“Prince of Egypt” is one of my favorite movies of all time. It boasts beautiful color, amazing music, and brilliant artistry. Unfortunately, the beautiful color stops at the screen. The movie’s cast was completely void of color despite telling the stories of African people and it seems that Bay Street Theater’s production sought to follow suit.
Although the initial Prince of Egypt reading included beautiful faces of color including Norm Lewis and Patina Miller, the performance scheduled for August 13th featured no black leads. After complaints from several voices of Broadway, Bay Street made a decision to cancel the show.
So Bay Street decided to be blind to the incredible Black talent on Broadway and since they’re still developing the new musical, maybe I can lend a hand in selecting a more accurate group of storytellers. Although they’re a little busy being successful in their current performances, here’s my color-corrected dream cast of Prince of Egypt.
Chris Lee and I met in high school, you may know him as Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson from Chicago’s Hamilton: An American Musical. I knew him as a doo-woping dread head who truly treated his voice like an instrument and lived permanently in song. The one thing that always blew me away was the control and diversity he gave his voice. I watched him belt in Hairspray and show off his classical chops in Les Mis. He is the perfect talent for for the strength and ever-evolving character that is Prince of Egypt’s Moses.
Rameses must possess an immovable ego that exceeds his love for his brother. So, I offer you Nkrumah Gatling. His hairline is of the gods and he has the passion of a Pharaoh in his prime. Nkrumah Gatling is your guy.
With Tzipporah I asked, “Self, do I want a powerhouse or a prima donna?” Then I stumbled upon Ariana Groover performing “Four Women” at Joe’s Pub and there she was. Groover is committed, gorgeous, and a powerful performer, she would make a beautiful Tzipporah.
Miriam has to be the most beautiful soul you’ve ever seen, she wants right by her people and strength within her family. A narrative many of us relate to. Who best to tell this story than Les Mis’ Brennyn Lark? She holds the perfect presence to bring life to Miriam’s revolutionizing strength. She is a woman of the people, for the people.
Grasan Kingsberry is my favorite choice for Aaron. Reluctant to sacrifice peace for freedom, Aaron’s evolution comes only at the inspiration of Moses’ leadership. Have you seen Grasan’s eyes when he performs? This Catch Me If You Can alum knows what he’s doing. He doesn’t just sing, he pulls you into the moment with him. That’s who I want to see playing Aaron.
Norm Lewis has to remain as Jethro. No contest.
There is not one voice other than Audra McDonald’s that I want to hear sing “River Lullaby.” Not a one.
So there you go, Bay Street, Black people, and Broadway lovers. It took some thinking, not for lack of black talent but for the abundance of it. We belong in the room, even if I have to color correct it myself, I will get us there. Be blessed.
Once On This Island Broadway Revival Cast Announced
The moment we’ve been waiting for has arrived, partially. The first cast announcement for the Broadway revival of Once On This Island has been made by producers Ken Davenport and Hunter Arnold. We’re excited to announce Tony Award nominee Phillip Boykin (Porgy and Bess) as Tonton Julian, Alysha Deslorieux (Hamilton) as Andrea, Kenita R. Miller (The Color Purple) as Mama Euralie, and Isaac Powell as Daniel will lead the cast.
Also, joining the cast as Storytellers are Darlesia Cearcy, Rodrick Covington, Cassondra James, David Jennings, Grasan Kingsberry, Tyler Hardwick, Loren Lott, T. Oliver Reid, and Aurelia Williams.
Once On This Island is the Broadway musical celebration that sweeps us across the sea to a small village—where, in the aftermath of a great storm, a joyous new life begins. It is the tale of Ti Moune, a fearless peasant girl who falls in love with a wealthy boy from the other side of the island. When their divided cultures threaten to keep them apart, Ti Moune, guided by the island gods, sets out on a remarkable quest to reunite with the man who has captured her heart.
The revival will play in the Circle in the Square Theatre (235 W. 50th Street, NYC) this fall, directed by Tony nominee Michael Arden, and choreographed by the critically acclaimed Camille A. Brown. Tony Award winner Nikki M. James is set as the Assistant Director. Production is set to begin preview performances on Thursday, November 9, 2017, and officially open on Sunday, December 3.
Additional casting will be announced at a later date. Ti Moune, Papa Ge, & more are yet to be announced.
