It’s becoming a ridiculously redundant scenario. A Black actor or actress is cast in a role that is assumed to be “for whites only”. Enter the rag tag brigade of internet trolls who simply cannot stomach the idea. The invisible keyboard gangster brigade dons their egg avatars or other anonymous accoutrements for their fake profiles and the sniping begins. Such has been the case for English actress Noma Dumezweni, who has been cast to play the role of “Hermione Granger” in the stage adaptation of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Oh, did we mention this actress beat out Benedict Cumberbatch for her role in A Raisin in the Sun and received the coveted Olivier Award for best performance in a supporting role? You would think that her talent would be enough, right? But in 2016 skin color is still sadly a factor for many people who have only moved far enough out of the stone age to learn how to anonymously troll on the internet.
The Swaziland born actress said simply of the hateful critics (because trolls need simplicity),
It stems from ignorance. They don’t want to be a part of the creative act. To say it’s not as it was intended is so unimaginative. I don’t think they understand how theater works. We’re here to heal you, make you smile and whisk you away.
It’s disheartening that Dumezweni even had to clap back. After all, the actress has the support of Emma Watson who played the character in movies.
Can’t wait to see Noma Dumezweni as Hermione on stage this year. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ #harrypotterandthecursedchild #2016
AND most importantly, the support of the writer J.K. Rowling, who took to Twitter to express her thoughts.
Fortunately, at least some folks get it…
It’s really pretty sad that in this day and age, the decision to be inclusive and diverse has to be defended or explained. The bottom line is this, Black people have always been here, regardless of their underrepresentation in the arts. It’s way past time for those who cannot seem to grasp that the world is comprised of more than whiteness-even in the arts-to have several seats…just not in the theater.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child opens at the Palace Theatre London in July 2016, with preview performances beginning in May 2016.
Lynn Nottage Today, Tomorrow and Beyond
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
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.
Hercules Plans to Go the Broadway Distance
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.
Michaela Coel Stars in London-based Musical “Been So Long” Film Adaption
Michaela Coel, creator, writer, and star of the BAFTA award-winning Netflix original series, “Chewing Gum”, stars in the London-based musical “Been So Long,” a film adaptation based on the 2009 stage musical by Ché Walker and Arthur Darvill.
Coel plays Simone, a young single mother charmed into a magical night in the city by a handsome stranger with a questionable past- played by Arinzé Kene (One Night in Miami). This modern day love story set in London’s “musical hot-bed” of Camden Town promises a soundtrack with a mix of RnB, Nu Soul and UK dance, as well as music from guest producers.
Coel is joined by an all-singing and all-dancing cast that includes George Mackay (“Captain Fantastic“), Ronke Adekoluejo (“Chewing Gum”), Ashley Thomas (“24”), Joe Dempsie (“Game Of Thrones”), Luke Norris (“The Duchess”), Rakie Ayola (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) and Mya Lewis (“Olaf’s Quest”). It is Directed by BAFTA award-winner Tinge Krishnan (“Junkhearts”) and produced by the BAFTA-nominated Nadine Marsh-Edwards (“Bhaji on the Beach”) and Amanda Jenks (“The Girl”) of Greenacre Films.
Filming began earlier this year, shortly after season 2 of “Chewing Gum” was released on Netflix, and while she is making waves as a comedienne, Coel admits she is a stranger to musicals. However, Coel is no stranger to the stage and is quite theatrically and musically inclined having performed her one-woman show Chewing Gum Dreams in various theatres across London (2012-2014) before turning it into the hit series we know and love. She also wrote and recorded six of the tracks from season 1 of “Chewing Gum,” including the theme song.
Still, of singing and dancing on screen Coel shares, “It is a big stretch for me…I’ve never done anything like this in my life. It’s either going to be really amazing or just like, ‘What the f–k was that?’” (Screen Daily).
Either way, we’re rooting for her and can’t wait to see her on the big screen.
“Been So Long” made its rounds at the Cannes Film Festival in May and is set for international release in 2018. “Chewing Gum” season 3 is yet to be confirmed.
Pharrell Williams Is Taking Us To Atlantis With Upcoming Musical Bio-Pic
The day has finally come! Pharrell Williams is making a musical! Fox Studios recently bought the rights to the upcoming film, entitled Atlantis. The movie will tell the story of Pharrell’s upbringing in Virginia Beach and, of course, there will be music! Atlantis will be Williams’ second collaboration with Fox Studios following the 2016 blockbuster Hidden Figures.
