Some people may remember Janet Hubert as the beloved “Aunt Viv“ #1 on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” starring Will Smith before she was unceremoniously let go from the show after three seasons. Then, there are others who may only be familiar with her recent rant against Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith’s call for a boycott of the Academy Awards because , #OscarsSoWhite. What most people don’t know is that long before she was the bougie aunt of the street-wise teenage Will, Hubert was an original cast member of one of the longest-running shows in Broadway history – Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats.
The musical, based upon Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot, tells the story of the Jellicle Cats and the one special night of the year that they come out to play – the night of the Jellicle Ball. On this night, each cat tells their story to their leader “Old Deuteronomy,” who must choose one of the Cats to “ascend to The Heaviside Layer and be reborn into a whole new Jellicle life.”
Hubert was cast as “Tantomile” who, along with her twin brother, “Coricopat,” is believed to be psychic. The twins are often the first to sense changes, such as the approach of “Old Deuteronomy.” “Tantomile” is mysterious and quiet, staying mostly with Coricopat.
In addition to her roles in Cats and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” Hubert also has appeared in several television shows, including Tyler Perry’s “House of Pain,” ” One Live to Live”, “NYPD Blue,” “Gilmore Girls,” and “Friends”. Unfortunately, her career after “The Fresh Prince” has often been overshadowed by her 25-year old beef with Smith whom she believes got her fired from the show. Clearly, Hubert is a talented actress and if it’s true that Webber’s Cats will return to Broadway, maybe she can reprise her role as “Tantomile.”
Now we know why she was so fierce in this classic Fresh Prince of Bel-Air scene!
HBO Releases Trailer for Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, April 22nd Premiere Date
Broadway’s greats have gathered to bring the legacy of Henrietta Lacks to HBO. Her life began in 1920 in Roanoke, VA, but her legacy lives on today. In January of 1951, she received a diagnosis of cervical cancer, which would be one of the important moments in medical history–and one of the most invasive.
Henrietta died in 1951 when the tumor spread throughout her body. During Henrietta’s treatment and diagnosis, her cells were taken without her consent or knowledge; her physicians would go on to use her cells for medical advancement. Twenty-four years passed until Lacks’ family became aware of this injustice.
In 2010, Oprah Winfrey confirmed development of Rebecca Skloot’s critically acclaimed, bestselling nonfiction book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks into an HBO film. Filming began in 2016, and at long last, HBO has finally released a trailer!
The trailer features Broadway producer Winfrey as Lacks’ daughter, Deborah Lacks. The trailer feels as intense as Lacks’ story. Hamilton’s Tony winner Renée Elise Goldsberry plays the role of Henrietta. Even in the trailer, their connection seems palpable; Henrietta died when Deborah was just two and the trailer shows Deborah’s desperate pursuit for her mother’s memory.
The cast also features performances by Reg E. Cathey (The Shawshank Redemption), Adriane Lenox (Doubt: The Parable), and Courtney B. Vance (The People v. OJ Simpson, Lucky Guy), Leslie Uggams (Deadpool, Hallelujah, Baby!), and Ruben Santiago-Hudson (Seven Guitars, Jitney). Shuffle Along’s George C. Wolfe directs from his screenplay adaptation of the novel.
The movie airs on HBO on April 22.
Could The Color Purple Be On Its Way to an Emmy Award?
Just one month after scoring a Grammy Award for “Best Musical Theater Album,” The Color Purple, which starred Tony and Grammy Award winner Cynthia Erivo, may get an Emmy as well. Announced on March 22nd, one of their live television performances received a Daytime Emmy Award nomination for “Outstanding On-Camera Musical Performance in a Daytime Program.”
Last year, as part of the NBC Citi Concert Series on Today Show’s Best of Broadway Week, the cast of The Color Purple made a guest appearance to sing the title number of the musical, led by Erivo. In a performance that left us breathless and astonished, this would appropriately be the same morning the cast learned they received four Tony nominations, including “Best Revival of a Musical.”
Based on the novel by Alice Walker, The Color Purple first appeared on Broadway in 2005, earning 11 Tony nominations. The recent scaled down version, directed by John Doyle, opened in December of 2015, and ran for 450 performances before closing on January 8th, 2017.