The creative team also includes Dane Laffrey (Scenic Design), Clint Ramos (Costume Design), Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer (Lighting Designers), Peter Hylenski (Sound Designer), Chris Fenwick (Music Supervisor), Alvin Hough, Jr (Music Director), David Perlow (Associate Director), and Telsey + Co / Craig Burns, CSA (Casting Agent).
Once On This Island premiered at Playwrights Horizons in May of 1990. The Broadway production opened in October of that year and ran for 469 performances garnering eight Tony nominations including Best Featured Actress (LaChanze), Best Original Score, Best Book of a Musical and Best Musical. The 1994 West End production won the Olivier Award for Best New Musical.
For more information on the Broadway revival including tickets and specific dates visit www.OnceOnThisIsland.com
Chicago Paramount Theater to Produce All Black Jesus Christ Superstar
The classic rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar will be produced at Chicago’s Paramount theater in its Broadway season finale. This 1970s musical explores the last seven days and the internal struggles of none other than Jesus Christ. The classic has been put on in 31 countries with many talented ensembles, however, Chicago is surely going to be memorable. Paramount Theater will feature an all Black cast lead by theater veteran Destan Owens as Jesus of Nazareth. Owens has been seen by Broadway audiences in productions such as Chicago (Billy Flynn), Rent (Tom Collins), Smokey Joe’s Cafe (Adrian) but also some movie and small screen appearances in “Across the Universe” and TV’s “30 Rock”.
Owens is joined by Mykal Kilgore as Judas Iscariot, Felicia Boswell (Mary Magdalene), Rufus Bonds Jr. (Pontius Pilate), Avionce Hoyles (King Herod/Annas) and Lorenzo Rush jr. (Caiaphas).
Not only will the show have an amazing cast but director and producer Ron Kellum is making his Paramount theater debut. Kellum has a wide range of credits under his directing belt including Rent, The Color Purple, Dreamgirls, and Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Kellum also staged the NFL 2017 Pro Bowl half time show. The show will also feature Paramount familiars, Tom Vendafreddo and Kory Danielson as co-music directors leading a 14 piece rock band.
According to Showbiz Chicago, Kellum said,
“Why an all-Black Superstar? ‘Why not’ Our responsibility as storytellers is to find ways to represent truth in ways that translate to every audience no matter of color, creed, orientation or status This will be a soul stirring experience!”
The ensemble features Stephen “Blu” Allen, Jos N. Banks, Ciera Dawn, Gilbert Domally, Candace C. Edwards, Jared D.M. Grant, Keirsten Hodgens, Mark J.P. Hood, Reneisha Jenkins, Micheal Lovette, Evan Tyrone Martin, Gabriel Mudd, Brian Nelson Jr., Renelle Nicole, Jaymes Osborne, Kafi Pierre, Jon Pierce, Travis Porchia, Camille Robinson, Alexis J. Roston and Jessica Brooke Seals.
Catch the show April 19th – through May 28 at the Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd. in Aurora.
Teach Them How to Say Goodbye: Hamilton Exits and Entrances
“George Washington’s going home…” and judging by the electrifying audience reaction during this past Friday’s performance, he’ll sorely be missed. This weekend, Hamilton said goodbye to one of its remaining original cast members, Christopher Jackson.
Since its inception at the Public, Jackson performed the role of President George Washington, earning his his first Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. In addition to his recent television appearance in the CBS show “Bull,” audiences will hear his voice in the upcoming Disney flick, “Moana.” The animated film, centered around Disney’s first Polynesian princess, features a score by longtime collaborator Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Jackson passes the torch to standby Nicholas Christopher, who takes over the role beginning November 15 through the end of the year. Christopher will then helicoptor into the first Broadway revival of Miss Saigon starting March 1 at the Broadway Theatre.
Today the baton gets passed. The great @cjack930 has paved the way. He was once just a voice on a cast album that I would try to emulate in my small bedroom in Massachusetts and now I am lucky enough to call him friend. Go on and teach em how brotha! You are living the dream and I will forever be grateful for you!!… And don't worry Trump supporters two black presidents in a row can only happen in make believe.
Among others leaving the cast, Anthony Ramos departs on November 20 to appear in Spike Lee’s “She’s Gotta Have It” series on Netflix. “Grease Live’s” Jordan Fisher steps into the dual role of John Laurens and Phillip Hamilton beginning November 22.
While we’ll miss our original Washington and Laurens, we can’t wait to see what Christopher and Fisher have in store for us.
