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The York Theatre Company Presents Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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The York Theatre Company’s Musicals in Mufti Series (Mufti means in street clothes; without the usual trappings) has officially launched, and leading the season is a limited engagement of Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope (which officially opened February 28, 2016) for 10 performances only February 27 – March 6, 2016, at Saint Peter’s (619 Lexington Avenue, entrance on East 54th Street, just east of Lexington Avenue).

Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope illuminates the African-American experience through a dynamic mixture of gospel, jazz, funk, soul, calypso, and soft rock. With five 1972 Tony nominations (including Best Musical) and an Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical the same year, the show also earned Micki Grant a Grammy Award for Best Score—the first female to be so honored. Described as “a cultural pulse-taking of the challenges facing the black community in America,” it was the first Broadway musical written entirely by a woman, and the first Broadway production to be directed by a female African-American.

Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope features a book, music, and lyrics by Micki Grant, was conceived by Vinnette Carroll, and will be directed by Leslie Dockery. The show stars Jelani Alladin, Darilyn Castillo, Doug Eskew, Tina Fabrique, Marva Hicks, Devin L. Roberts, Raun Ruffin, and Debra Walton. 

The performance schedule for Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope is Wednesday, March 2 at 7:00 p.m., Thursday, March 3 and Friday, March 4 at 8:00 p.m., Saturday, March 5 at 2:30 p.m (this show also features a talk-back) & 8:00 p.m., and Sunday, March 6 at 2:30 p.m.  For tickets click here or call (212)-935-5820. 

Theatre Educator. Advocate for Accessibility. Activist. Rebel. Artist. Avid Theatergoer. I Just Might Be A Black Shubert In The Making. Harry Belafonte's Long Lost Daughter. Auntie Audra Always. Cynthia Give Me Back My Edges.

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BB Casting Agency

Hello, Dolly! The Past, The Present, and The Prospective Future

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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hello, dolly!

A few weeks ago, previews began for the Bette Midler-led revival of Hello, Dolly! over at the Shubert Theatre. Midler last appeared on Broadway in her hilarious one-woman show I’ll Eat You Last at the Booth three years ago, and Fiddler on the Roof in 1967, when the actress had last starred in a musical on the Great White Way.

This revival of Hello, Dolly! marks the fourth incarnation of the Michael Stewart and Jerry Herman musical since its first inception in 1964, starring Carol Channing. The original production played well, but after three years and a slight decline in ticket sales, producer David Merrick decided he needed to shake things up a bit.

Hello Dolly!What better way to achieve shock value than to recast the show and create an all-Black version with the amazingly talented Pearl Bailey as matchmaker Dolly Levi and Cab Calloway as Horace Vandergelder.

Nowadays, a stunt like this would surprise no one, but in the late 1960s –a time of war and protest, racism and hate– the casting was nearly unheard of. The cast, however, didn’t deter people from seeing the show.

In fact, Hello, Dolly! opened to glowing reviews on November 12, 1967, at the St. James Theatre. This new version would later close on December 27, 1970, bringing the total cumulative Broadway run to 2,844 performances, thus making it the longest-running musical of its time.

DuImage result for pearl bailey hello dollye to popularity, producers released another cast recording with the all-Black cast and Bailey received a Special Tony Award in 1968. She would eventually reprise her role in a short-lived revival in 1975 with Billy Daniels.

After her successful run as Dolly, more opportunities opened up for Black actresses to step into the role of the meddling matchmaker including: Thelma Carpenter, who actually went on as Bailey’s alternate on Wednesday matinees and performed in over 100 performances, Edwina Lewis, and E. Faye Bulter — whose 1990 version included the cut song “Love, Look in My Window.”

Looking back on this amazing production, and with the revival set to officially open in April, we got to thinking: If we could recast Hello, Dolly! today, who are some Black actresses we’d like to see?

Check out some of Team BB answers below:

JHD: Jenifer Lewis. She can blow, she has sass, she needs to be on Broadway since yesterday. And she would absolutely make an amazing Dolly. She actually played the title role back in 2009 in a Seattle Regional Production. If not a Broadway reprisal, we’ll settle for a revival of Mame too.

Tristan: Whoopi Goldberg, Queen Latifah, or Vanessa Williams. Here for all three of them, though the Ugly Betty fan in me is truly here for a Wilhelmina Slater-inspired Dolly.

Who would YOU cast? Sound off in the comments below.