A North American tour launches in the fall later this year. Check The Color Purple for more information.
Now we can’t help but wish for a musical film adaptation, with Erivo reprising Celie. We’ve no doubt she’d easily snatch up her EGOT-status. Regardless, congratulations are in order for the cast of The Color Purple!
Edit: While this is the first time a Broadway production has been nominated in these categories, Erivo and the cast will not actually be eligible to receive the award. Instead it will go to the program that hosted the performance.
Behind The Curtain: Eclipsed Will Air The Historic Broadway Journey On Centric TV
Eclipsed is returning and this time it’s on television. Well, kind of.
According to the press realease:
BET International releases a multi-part documentary series chronicling the ascent and realization of ‘Eclipsed’; a Broadway play all written, directed and acted by women of African descent.
- Danai Gurira (Zimbabwe), playwright
- Liesl Tommy, (South Africa), director
- Lupita Nyong’o (Kenya), actress
- Akosia Busia, (Ghana), actress
- Zainab Jah (Sierra Leone), actress
- Saycon Sengbloh, (Liberia), actress
- Pascale Armand, (Haiti), actress
A winner of nine accolades including a Tony Award, the play tackles the survival stories of five women near the end of the second Liberian civil war. Written by actress, Danai Gurira who was inspired by a New York Times article about Black Diamond, a female freedom fighter and the female peace activists.
Broken into three episodes, each part delves into a central theme; Context, Cultivation, and Community. The series documents the fearless women using art to combat social injustice and give voice to the voiceless. With a strong production team including Stephen Byrd, Alia Jones Harvey and Michaela Angela Davis the documentary uses cinema-verite style to complement the rehearsal/show footage and ancillary interviews.
Ava L. Hall, executive producer and Vice President, Programming & Brand Advancement, BET International commented:
“It was really important to us to capture and to some extent immortalise the extraordinary stories of these women in Liberia and also the women who fought to bring it to fruition on the other side of the Atlantic, in New York on Broadway. This is a tale of how sisterhood, support and humanity travels globally to create a vision which breaks boundaries, sets new standards and while sobering, inspires a generation to find value and strength in their stories.”
This ground breaking play took its place firmly on Broadway and this documentary will take a place firmly in your heart and mind. Celebrating the intersection of Black and women’s history months airing on March 1, 2017 at 8pm EST on Centric
This is not one you’ll want to miss. You’ll even see a guest appearance from a photoshoot Broadway Black did before the Tony Awards. Live tweet with us tonight! @BroadwayBlack
Alfre Woodard and K. Todd Freeman Encounter A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix
Featured Image: Netflix
“If you were interested in stories with happy endings, then you would be better off somewhere else,” an ominous narrator warns his audience in the opening of the new Netflix show “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” starring Emmy winner Alfre Woodard and Tony nominee K. Todd Freeman. This deterrent, as well as the short pause allowing viewers time to push the back button, sets the tone for the grim, sordid tale to follow.
Based on the 13-book series written by Lemony Snicket (the author), Lemony Snicket (the character) played by Patrick Warburton, laments the depressing story of The Baudelaire Orphans, three young children left under a cycle of negligent guardians, each worse than the last, after their parents perish in a terrible fire.
None of them quite so terrible, however, as the first — the cruel Count Olaf (played by Neil Patrick Harris), a mediocre actor and eccentric criminal after the fortune Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire’s parents left behind.
In the eight-episode season, which follows the first four books, the crafty, bookish, and sharp-toothed Baudelaires evade Count Olaf at every turn. But he won’t rest until he gets his hands on that fortune, and so, with his theatre troupe of henchmen, he reappears in the children’s lives, each time under a new disguise, effectively repeating the same formula every episode. New guardian, Count Olaf appears, Baudelaires expose him.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Woodard plays the children’s third guardian, Aunt Josephine, a widow and panophobic grammar-Nazi with close ties to the children’s parents. Originally portrayed by Meryl Streep in the mixed-reviewed 2004 film adaptation, which starred Jim Carrey, Josephine is described as a “fierce and formidable woman” when her husband Ike was alive. Now she’s afraid of realtors.
