Cohen presented the question insinuates there might have been a problem between the two because of a ‘problematic past with the gays’ on Murphy’s part. The response given by Burgess is swift and loaded with “you tried it, but you won’t get me”:

“He wasn’t problematic for Tituss. We had a wonderful time. We talked about Dreamgirls and he should have won the Oscasr, I believe. He was great. Any troubles he may have had with gay people I guess are gone because he loved me.”

It is the following facial expression and the interaction that comes afterward that makes live television great. You can see Burgess say something to someone off-camera which leads Cohen to ask what he’s saying. Burgess replies with a soon-to-be iconic response to everything: “Keep going, girl. Do your show.”

and this is why we live.

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Coming Soon

The Public Theater Will Present Hercules Musical & Hercules Is Black!

Drew Shade

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The Muses via Hercules film

We knew it was coming, we just didn’t know when. Back in 2017, we reported that a musical adaptation of the Disney movie Hercules would be headed to Broadway. Now we can confirm that is somewhat true.

Hercules will be the latest Disney musical to be made for the stage and will play Off-Broadway at the Public Theater’s Delacorte Theater in Central Park. As the final show of the Shakespeare in the Park season theater season performances will run August 31 through September 8 with a reading set to take place in April.

The role of Hercules will be played by a Black actor, according to the casting notice

The musical will include the Oscar-nominated “Go the Distance, along with other songs from the 1997 animated film by Alan Menken & David Zippel. Presented through an arrangement with Disney Theatrical Productions, the show will be directed by Lear deBessonet.  The creative team also includes a book by Kristoffer Diaz, & choreography by Chase Brock.

Before Hercules, Kenny Leon will direct the Much Ado About Nothing May 21 through June 23 to begin the Shakespeare in the Park season.

Casting for all both productions will be announced at a later date

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