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Black Panther Gets Broadway Black Star Treatment

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Lupita N’yongo Opening Night Curtain Call Photo via Eclipsed Broadway

We’re barely into the year & 2017 is already more black and beautiful than ever! We opened the new year with Hidden Figures smashing the box office and the 2017 Golden Globes being rich with melanin. To top all that, we got casting news from the upcoming Black Panther movie. Now, the mere existence of a Black Panther film is enough to start my stanning, but let’s talk about the cast. The upcoming Marvel film boasts pretty big names, but we at Broadway Black would like to highlight the theatre’s finest.

In the upcoming Marvel film, Lupita N’yongo, the keeper of Grace and stealer of hearts, will star as Dora Milaje Nakia. The Milaje, or “Adored Ones,” are wives-in-training, women selected from their tribes to defend and serve the Wakandan king. Just last year, we watched as Lupita thrived in Eclipsed on Broadway. Of course, Lupita’s revolutionary performance left critics singing the praises of Lupita and the show’s all-black, all-female cast. I see this for N’yongo through and through! The Yale graduate’s natural talent and nineteen year career has gifted her with the grace and depth to bring Nakia to life. Honestly, who doesn’t want to see Lupita throw hands?

While Lupita’s character is likely to get lost in love, Danai Gurira‘s will give us the unbothered black girl Marvel needs. Gurira will play Okoye, also a Milaje, but unlike Nakia, Okoye is more concerned about the safety of the kingdom than the heart of the king. Gurira’s career is one that constantly celebrates the strength of African women. This role will be no sweat for our Broadway veteran.

Danai Gurira Opening Night of Eclipsed on Broadway Photo by: Andrew Shade

Gurira’s significance goes far beyond The Walking Dead! She is also the writer of several plays, including Eclipsed. Her fearless work has turn heads everywhere from Yale to The Great White Way. She’s already revolutionized the theatre in our real world, I can’t wait to see the damage she’ll do in Marvel’s.

N’yongo & Gurira will join Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther, Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger, & Daniel Kaluuya as W’Kabi,

Angela Bassett, who made her Broadway debut in 1988 with August Wilson‘s Joe Turner’s Come & Gone, will portray Ramonda. Bassett returned to Broadway in 2011 with Katori Hall‘s The Mountain Top.

Forest Whitaker will play Zuri. You may remember that he made his Broadway debut last year with Eugene O’Neill’s Hughie.

Phylicia Rashad in Head of Passes – Photo via Public Theater

Finally, I must  give rest to the rumors. Phylicia Rashad, Mother of Blackness and Broadway alike, will not be joining the Black Panther cast. The rumors came of the heels  of Sterling K. Brown’s casting as N’Jobu and were further fueled by Rashad’s previous work with Ryan Coogler, the movie’s director, in Creed.

For a few, I loved the idea of Phylicia Rashad joining the Black Panther cast. Phylicia Rashad consistently delivers strong performances. Her 2004 portrayal of Lena Younger in A Raisin in the Sun earned her the title of the first black actress to win a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play. Phylicia Rashad is tireless in her dedication to making bold moves and inspiring radical change. I’m sure her character will be no different.

So here we go, we’ve got some time before the 2018 release of the film. But until then, I hope I’ve done my due diligence in getting you as excited for this movie as I am. It’s the year of Black Excellence, folks. Tell us, what fearless moves are you making in 2017?

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Lynn Nottage Today, Tomorrow and Beyond

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Lynn Nottage’s 2017 Tony Award nominated play Sweat ended its Broadway run at Studio 54 on June 25. We weren’t ready to say goodbye to Sweat, and we’re definitely not ready to say goodbye to Lynn Nottage, leaving us to wonder what’s next for the two-time Pulitzer prize-winning playwright?