Hamilton plays at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.
The Cast of Sweet Charity is Perhaps the Most Diverse Cast in The New Group’s History
This week, The New Group announced additional casting for its upcoming off-Broadway revival production of the award-winning musical Sweet Charity, which will launch the company’s 2016-2017 theatrical season.
Newly announced for the limited engagement are James Brown III (Ensemble), Darius Barnes (Ensemble), Donald Jones, Jr. (Ensemble), Sasha Hutchings (Rosie / Ensemble) and Asmeret Ghebremichael (Nickie). Other cast members include Yesenia Ayala (Ensemble), Lori Ann Ferreri (Swing), Ryan Worsing (Swing), Nikka Graff Lanzarone (Ursula / Ensemble), Emily Padgett (Helene), Joel Perez (Herman / Vittorio / Daddy Brubeck) and Tony winner Shuler Hensley (Oscar). Additional casting to be announced. Performances will begin on November 2, 2016 at The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center; opening night is set for November 20, 2016. Performances will continue through December 11. Choreographed by Joshua Bergasse and directed by Leigh Silverman, the production will feature sets by Derek McLane, costumes by Clint Ramos, lighting design by Jeff Croiter, sound design by Leon Rothenberg, orchestrations by Mary-Mitchell Campbell and music direction by Georgia Stitt.
Oddly enough, under the direction of Scott Elliott, the Artistic Director of the artist-driven theatre company, Sweet Charity is perhaps the most diverse and multiethnic cast The New Group has had since the company’s first musical, Avenue Q, went on to win three Tony Awards, for Best Book, Best Score, and Best Musical, in 2004. In recent years, most of the cast members in the majority of the shows produced by the award-winning theatre company have been composed of white actors in lead roles or speaking parts. Often, various diverse thespians hired by the company are tapped to play supporting characters who must be played by diverse actors. In its 2015-2016 season, Guatemalan actor Tony Revolori (Dope, The Grand Budapest Hotel) and Asian-American child actor Bradley Fong, played torture victims in Philip Ridley’s nihilistic dystopian play, Mercury Fur. In its 2014-2015 season, with The Spoils by Jesse Eisenberg, Kunal Nayyar (who plays astrophysicist Raj Koothrappali on “The Big Bang Theory”) played the emotionally abused cronie to Jessie Eisenberg’s lead character. In the same season, Tony winner Tonya Pinkins acted in the Cynthia Nixon-directed Rasheeda Speaking by Joel Drake Johnson, where she played a secretary having to deal with an abundance of white fragility. Most of the directors at the helm of these shows have been male and none are of color. Which is why the latest revival of Sweet Charity, is such a welcomed inclusion in the milky-white off-Broadway. Directed by Leigh Silverman (Violet on Broadway; Lippa’s The Wild Party at Encores! Off-Center)—one of a few Tony nominated women directors—the cast also boast one of the most diverse casts on Broadway and off.
That’s what makes the casting of Ghebremichael and Perez, in particular, so exciting. Ghebremichael has appeared on stage previously, performing leading roles in The Book of Mormon, Legally Blonde and Wicked. Perez ends his run with the acclaimed Broadway musical Fun Home in September. Both have been praised as future leading Broadway stars and being cast in these showstopping supporting roles could be the parts that make this viable options for bigger and splashier productions. As Nickie, one of the protagonist’s best gal pals, Ghebremichael will perform signature hits “Big Spender” and “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This.” In the part of Daddy Johann Sebastian Brubeck, the enigmatic leader of a counterculture church, Perez will lead the Act II showstopper, “The Rhythm of Life.”
Starring two-time Tony winner Sutton Foster (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Anything Goes) as Charity Hope Valentine—according to press notes, “the sassy, diehard romantic dancehall hostess whose naïvety and overeager embrace of every man she meets keeps getting her in hot water”—Sweet Charity will be staged in a three-quarter thrust. Based on the original screenplay of Federico Fellini’s 1957 drama Nights of Cabiria (co-written with Tullio Pinelli, Ennio Plaiano and Pier Paolo Pasolini), Sweet Charity features a book by Neil Simon, music by Cy Coleman and lyrics by Dorothy Fields. Originally conceived, staged and choreographed by iconic showman Bob Fosse, since the musical premiered on Broadway in 1966, the show has had two award-winning revivals (1986, 2005) and a star-studded film adaptation; it was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Music, Score of a Musical Picture (Original or Adaptation). The New Group production marks the 50th Anniversary of the classic musical.