Freeman (Wicked, Airline Highway) plays a financial banker named Mr. Arthur Poe, the executor of the Baudelaire estate. While he means well, he’s, in fact, a bumbling idiot completely ignorant of the children’s plight and oblivious of Count Olaf’s ridiculous disguises. He not only delivers the news of their parent’s death but, due to his misinterpretation of the will, he’s partly to blame for placing them in Count Olaf’s care in the first place.
Image: Joe Lederer/Netflix
Both brilliantly capture their characters’ odd tics and nuances, and Freeman is certainly a standout in the series (see: any of his scenes at Mulctuary Money Management). His repetitive delivery of “Jacquelyn, can you bring the Baudelaire file in here please?” alone deserves an Emmy nod.
In a bleak, anachronistic world of untrustworthy and useless adults, secret organizations, and treacherous leeches, the story has more wit and charm than it sounds.
While self-deprecating and sarcastic, Daniel Handler (the man behind the pen name Lemony Snicket), also serving as writer and executive producer, has created a setting where, despite the horrors Violet, Klaus, and Sunny face, we laugh at the dark humor and absurdity of it all.
Take, for instance, Cleo King (a bit player, but a scene-stealer) who plays Poe’s wife, Eleanora, editor-in-chief of The Daily Punctilio. “I had my star reporter write an article for the front page so that everyone will know that your home was destroyed and you’re orphans now!” she proudly exclaims, flaunting a newspaper at the dinner table in front of the Baudelaires with the blaring headline, “Baudelaire Mansion Destroyed,” thinking it would cheer them up. “Some people wait a lifetime for that!”
True to the nature and tone of the books, the series obliterates the fourth wall by poking fun at itself, subtly taking shots at the “godforsaken Nickelodeon” movie to the idea of “streaming content from the comfort of one’s home.”
Every now and then, Snicket might even stop the action to explain the meaning of a word, or provide some commentary on current social issues relating to whatever is happening. Also, devoted fans of the books should keep an eye out for various easter eggs scattered throughout.
The series has received rave reviews, with a second season (following books five through nine) in the works.
Stream Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events” on Netflix.
Run And Tell That: Meet the Full Cast of Hairspray Live!
The anticipation is over, as we now have our full principal company of NBC’s upcoming “Hairspray Live!” broadcast. Based on the 2002 Broadway musical and John Water’s 1988 film, the show follows Tracy Turnblad, a plus-sized dancer in 1960s Baltimore who strives to bring integration and diversity — big and small, black and white — to the local dance program, The Corny Collins Show, in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement.
Fresh off the success of both their respective broadcasts, Kenny Leon (“The Wiz Live!”) and Alex Rudzinski (“Grease Live!”) will co-direct, with a score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, choreography by Tony-winner Jerry Mitchell, and a script adaptation by Harvey Fierstein, who also reprises his gender-bending, Tony-winning role of Edna Turnblad, Tracy’s mother. Craig Zadan and Neil Meron produce.
Like it’s NBC Live predecessors, the “Hairspray Live!” cast features a diverse mix of screen, stage, television, and music artists:
Maddie Baillio as “Tracy Turnblad”
Like every major Tracy before her, Baillio arrives as a newcomer, having beaten out almost 1,000 other women for the role. She’s a sophomore at Marymount Manhattan College and an alumna of the Songbook Academy®.
Dove Cameron as “Amber von Tussle”
Many know Cameron for her duel roles in the Disney Channel television series “Liv and Maddie.” She also starred in the Disney Channel Original Movie “Descendants” and will reprise her role, “Mal,” in the upcoming sequel.
Kristin Chenoweth as “Velma von Tussle”
This Tony-winning soprano has made appearances in numerous stage, movies, and television shows, however most musical theatre fans know her as the original “Glinda” in the hit Broadway musical Wicked. Chenoweth will return to Broadway for a series of concerts this November to promote her new album “The Art of Elegance.” Having also starred in DCOM’s “Descendants,” this role marks her second time playing the villainous mother to Cameron.