First, if you didn’t get a chance to see Sweat on Broadway or if you did but can’t get one of the poorest cities in America off your heart and mind, then you’ll want to visit Reading, Pennsylvania this summer. Shortly after finishing Sweat, Nottage came up with the idea for a site-specific performance installation honoring the people of Reading. Nottage shared that for a city divided by economical and racial politics, she wanted to highlight the city’s potential to use art and culture to bring its citizens together. The installation titled This is Reading will weave “individual stories into one cohesive and compelling tale of the city. Exploring the various viewpoints of the diverse community, [and] give the audience a vibrant and unique perspective of the city of Reading.” The installation will utilize live performance, visual media, and film. Located at Franklin Street Station, Reading PA, This is Reading will run July 14-16, July 21-23 and July 28-30.

What could possibly be next for Nottage? A musical of course!

Not just any musical, but an adaptation of Sue Monk Kidd’s book, The Secret Life of Bees. Book by Nottage, music by Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening), lyrics by Susan Birkenhead (Jelly’s Last Jam) and direction by Sam Gold (Fun Home).

Nottage’s first musical follows the story of Lilly Owens, a white teen growing up in 1960’s South Carolina and her Black caretaker Rosaleen. After Rosaleen is hospitalized following an attempt to vote, she and Lily do their best to escape the harsh realities of their respective lives in the Jim Crow South, and happen upon a bee farm. “It sang to me” Nottage said of adapting Kidd’s book to a musical, “Every page I saw a song.”

The Secret Life of Bees will be presented as a workshop production at the Powerhouse Theater from July 27-29, apart of the New York Stage and Film’s 2017 season.

Finally, for the 2017/2018 season, Nottage’s play Mlima’s Tale will make it’s world premiere at The Public Theater and run from March 27 through May 20, 2018. Mlima’s Tale follows the story of Mlima, an african elephant caught between freedom and the

Courtesy of The Public Theater

international ivory black market. Ultimately a story about trade itself, “Mlima leads us through memory and fear, history and tradition, want and need, and reveals the surprising and complicated deals that connect us all.” Next season, The Public will celebrate 50 years at its Astor Place location, and Lynn Nottage will be the only Black playwright with work presented.

From a site-specific performance installation, to her first musical, ending with another show at The Public Theater… Lynn Nottage has given us a lot to look forward to following her Broadway debut, and we will be ready. Sitting front and center.

 

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Hercules Plans to Go the Broadway Distance

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The 1997 Disney animated film “Hercules” will soon become a Broadway musical, according to composer Alan Menken.

In an interview with The Orange County Register, Menken discussed his participation in the upcoming D23 Expo in Anaheim, CA. He will provide a behind the scenes look at his role in several Disney productions including “Aladdin”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Newsies”, and “The Little Mermaid”. Notice a pattern here? All of those productions are now Tony-winning (or in the case of The Little Mermaid, nominated) Broadway musicals.

Bringing 90’s Disney films to life on stage appears to be the new trend as for each aforementioned production, roughly 20 years has passed since the Disney theatrical release. When asked which films he thought were underrated, Menken replied “I have a very strong belief like “Newsies”, “Hercules” is going to have a moment that will surprise people. Actually, I’m working on a stage version of “Hercules.” So far, no timeline or casting has been announced for this project.

If the 20 year waiting period from screen to stage can be believed, we should probably look forward to an announcement next year about a stage production of either “Mulan” or “A Bug’s Life.” Both were released in 1998, but we’re crossing our fingers for the one that’s more likely to star Lea Salonga.

The “Hercules” animated film starred the voices of Lillias White (Dreamgirls), Cheryl Freeman (The Civil War), LaChanze (The Color Purple), Roz Ryan (Ain’t Misbehavin’) and Vanéese Y. Thomas (R&B Single “Let’s Talk it Over”) as the muses and narrators of the tale, Keith David (Jelly’s Last Jam) as Apollo, Roger Bart (Big River) as Hercules’ singing voice and Susan Egan (Beauty and the Beast) as Megara.

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