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Charl Brown Joins West End Production of Motown

Broadway Black

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Charl Brown, who originated the iconic role of Smokey Robinson on Broadway, will recreate his Tony nominated performance in the West End production of the hit Motown the Musical.

The biographical musical about the history-making record label is set to hit London’s Shaftesbury Theater in early 2016.  As previously announced, Cedric Neal (After Midnight, Porgy & Bess) will be taking on the lead role of Berry Gordy and Lucy St. Louis (Beautiful, Book of Mormon, Ragtime) will join him as Diana Ross.  Sifiso Mazibuko will also join the cast as Marvin Gaye.

Motown the Musical opened in the spring of 2013 to mixed critical reviews, but global appreciation for its legendary music helped make it a box office success.  While the first U.S. National Tour made its debut in April of 2014, the Broadway production cited “retooling” efforts to minimize production costs as it temporarily closed the Broadway version this past January.  It was recently announced that Motown will return to Broadway for an 18 week run in July next year.

Brown’s portrayal of Smokey Robinson in the original Broadway cast of Motown earned him a 2013 Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Musical.  The Sister Act and Jersey Boys vet was one of the few original cast members to remain a part of Motown for the entire duration of its Broadway run.

Further casting for the West End production includes Keisha Amponsa Banson (Mary Wells), Cindy Belliot (Anna Gordy), Samuel Edwards (Jackie Wilson), Portia Harry (Teena Marie), Aisha Jawando (Martha Reeves), Joshua Liburd (Eddie Kendricks), Simeon Montague (Jermaine Jackson), Cleopatra Rey (Gladys Knight), Brandon Lee Sears (Tito Jackson), Jordan Shaw (Stevie Wonder), Cherelle Williams (Mary Wilson).  The UK has enlisted young locals Eshan Gopal, Kwame Kandekore, and Joshua Tikare to alternate the role of Young Michael Jackson.  Additional casting includes Daniel Bailey, Edward Baruwa, Tanya Nicole Edwards, Eddie Elliott, Christopher Fry, Alex Hammond, Edward Handoll, Simon Ray Harvey, Elias Hendricks, Brian JamesLeys, Jayde Nelson, Simone Mistry Palmer, Carl Spencer and Marcel J Whyte.  Final casting will be announced shortly.

London previews begin on Feb. 11, 2016 and is set for a March 8 opening.

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Across The Pond

Michaela Coel Stars in London-based Musical “Been So Long” Film Adaption

Broadway Black

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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.

Courtesy of Film Constellation

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.

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Marisha Wallace Leads The Color Purple as Celie in London Benefit Concert

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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Marisha Wallace

Marisha Wallace, currently the alternate Effie in Dreamgirls in London, will star as Celie in a new one-night-only concert performance of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical The Color Purple at London’s Cadogan Hall, May 21st at 6:00 P.M.

The concert staging will raise funds for the British Theatre Academy, a unique performing arts program that has inspired and nurtured the talent of thousands of young performers who cannot afford to train in performing arts. The evening will also feature a chorus of over 40 current British Theatre Academy participants.

Based on the novel by Alice Walker, The Color Purple tells the inspiring and unforgettable story of a woman who, through love, finds the strength to triumph over adversity and discover her unique voice in the world.

The musical features a book by Marsha Norman, and music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray.

Last seen in London at the Menier Chocolate Factory, directed by John Doyle and starring Tony-Award winner Cynthia Erivo, the production later transferred to Broadway and earned the 2016 Tony for Best Revival of A Musical.

In addition to Wallace as Celie, the cast of the benefit concert includes Wendy Mae Brown (Ghost) as Sofia, Cavin Cornwall (London’s Aladdin) as Mister, Tyrone Huntley (Dreamgirls) as Harpo, Rachel John (The Bodyguard) as Shug, Hugh Maynard (London’s Miss Saigon) as Pa, and Seyi Omooba (Junkyard) as Nettie.

The performance, produced by Matthew Chandler and Danielle Tarento, features musical direction by James Taylor and choreography by Mykal Rand.

Tickets now on sale.

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