Garrett Clayton as “Link Larkin”
As another Disney Channel star, Clayton burst onto the scene in 2013 when he starred in “Teen Beach Movie,” a modern send-up of 60s beach party films. It’s no accident he bares a slight resemblance to Zac Efron, who played Link in the 2007 film.
Billy Eichner as “Rob Barker”
While chances of Eichner doing any actual singing or dancing in the show are slim (he’ll play the local TV newscaster for Baltimore’s WZZT), the comedian has enough charm and humor to bring to the table. His comedy game show, “Billy on the Street,” earned him a Daytime Emmy nomination in 2013. He joined “Parks and Recreations” in its sixth season, and currently stars in the Hulu show “Difficult People.”
Harvey Fierstein as “Edna Turnblad”
There’s no question that this Broadway and film powerhouse has one of the most distinctive voices in entertainment, both in acting and writing. His play, Torch Song Trilogy, earned him two Tony Awards. He won another writing the book for La Cage aux Folles.
Ariana Grande as “Penny Pingleton”
Many have likened this Nickelodeon star and recording artist’s style and vocal range to Mariah Carey. She’s received two Grammy nominations and an MTV Video Music Award for her music. Her third album, “Dangerous Woman” debuted at number 2 on the Billboard 200. Grande got her start in 2008, making her Broadway debut in Jason Robert Brown’s musical 13.
Sean Hayes as “Mr. Pinky”
This Broadway vet earned an Emmy Award and multiple SAG Awards for his outstanding portrayal of goofy, flamboyant, and frequently unemployed actor Jack McFarland on the hit NBC sitcom “Will & Grace.” He’s since starred in multiple movies and television shows, such as the short-lived “Sean Saves the World.” He recently closed the limited return engagement of An Act of God on Broadway.
Derek Hough as “Corny Collins”
The competitive Latin and ballroom dancer gained wide recognition when he joined the ranks of professional instructors of ABC’s dance competition show “Dancing with the Stars,” which he’s won five times. He’s received two Emmy Awards for his choreography. Now in its 23rd season, Hough is paired with Marilu Henner.
Jennifer Hudson as “Motormouth Maybelle”
Hudson is no stranger to musical theatre, as she recently made her Broadway debut in the Tony-winning revival of The Color Purple as “Shug Avery.” She won an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA Award, and a SAG Award in 2007 for her breakout performance as “Effie White” in the Dreamgirls film adaptation. Since then, she’s appeared in several films and released three studio albums.
Andrea Martin as “Prudy Pingleton”
One of Broadway’s favorite comediennes has appeared in countless films and TV shows, and recently picked up a Tony nomination for her performance in Noises Off. Martin also has two Tonys for My Favorite Year and her high-flying performance in the Diane Paulus-helmed Broadway revival of Pippin.
Rosie O’Donnell as “The Gym Teacher”
O’Donnell has been a long-time fan of Broadway, having appeared in several shows and creating Rosie’s Broadway Kids, a charitable organization bringing free music and dance instruction to New York City public schools. She’s received multiple Emmy Awards for “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” and for hosting the 52nd Annual Tony Awards.
Martin Short as “Wilbur Turnblad”
Short’s last stint on Broadway was the Terrance McNally play, It’s Only a Play. He has multiple stage, film, and television credits to his name, including his recent NBC variety show, “Maya & Marty,” which also starred comedienne Maya Rudolph.
Ephraim Sykes as “Seaweed J. Stubbs”
Sykes has five Broadway credits under his
dance-belt, including Newsies, Motown, and Hamilton. He recently appeared in the Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger HBO series “Vinyl.”
Shahadi Wright Joseph as “Little Inez”
Any young singer who can pull off Streisand deserves all the amount of praise. Joseph made history at the age of 9 by being the youngest actress to play the role of “Young Nala” in The Lion King. She joined the cast of School of Rock in 2015. Additionally, she attends Trey Whitfield School.
Paul Vogt as “Mr. Spritzer”
Vogt is no stranger to Hairspray, as he performed the role of Edna on Broadway in 2007. He’s appeared in several films and television shows, including the long-running comedy sketch show “MADtv.”