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Events and Happenings

Liesl Tommy Is Back With Party People At The Public This Fall

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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Liesl Tommy is back! And as we know, she’s no stranger to making the type of theatre that challenges our way of thinking . This time she’s tackling the importance of two influential social groups directing the New York Premiere of Party People, making it’s way to Anspacher Theater at The Public, starting November 1st through December.

Directed and Developed by Tommy, along with Universes, an award-winning ensemble known for their fusion of theater, poetry, jazz, hip-hop, politics, down home blues and Spanish boleros,  Party People is a “high-energy, infectious mix of theatre, poetry, jazz, blues, hip-hop, boleros and salsa as Universes digs into the story and legacy of an American revolution.”

Universes created Party People based on dozens of interviews with members of the ground-breaking, society-changing groups, Black Panthers and Puerto Rican Young Lords. Party People imagines a present-day reunion at an art opening curated by two young counter culturalists; but the curators themselves have complex relationships with the Party members, who fought injustice and provided free food and medical care for their communities—often at the expense of the people who loved them most. Old wounds and generational divides collide in this astonishing, multi-media theatrical event about the price of being a revolutionary, and what it means for those who come after.

Breaking the bounds of the expected, the members of Universes (Steven Sapp, Mildred Ruiz-Sapp and William Ruiz aka Ninja) and Liesl Tommy —invite audiences of every age, color and creed to join them as they continue to revolutionize American theater and explore the fight to bring power to the people, and the people to power.

Tickets for members of The Public Theater start at $25 – $50. Non-Member tickets starts at $60 + fees. Tickets can be purchased by visiting the site here, calling 212.967.7555 , or at the box office (425 Lafayette Street New York, NY 10003).

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Events and Happenings

Savion Glover & Reg E. Gaines Talk Noise/Funk 20 Years Later

Jerrica White

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Savion Glover and Reg E. Gaines join forces to take us back to 1996 when Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk was winning Tony Awards and taking audiences on a ride that only an all Black creative team and producer could deliver.

Noise/Funk maps the story of African Americans, from slavery to liberation through dance, more specifically tap, informing a rhythm that is our own. The poems. The tap. The beat. The groove is shaped by the decade. Wading through the water. Shuffling north. And stomping in solidarity with the Black Power Movement of the ‘60s.

When it opened in 1995, it became an expression of a culture— our culture. Conceived and directed by George C. Wolfe, Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk started at The Public Theater before moving to The Ambassador Theatre. Savion Glover choreographed and starred in the show alongside Baakari Wilder, Jimmy Tate, Vincent Bingham, and Dule Hill. The show was narrated by Ann Duquesnay and Jeffrey Wright, and the book was written by Reg E. Gaines.

As two of the show’s collaborators, Glover and Gaines let us in on Noise/Funk and talk us through their careers up to date.

“Noise/Funk- 20 Years Later” is sponsored by MAM’s African American Cultural Committee (AACC). This event takes place at Montclair Art Museum (Leir Hall) in Montclair, New Jersey on Thursday October 20, 7-8:30p. For more information on joining the AACC please contact wrcroudy@gmail.com.

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How Do We Feel

Tea Alert: Audra McDonald Drags Bill O’Reilly For Filth

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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How do you like your tea? I like mine hot and served early in the morning, so this morning was a treat!

Audra McDonald woke up with her receipts, ready to drag the life out of Bill O’Reilly.

Monday night the always regal and practically perfect FLOTUS, Michelle Obama, gave the speech of a lifetime at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. In this speech she spoke highly of the party’s first ever female Presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, explaining why we need her in office.

During part of her speech, Michelle mentioned the fact that she “wakes up in a house everyday that was built by slaves” and it took no time for everyone to come together to “YAAAAAS, MICHELLE, YASSSSS.” Unfortunately, not long after, conservatives and media outlets were fact checking FLOTUS only to come up with, “Gee Michelle Obama is right. Slaves DID build the White House!”

Yes, and water is wet.

But, Bill O’Reilly couldn’t leave it alone. He went on to fix his mouth to say, “well, they were well-fed and had decent lodgings and there were others working as well.”

UMM. SIR.

SIR.

Audra wrote a simple “Umm…” in her tweet last night, but y’all know when Audra goes in, she GOES ALL THE WAY IN. So there is no way she was letting that one go. This morning, Audra The Great had TIME.

This isn’t shocking to us, as Audra has always been extremely vocal about the social issues that matter most to her, especially when it comes to civil rights. Let us never forget the ULTIMATE DRAGGING of Donald Trump’s current poor choice of a running mate, Mike Pence, last year.

