“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.
Cast Announced for The First Deep Breath by Lee Edward Colston II at National Black Theatre
Dr. Barbara Ann Teer’s National Black Theatre [NBT] announces the cast of the first workshop production for this year’s cohort of I Am Soul Playwriting Residency by playwright Lee Edward Colston II. Colston’s workshop production of The First Deep Breath will be February 13 – 17, 2019 and will be directed by Malika Oyetimein.
As part of NBT’s Soul Series L.A.B. [Liberating Artistic Bravery], The First Deep Breath will conclude an 18-month residency for Lee Edward Colston II as the institution celebrating NBT’s 50th season which is themed “Liberation: A Journey Beyond Walls.”
The full cast for this workshop production will be: Paris Campbell (Albert), Paris Crayton III (Leslie), SJ Hannah (Abdul Malik), Vanessa A. Jones (Ruth), Drew Shade (Tyree), Cole Taylor (AJ), Chelsea Lee Williams (Dee Dee), C. Kelly Wright (Pearl). NBT is also excited to have on the creative team: Izmir Ickbal (Set/Lights), Elia Chuaqui (Sound), Beylnda Hardin (PSM).
About The First Deep Breath: Pastor Albert Jones plans a special church service to honor his late daughter Diane on the sixth anniversary of her death. But when his eldest son, Abdul-Malik, returns home from prison, the First family of Mother Bethel Baptist Church is forced to confront a hornet’s nest of long-buried secrets. With each member of the Jones clan desperately fighting to stay afloat, sometimes a family that stays together drowns together.
Launched in 2012, I AM SOUL – Playwright Residency Program is the only program in the country that is dedicated to Black playwrights, whose work demonstrates exceptional artistic merit and excellence in the theatrical field, with a commitment to production. Coined as a dream MFA program this eighteen (18) month residency also seeks to unleash the soul of a playwright on the page so that they can develop, hone and explore new ways of artistic expression in a safe, supported and transformative environment. With I AM SOUL, NBT seeks to deepen the artistic relationship between Black theatrical institutions and Black playwrights in order to re-establish Black theatrical institutions as the foremost supporters and producers of new works created by Black playwrights.
Past residents: Mfoniso Udofia, Aurin Squire, Angelica Chéri, Derek Lee McPhatter, Nambi E. Kelley, Dennis A. Allen II
Current residents: Eric Micha Holmes, Lee Edward Colston II, Tracey Conyer Lee & Darrel Holnes.
Tickets for The First Deep Breath are now on sale. www.nationalblacktheatre.org
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
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