Members of the ensemble cast include: Josh Alexander, William Bell, Helene Britany, Riley Costello, Kelli Ann Erdmann, Zack Everhart, Sam Faulkner, Annie Gratton, Thomasina Gross, Marissa Heart, Joanna Jones, Jacque Lewarne, Tommy Martinez, Allie Meixner, Eliotte Nicole, Tiana Okoye, Amos Oliver III, Tyler Parks, Re’sean Pates, Andrew Pirozzi, Katherine Roarty, Rhon Sanders, Ricky Schroeder, Heather Tepe, Joy Marie Thomas, Mason Trueblood, Karl Skyler Urban, Keenan Washington, and Jason Williams.
Kamilah Marshall, Judine Somerville, and Shayna Steele, who portrayed “The Dynamites” in the original Broadway company reprise their roles. The trio appears in the number “Welcome to the 60s.” Unissa Cruse-Ferguson, a dancer from Baltimore, landed a spot in the broadcast after beating hundreds in an audition at the local Hippodrome Theatre.
“Hairspray Live!” airs December 7th on NBC.
New Rocky Horror Promo Features Ben Vereen in Fishnets
The more footage and promotional material released, the more I get excited about FOX’s “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” reboot premiering October 20th.
The two-hour special stars Laverne Cox in the iconic role of transvestite mad scientist and sexual psychopath Dr. Frank-N-Furter. Broadway veteran Ben Vereen also stars as Dr. Everett Scott, Frank’s paraplegic arch-rival. Kenny Ortega (“High School Musical,” “Hocus Pocus”) directs.
With a rock score by Richard O’Brien, the story centers on newly-engaged sweethearts Brad Majors, played by Ryan McCartan, and Janet Weiss, played by Victoria Justice. After getting stuck with a flat tire on a stormy night, they stumble upon the castle of Frank-N-Furter.
Throughout the evening, the lovers encounter a variety of eccentric characters, lose their sexual innocence, and meet Frank’s new Adonis creation — Rocky Horror, portrayed by Staz Nair — built to serve as his sexual companion.
FOX released a brand new promo trailer with far more footage:
We get to hear Ivy Levan as the Usherette croon the opening number, “Science Fiction, Double Feature.” And the new film seems to honor the spirit of the original by having “Damn It, Janet,” Brad’s proposal, take place at a funeral.
We see a lot more of the “Time Warp,” featuring Reeve Carney as Riff-Raff, Christina Milian as Magenta, and Tony winner Annaleigh Ashford, decked out in leather studs and a frilly pink/blue/purple tutu, as Columbia.
Cox appears to channel Beyoncé and Tina Turner in the “Floor Show,” wearing a golden get-up with flowing, blonde hair. Speaking of, this preview of “Sweet Transvestite,” where Cox slinks about like some Grace Jones/David Bowie hybrid, has put to rest any doubts I had about her voice — I mean, that bass baritone! And I’m loving the trio of backup singers.
The trailer also features a lot more of Adam Lambert as Eddie singing “Hot Patootie.” I’m sure most who know Lambert and his range can expect him to sing the hell out of that number.
But can we also talk about Ben Vereen in fishnets? Ben Vereen in fishnets, for the love of God! It’s a quick shot, and I’ve damaged the pause button enough, but Ben Vereen in fishnets!
The cast, along with executive producer Lou Adler, visited TCA, where they discussed the upcoming TV film, the fan reactions and backlash, and Tim Curry.
The original Rocky Horror legend, who returns to the musical as the Criminologist, gave his blessing to this revival, having gone as far as offering himself to play Dr. Scott: “Because I was already in a wheelchair, but they thought Narrator was a better fit and I enjoyed it a lot.”
In his first major role, Curry starred in the original The Rocky Horror Show stage musical and the subsequent 1975 film adaptation as Frank.
This throwback to early sci-fi films has gone on to spark multiple international stage adaptations, parodies, and is still screened in theaters today as part of a “midnight showing.”
Fans dress up as the characters, sing, and dance, and call back to the screen, while “shadowcasts” act out the movie in front. Those new to the Rocky Horror experience — “virgins” — go through an initiation (almost like Brad and Janet in the film). As an homage to the fans, the new reboot will feature an interactive audience doing “callbacks.”
“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” airs on FOX, October 20th, 8PM.
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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