She didn’t hold back today either. Providing the “history teacher” with a much needed history lesson. She even had time to read someone that just had to slide into her mentions when she wasn’t even talking to or about them.

See the tweets below and for goodness sakes,  PLEASE stop trying Audra on Twitter, ya’ll know she’s one of the OG clapback queens!

Bonus Read:

 

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How Do We Feel

The Broadway Black Purge of 2016 And All That Followed

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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Julieta Cervantes

I remember writing a piece last year sharing my excitement for the upcoming 2015-2016 Broadway season. I was so optimistic, hopeful and amped because there were going to be so many shows starring some of my favorite Broadway Black actors. So many shows where there wasn’t going to just be one black actor in a cast of 30.

We had The Color Purple, Eclipsed, Hughie, Shuffle Along, Hamilton, The Gin Game, Amazing Grace, Motown (technically a 2016-2017 production) to join The Lion King and Kinky Boots.

I would walk down 45th street with the hugest grin on my face. Despite living deep in Bed-Stuy, I made the trek to 45th street as often as I could, because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Literally, I remember tearing up seeing all those marquees down 45th street. What a time to be alive, I thought.

45th-street-2016

Everything was great! Tony Awards came around most of my favorites were nominated, nothing could go wrong! Fast forward to now, and well it’s no secret that 45th or Broadway, in particular, isn’t looking as colorful as it was in, let’s say, March. Of the new Broadway shows to open the 2015-2016 season only, The Color Purple and Hamilton remain. As for the others, we’ve had to say tearful goodbyes to them. Some that are gratefully moving on to productions in other cities, some that had to have limited runs, some that closed for financial reasons and some that didn’t deserve to close at all.

Now, I will say this, I am fully aware that Broadway is a for-profit business I really, and truly am aware of this harsh, often sad reality and I get it  – s*** happens. That does not, however, stop me from feeling a type of way about particular shows closing especially shows that involve actors of color because HELLO WE ARE BROADWAY BLACK. This is literally our platform, to highlight shows in ways they may not otherwise get the attention. We are here to help avoid getting actors of colors names wrong, or mixing up names with pictures, or finding the worst possible picture to put up of an actor, or highlight the upcoming playwrights, directors, actors, designers that otherwise may not get the platform. That’s literally why we exist. So one can’t help but to feel a type of way when it seems the rug has been pulled from under this magical carpet ride we’ve been experiencing.

Each show has a different circumstance for leaving and I know you are probably tired of talking about it and I said I wouldn’t, but I can’t help myself. Shuffle Along shouldn’t have closed. It should still be around.  Shuffle Along should have played longer. Could it have sustained financially? Maybe. So its numbers were no Hamilton,  but have you seen the grosses for some of the other shows around (sips teas)? Check those out, then get back to me. I can’t begin to express the importance of a show like Shuffle.

I don’t know if George C. Wolfe could have predicted that America would be in the state it is in right now, but Shuffle Along came at such a convenient time. However as convenient as it was, the problem was Shuffle wasn’t popular enough. That and the producer that shall not be named, but we know who I’m talking about, is terrible.

Shuffle Along

Sure it had big names attached but I didn’t think that mattered for this show (no matter how much people want to blame it on certain people),  it’s what it stood for that mattered most. I will be frank here, Broadway audiences weren’t ready for Shuffle Along. Just like they weren’t ready 6 years ago with Scottsboro Boys. Sure people were outraged when news of the show closing went viral on social media. So many people were outraged and upset because they felt the story was important and needed to be told. However, I don’t think there were as many of those people we’d like to think. When you have tons of people returning tickets because one person isn’t in the show, it’s kinda safe to say they weren’t there for the story, which is a complete and utter shame.

It’s also expected. I’m generalizing a bit here, but for the majority of Broadway audiences, I still think Broadway is an escape. Audiences like their Broadway light hearted with a touch of sadness to make us cry at the theater and then go home and feel good. To go and have a drink and talk about what a lovely show we saw. Shuffle wasn’t one of those shows. Shuffle made you think, it was a legitimate history lesson.

Something I’ve noticed Broadway doesn’t do well is have these difficult discussions about these plaguing issues like racial politics for example. It gets people talking for sure, but people are really uncomfortable with being uncomfortable. And that goes beyond Broadway, look at what’s happening in America now? If  we’re afraid to have these tough conversations in real time, what happens when we put it into our art?

