J. Rosamond Johnson and Bob Cole are two names that are, sadly, not as talked about in most theater history classes, but their contribution to the Broadway stage is invaluable. Both were multi-hyphenate artists whose impact in arts and activism still resonates today. With more recent productions celebrating the early age of Broadway and many 20th century classic shows planning to be revived, it is important to know the key players of this time in American theater history.
John Rosamond Johnson (1873-1954) was a Florida born composer who is best known for his song Lift Every Voice and Sing which went on to be known as the “Black National Anthem”. His brother, James Weldon Johnson, penned the lyrics. The two brothers travelled to New York City in 1899 to pursue a life in show business where they met composer Bob Cole (1868-1911). Cole had already seen some success with the vaudeville group, Black Patti Troubadours, and with his first creative partner, Billy Johnson; but an end to that relationship saw Cole in need of a new collaborator.
Cole and the Johnson brothers created their own vaudeville act in 1901 in which they performed their original compositions and dances. These shows led to the wildly successful song, Under the Bamboo Tree. The royalties from their songs and vaudeville shows gave them the means to produce something on a larger scale. In 1906, The Shoo-Fly Regiment, an all-black operetta, debuted on Broadway. The two wrote, produced, and starred in the show, and did the same two years later in The Red Moon. Cole and Johnson collaborated on many more songs and projects until Cole’s death in 1911.
Johnson went on to star in more Broadway productions such as Porgy and Bess and Cabin In the Sky, as well as compose hundreds of spirituals and musical theater songs. These type of creative ventures were prevalent in the early age of Broadway, especially among the underrepresented in the theater. The work of Bob Cole and J. Rosamond Johnson inspired the Harlem Renaissance, the Golden Age of Broadway, and the appreciation of the theatrical tradition; for this, we celebrate them.
Behind-The-Scenes: The Men of Ain’t Too Proud VOGUE Photo shoot
Go behind-the-scenes of the Vogue photo shoot with the men of Ain’t Too Proud.
Leading the cast as The Temptations will be Derrick Baskin as Otis Williams, James Harkness as Paul Williams, Jawan M. Jackson as Melvin Franklin, Jeremy Pope as Eddie Kendricks, and Ephraim Sykes as David Ruffin. The Broadway cast will also feature Esther Antoine, Saint Aubyn, Shawn Bowers, E. Clayton Cornelious, Rodney Earl Jackson Jr., Taylor Symone Jackson, Jahi Kearse, Jarvis B. Manning Jr., Joshua Morgan, Rashidra Scott, Nasia Thomas, Christian Thompson, Curtis Wiley, and Candice Marie Woods.
Ain’t Too Proud is the electrifying new musical that follows The Temptations’ extraordinary journey from the streets of Detroit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Five guys. One dream. And a sound that would make music history. With their signature dance moves and unmistakable harmonies, they rose to the top of the charts creating an amazing 42 Top Ten Hits with 14 reaching number one. The rest is history — how they met, the groundbreaking heights they hit, and how personal and political conflicts threatened to tear the group apart as the United States fell into civil unrest. This thrilling story of brotherhood, family, loyalty, and betrayal is set to the beat of the group’s treasured hits, including “My Girl,” “Just My Imagination,” “Get Ready,” “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” and so many more.
Ain’t Too Proud will play the Imperial Theatre on February 28th, 2019, with an official Opening Night set for Thursday, March 21, 2019.
Behind The Curtain: Eclipsed Will Air The Historic Broadway Journey On Centric TV
Eclipsed is returning and this time it’s on television. Well, kind of.
According to the press realease:
BET International releases a multi-part documentary series chronicling the ascent and realization of ‘Eclipsed’; a Broadway play all written, directed and acted by women of African descent.
- Danai Gurira (Zimbabwe), playwright
- Liesl Tommy, (South Africa), director
- Lupita Nyong’o (Kenya), actress
- Akosia Busia, (Ghana), actress
- Zainab Jah (Sierra Leone), actress
- Saycon Sengbloh, (Liberia), actress
- Pascale Armand, (Haiti), actress
A winner of nine accolades including a Tony Award, the play tackles the survival stories of five women near the end of the second Liberian civil war. Written by actress, Danai Gurira who was inspired by a New York Times article about Black Diamond, a female freedom fighter and the female peace activists.
Broken into three episodes, each part delves into a central theme; Context, Cultivation, and Community. The series documents the fearless women using art to combat social injustice and give voice to the voiceless. With a strong production team including Stephen Byrd, Alia Jones Harvey and Michaela Angela Davis the documentary uses cinema-verite style to complement the rehearsal/show footage and ancillary interviews.
Ava L. Hall, executive producer and Vice President, Programming & Brand Advancement, BET International commented:
“It was really important to us to capture and to some extent immortalise the extraordinary stories of these women in Liberia and also the women who fought to bring it to fruition on the other side of the Atlantic, in New York on Broadway. This is a tale of how sisterhood, support and humanity travels globally to create a vision which breaks boundaries, sets new standards and while sobering, inspires a generation to find value and strength in their stories.”
This ground breaking play took its place firmly on Broadway and this documentary will take a place firmly in your heart and mind. Celebrating the intersection of Black and women’s history months airing on March 1, 2017 at 8pm EST on Centric
This is not one you’ll want to miss. You’ll even see a guest appearance from a photoshoot Broadway Black did before the Tony Awards. Live tweet with us tonight! @BroadwayBlack