For single ticket purchases, visit thenewgroup.org. Subscriptions and single tickets can also be purchased by calling Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200, or in person at 416 West 42nd Street.
Renee Elise Goldsberry Will Leave Hamilton; Netflix Series Next
Tony Award winner Renee Elise Goldsberry will leave her award-winning role as Angelica Schuyler in the record-breaking Broadway musical Hamilton: An American Musical. It has yet to be announced who will replace her or when her final performance will be. However, according to the Hollywood Reporter, she will depart this fall to film and star in new Netflix series Altered Carbon, a show inspired by the Richard Morgan novel.
Goldsberry has been seen on Broadway in the original cast of The Color Purple, The Lion King, and portrayed Mimi in the final company of RENT. She is also a two-time Daytime Emmy Award nominee for her work on the soap opera One Life to Live.
This announcement comes on the heels of several other big Hamilton updates. Leslie Odom Jr. and other cast members performed their last show last week, Brandon Victor Dixon and others were announced as replacements, Daveed Diggs announced his departure just a few hours ago, & the cast of the Chicago cast of Hamilton was announced today as well. Whew! So much is happening over at Hamilton. It’s an emotional rollercoaster on and off the stage for sure.
It’s a little crazy to think that so soon after The Tony Awards all of the Tony-winning actors have left the show but we’re really not mad at them, WERK!!
The hit musical, Hamilton, won 11 total Tony Awards this year, including best musical, direction of a musical (Thomas Kail), best actor in a musical (Leslie Odom Jr.), best score (Lin-Manuel Miranda), best book of a musical (Lin-Manuel Miranda), best featured actor in a musical (Daveed Diggs), and best featured actress in a musical (Renée Elise Goldsberry). Also won a record number of technical awards including best orchestrations (Alex Lacamoire), best costume design (Paul Tazewell), best choreography (Andy Blankenbuehler), and best lighting design (Howell Binkley).
Who Tells Your Story: Chicago Cast of Hamilton Announced!
At long last, as reported by The Chicago Tribune, the Chicago production of the Broadway smash Hamilton finally has its cast. The principle company includes Broadway veteran Wallace Smith and “Glee’s” Samantha Marie Ware.
Wallace Smith will portray the dual roles of Hercules Mulligan and James Madison. Select Broadway credits include Les Misérables, Godspell, and American Idiot. Last month, he wrapped production on BET’s upcoming New Edition biopic.
In addition, Samantha Marie Ware will play Peggy Schuyler and Maria Reynolds. Ware gained recognition for her guest recurring role as Jane Hayward in the final season of “Glee.” Her theatrical credits include Nala in The Lion King and Nabalungi in The Book of Mormon, for which she received a Helen Hayes award.
The rest of the principle company:
Miguel Cervantes (Alexander Hamilton), Ari Afsar (Eliza Hamilton), Alexander Gemignani (King George III), Chris Lee (Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson), Joseph Morales (Alternate Hamilton), Jose Ramos (John Laurens/Phillip Hamilton). This production marks Tony Award winner Karen Olivo’s return to the stage as Angelica Schuyler after a two-year hiatus to teach in Wisconsin.
No word yet on casting for Aaron Burr or the ensemble. Is it too late to call up Leslie Odom, Jr.? Would he have a little bit of energy left in him to play Burr once more? Perhaps Daveed Diggs, who’s just announced his departure date, would like a promotion? Bueller?
Fortunately, we have a stellar cast to look forward to. But I’m sure by now most New York theatregoers already flocked to Chicago to compete with the locals for tickets.
Performances begin September 27 at the PrivateBank Theatre.
About Broadway Black:
BroadwayBlack.com is dedicated to highlighting the achievements and successes of African-American theatre artists on and off the Broadway stage. For so long, our voices have been skimmed over inside and outside of The Great White Way. However, we know we have experiences to share that are essential. BroadwayBlack.com serves as a collective of things we all care for. It is a platform for all things Black theatre. Created for the child in all of us who looked up to the stage searching for the faces that looked like ours. Celebrating the dedication of those who hand over their life to give all they have to the stage, shining light on those that continue our journey, & paying tribute to those who blazed the way for our story to be told, seen, and heard on The Great Way.
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