Audiences came to Shuffle with the expectation to see some of the biggest stars on Broadway singing beautifully and to see the best tap dancing around, what they didn’t expect was for it to be laced with themes of appropriation, colorism, defiance  and a “joyous rage.” They don’t want to hear about Gershwin stealing a riff from black composer William Grant Still, they don’t want to watch black actors don blackface, they don’t want to talk about how even after what seemed to be success the history of Shuffle Along would fall into obscurity because it’s uncomfortable. It hits a nerve we don’t want to yet talk about.

Shuffle Along was extremely ambitious and everyone involved knew this which is why night after night they poured their hearts and souls into it. Sadly, that just wasn’t enough.  After all I’m still convinced black shows do well when exploiting our pain or plight, ironically which Shuffle Along points out “they love to see our love of dixie and watermelon but not our love of each other.”  Shuffle Along dared to challenge the status quo and I saw it as the most liberating show I’ve ever seen on Broadway. As I watched Shuffle play its final show on Sunday,  I couldn’t help but connect what these characters were saying to the context of today (Let’s talk about that Baton Rouge/gun line huh?) and how pretty much it’s happening all over again.

Call me upset or bitter, all which I very much am, but I would be foolish to not acknowledge that I’m grateful this show was able to come to life at all. I think I’ve said it a million times this story was needed, it was important. I thank God that he brought Shuffle Along into my life when he did because this was the show I didn’t know I needed. It forced me to research more to become a better researcher, artist, teacher, future theater owner and producer. This show filled me with so much hope that I needed and I couldn’t be more grateful. It just sucks that those who weren’t fortunate enough to make it to NYC these last five months, aren’t able to see all that it was. However, unlike the song “They Won’t’ Remember You” this time with Shuffle, there are hundreds of thousands that will never forget this work, and I can’t wait to see it resurface again in the future. (This time maybe with more producers of color and maybe a black theater owner !!)

Even in the midst of our tearful goodbyes, we still have hope in what we do have such as Hamilton which is still crushing it night after night and we can’t wait till Brandon takes over as Burr! The Color Purple is still solid which I’m grateful for because that show is a revelation. We have a few shows opening next season such as Jitney (FINALLY!) , Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 starring Denee Benton, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory ( looking to cast an African-American as Violet), and who knows what else (Fingers crossed they can go ahead and bring the LA production of Ma Rainey this way). I just hope 2015-2016 wasn’t a fluke, but looking at this next season it sure is looking like one.

I say this because I grew up loving Broadway and everything about it. Therefore like James Baldwin says about America ” I love Broadway more than anything and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

This is my critique, do better Broadway. I know you can, you’ve proven you can, just do better.

Sound off below! What were your favorites from the season? What were you sad to see go?

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Broadway Black TV

Renee Elise Goldsberry Cast In HBOs “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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Work, Work!

Tony Award winner Renee Elise Goldsberry, who recently announced her departure from Hamilton this fall to film and star in new Netflix series Altered Carbon, is staying #booked. The actress was just cast in the title role to star opposite Oprah Winfrey in HBO Films The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Goldsberry will play Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman whose cells were used to create the first immortal human cell line. Told through the eyes of her daughter, Deborah Lacks (played by Winfrey), the film chronicles her search to learn about the mother she never knew and to understand how the unauthorized harvesting of Lacks’ cancerous cells in 1951 led to unprecedented medical breakthroughs, changing countless lives and the face of medicine forever.

Based on Rebecca Skloot’s 2011 best-seller, veteran and favorite Broadway Black director-producer George C. Wolfe (Shuffle AlongAngels In America) wrote the adaptation and will direct.

Oprah Winfrey and Carla Gardini executive produce through Harpo Films and Skloot is co-executive producer.

Henrietta Lacks’ sons David Lacks, Jr. and Zakariyya Rahman; her granddaughter Jeri Lacks; and her grandchildren Alfred Carter Jr. and LaTonya Carter are consultants on the project as well.

I remember reading this book the summer between my freshman and sophomore year and being brought to tears because this woman’s life changed medicine forever and at the same time her family was struggling to afford health insurance. Grappling with the idea of what happens to your body, what people can do when you die was haunting me for years. It’s about time this story gets the screen adaption it deserves and we couldn’t be happier that Renee, Oprah, and George get to tell the story.

No premiere date has been announced yet, but keep following Broadway Black for the latest updates.

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Twitter : @BroadwayBlack

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