The ten-time Grammy Award-winning artist’s work has spanned several genres of music, including everything from pop to funk to hip-hop and R&B. He has production creds with Beyoncé, Britney Spears, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, Robin Thicke, Frank Ocean, and we know what Pharrell can do with a soundtrack! Let’s not forgot Despicable Me 2’s “Happy!” How could you, the song was everywhere!
This coming-of-age musical was inevitable, as far as I’m concerned. Pharrell’s work with Hidden Figures took folks to church, not to mention all the music he gave us in the 90’s with N.E.R.D. and The Neptunes! This upcoming movie will finally give us a musical look into the man.
Martin Hynes will pen the film’s script. So far, we can expect a Romeo & Juliet-inspired illustration of Pharrell’s adolescence. No cast announcements yet, but we know that Pharrell will reunite with Dope co-producer, Mimi Valdés. Spring Awakening’s Michael Mayer will direct the film. The team rallying behind this project is strong; they’ve got Grammy-winning musicians, an Oscar and Tony-winning production team, and dozens of amazing projects! We can’t contain our excitement!
Who do you think will join the film’s cast? Could this bring Janelle Monáe back to the silver screen? What are you looking forward to seeing in Atlantis?
Once On This Island Revival Set to Arrive on Broadway This Fall
Earlier this week, producers Ken Davenport and Hunter Arnold announced that the Michael Arden-directed Broadway revival of Once On This Island will begin performances November 9, with an official December 3 opening. A theatre has not been announced.
Camille A. Brown, a Broadway Black favorite, also joins the creative team as choreographer. Her previous credits include Cabin In The Sky, The Box, and tick, tick…BOOM!
Last December, a developmental workshop for the show featured Darlesia Cearcy, Lawrence Clayton, Patrice Covington, Quentin Earl Darrington, Charity Angel Dawson, Mike Evariste, Adrianna Jackson, Bre Jackson, Cassondra James, Isaiah Johnson, Mykal Kilgore, Grasan Kingsberry, Kenita R. Miller, Dimitri Joseph Moise, and Maria Wirries.
While casting for the Broadway production hasn’t been announced, producers have stated that an international casting call will take place for the title role of Ti Moune. Starting April 7 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, the search will then go on to Detroit (April 14), Chicago (April 15), Los Angeles (April 27), New Orleans (April 29), Atlanta (April 30), and conclude in New York on May 2.
An Equity casting notice also revealed that the show will get a staged reading in June before its Broadway bow.
The story centers around Ti Moune, a peasant girl in love with a much wealthier boy Daniel, set in the French Antilles and based on the novel My Love, My Love by Rosa Guy.
The show features music by Stephen Flaherty and a book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, the composing team that won a Tony Award in 1998 for Ragtime. Once On This Island first made its way to Broadway in 1990, directed by Graciela Daniele and starring LaChanze.
It received eight Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical, Best Score, and Best Performance by a Featured Actress for LaChanze. The show ran for a total of 19 previews and 469 regular performances.
Visit OnceOnThisIsland.com for more information about the production and open calls.
Ain’t Too Proud–The Temptations Musical Will Play Berkeley Rep Theatre’s 2017-2018 Season
Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s upcoming season has some new and exciting works from creators such as Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket of A Series of Unfortunate Events), Dominique Morisseau, Nilaja Sun, and Lillian Hellman. Most importantly, the 2017-18 line-up will bring forth a look at the biggest male R&B group: The Temptations.
Ain’t Too Proud–The Temptations, penned by Morisseau, will begin in August, with direction by Des McAnuff, who staged the Broadway hit Jersey Boys. Aside from McAnuff, the creative team includes Olivier Award-winning choreographer Sergio Trujillo and musical director and supervisor Kenny Seymour.
Billed as The Detroit Project, the Motown-inspired musical listed an equity casting notice on Playbill last December with characters such as Otis Williams, Paul Williams, Eddie Kendricks, Melvin Franklin, Elbridge “Al” Bryant, and David Ruffin (who later replaced Bryant). Other roles include the legendary Smokey Robinson and Tammi Terrell, as well as Dennis Edwards, the Supremes’ Mary Wilson, Richard Street.
The show follows the group from their start in Detroit to their rise to fame, including the production of several hits for Motown. The musical will focus on the group’s “heydey” and not the latter years including drugs and internal turmoil. As Showbiz411‘s Roger Friedman reports: “While the plotline sounds similar to Broadway’s recent offering, Motown The Musical, the show will tell the story from the five musicians’ point of view, rather than from that of Motown legend Berry Gordy.”
Audiences can expect to hear traditional Temptations hits from the Motown catalogue, such as “My Girl,” “Just My Imagination,” and “Poppa Was a Rolling Stone.”
For more information, visit Berkeley Repertory Theatre.