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BroadwayBlack Flashback Friday: Hallelujah, Baby! 1968 Tony Awards

Drew Shade

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Tony Winner Leslie Uggams is shown here performing on the 1968 Tony Awards in the role she won her Tony for. Alongside her are Lillian Hayman, Robert Hooks. Uggams recently followed us on twitter. Talking about keeping up with the times you can find her twitter —–>>> HERE and more about what she’s currently up to on her website. LeslieUggams.com

Hallelujah, Baby! 1968 Tony Awards

Peter Ustinov introduces Hallelujah, Baby! at 1968 Tony Awards (“Smile, Smile” – Leslie Uggams, Lillian Hayman, Robert Hooks)

Founder/Editor-In-Chief of BroadwayBlack.com | Actor | Artist | 1/3 of @OffBookPodcast | Theatre connoisseur | All Audra Everything | Caroline over Change | I'm Not Charl Brown | Norm Lewis is my play cousin | Producing an all-black production of Mame starring Jenifer Lewis in my head

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Broadway Black History Musical

In The Vault: Beyonce’s FELA! Inspired Album

Broadway Black

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Somewhere in a locked vault is a Beyonce album with about 20 tracks on it, and it might sound a bit different than what is playing on mainstream radio, as every song is inspired by the music of Fela Kuti.

According to Genius.com, producer The Dream wrote that he recorded an entire, unreleased album with Beyonce prior to 2011 LP 4. “We did a whole Fela album that didn’t go up,” Terius Nash (his real name) wrote in a lengthy annotation to the lyrics of “End Of Time.” “It was right before we did 4. We did a whole different sounding thing, about twenty songs,” he continued. “[Beyonce] said she wanted to do something that sounds like Fela. That’s why there’s so much of that sound in the ‘End of Time’.”

Michelle FelaBeyonce’s connection to the music is more than just as a casual fan; her husband, Jay-Z, was one of the producers of the musical, and former member of Destiny’s Child, Michelle Williams, was Sandra Isadore in the national tour.

A bit of backstory; Fela! is a musical with a book by Bill T. Jones and Jim Lewis, based on music and lyrics by the late Nigerian singer Fela Kuti, and is based on events in the life of groundbreaking Nigerian composer and activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti. It portrays Kuti in the days when he was the target of 1,000 governfelament soldiers assigned to end his public performances at the legendary Lagos nightclub The Shrine.

In Fela!, according to producers, “audiences are welcomed into the extravagant, decadent and rebellious world of Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Using his pioneering music (a blend of jazz, funk and African rhythm and harmonies), and explores Kuti’s controversial life as artist, political activist and revolutionary musician.”

The Broadway production received eleven 2010 Tony Award nominations and won Best Choreography, Best Costume Design of a Musical, and Best Sound Design of a Musical.

Watch a part of FELA! below. Also check out Beyonce’s Grown Woman video to see how some of the influences spilled over into the album that came after 4.

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Broadway Black History Fact

A Look Back: Raven-Symoné in Sister Act The Musical

Broadway Black

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These days all the buzz about Raven-Symoné tends to be be more about her personal opinions. From her comments on her race (“I’m an American. I’m not an African-American; I’m an American”) to her opinion when a reporter said Michelle Obama looked like a monkey (“I don’t think what he’s saying is racist. Some people look like animals… Is that rude? I look like a bird”), she is definitely not afraid to take an unpopular opinion and stick to it. It was recently announced that Symoné has been named the newest co-host on television talk show The View. But before all the media hoopla, Raven-Symoné performed on Broadway in the musical Sister Act, and was getting more press from her talent, rather than her made-for-Twitter commentary.

Raven Symone & Chester Gregory In Sister Act The Musicak

Raven Symone & Chester Gregory In Sister Act The Musical

In 2012, Symoné took on the role of lounge singer-turned-nun Deloris Van Cartier (famously played by Whoopi Goldberg in the film of the same name), who witnesses a murder and is put in protective custody in a convent.  Disguised as a nun, she finds herself at odds with both the rigid lifestyle and an uptight Mother Superior. Using her unique dance moves and singing talent to inspire the choir, Deloris breathes new life into the church and community, but in doing so blows her cover.

In the Broadway production, the role was originally played by Patina Miller, who earned a Tony Award nomination; Sister Act was also nominated for Best Musical and Best Featured Actress in a Musical.  In an interview with Huffington Post, Symoné said she fell in love with the musical the moment she saw it. “I was definitely one of the audience members dancing in the aisles.  I think it’s a wonderfully scored and directed and written musical. I’m very excited to be part of this.”  She concluded by saying, “I’m really not the kind of person who worries about every single review. My thing is my family’s going to watch, and I don’t want to look stupid on stage. So I’m going to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Sister Act ultimately ran for a little over a year on Broadway, to largely positive and enthusiastic reviews.

 

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