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Oscar-Nominated Film Hidden Figures Eyeing Broadway?

Malia West

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Rumor has it that our Oscar-nominated Hidden Figures might see the light of Broadway! In an interview with ITN, Janelle Monae, who plays Mary Jackson, let it slip that a Broadway musical might be a possibility. The movie itself hosts a great deal of musical talent from Pharrell to Monae, even Octavia Spencer shows off her beautiful voice. Can you see the possibility?

Hidden Figures moved us, it made us laugh, and it inspired our best selves. The story and its subjects were virtually unknown before the movie’s release, but that didn’t stop it from beating out classics like Star Wars and leading the box office at $185 million.

So, how can we bring this breadth of success to Broadway? It’s all about the team, and I’ve got the perfect one!

Katori Hall writing the book, without a doubt! She has captivated us many times with work like The Mountaintop and Hurt Village. Her brilliance is no secret and she knows how to render any emotion with the clever combination of 26 letters and a whole lot of heart. She’s also showing her musical chops as she leads the anticipated Tina: The Musical to its rumored 2018 Broadway premiere.

To complement the sass and hilarity that Hall will bring to the table, I offer Pharrell, Brenda Russell and Allee Willis for lyrics and music. Together they have the ingenuity and experience to craft powerful music for a staged adaptation. Pharrell composed the box office hit and Russel and Willis have created the powerful music for The Color Purple alongside Stephen Bray.

Not only can they make you weep, these women know how to make you move. Their individual careers are enough to make me say yes! Earth, Wind and Fire, Patti Labelle and How Stella Got Her Groove Back all said yes to their talents, so I will too!

Now, call me crazy, but I believe Hidden Figures has a lot of potential for dance. Every moment of frenzy and every computation is a moment for movement. So while the movie doesn’t exactly scream  “dance break,” it has the makings of a musical that brings energy to the ordinary. And although she’s no ordinary woman, the famous Debbie Allen is definitely the choreographer for the job. Her time in Hollywood has left her with dozens of credits from playing Anita in West Side Story to choreographing The Academy Awards six years in a row! Ms. Allen has the depth, experience, and vision to insert dance into this powerful story.

Finally, who should be our fearless director? Not only does Hidden Figures boast a passionate script, but it’s accompanied by fantastic visuals. Who can turn a Broadway stage into NASA’s campus and recreate Katherine Johnson’s iconic cross-campus bathroom trek? Who can take us to the edge of the Earth as John Glenn makes his descent?

Ladies and gentleman, I give you Kenny Leon. We’ve always known Leon to be a great director, he’s directed classics like Aida and Radio Golf, and even Katori Halls’ The Mountaintop. But it’s not Kenny’s history that makes him the obvious choice, it’s his future. Leon has incredible foresight and is a master at communicating with audiences. Furthermore, he brings the best out in actors and he works tirelessly to deliver truth and diversity to Broadway audiences. Under Leon’s direction, the theatre community will praise the names of Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Dorothy Vaughan, like they should’ve in 1962.

So there’s that, I’ve given you the perfect creative team! Now I’ll give you some homework. Who would you cast to portray our Hidden Figures? Should the show honor the movie’s message with fresh new faces, or do you think your Broadway favorites are up for the task! Comment below with your Hidden Figures dream cast!

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Is This Real Life or Is It Fantasy? ‘The Soul Of Richard Rodgers’

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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Minding my business, scrolling through Instagram and I stumble across a picture Princess Amber Iman put up of Billy Porter directing something. Cool, I think. As we know Billy is not only a talented actor/singer, but he’s also established himself to be quite the director. I keep scrolling, theres a picture of Leslie Odom Jr., Mykal Kilgore, Capathia Jenkins, and Jesse Nager. Again, I think REALLY COOL, a few of my favorites. THEN, I scroll and theres a picture of Nicolette Robinson, Rema Webb, Adrienne Warren and Amber Iman and I think, OKAY WHAT IS ACTUALLY GOING ON!

Our fearless leader, the Billy Porter! #TheSoulOfRogers

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ALTO NATION! @leslieodomjr @mykalwitha_y @capathianyc @touringbwayboy #TheSoulOfRogers

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SOPRANO GORGEOUSNESS! @remawebb @nicolettekloe @adriennelwarren #TheSoulOfRogers

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Each posted needed with the the hashtag #thesoulofrogers , which reminded me of something back when I saw Leslie Odom Jr. at the McKittrick Hotel. When he casually called up Ledisi (when you wanna come back to Broadway, sis?) to the stage and she sang a Billy Porter arranged “Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered” from Richard Rodgers’ Pal Joey. Billy had arranged it as apart of a revue called The Soul of Richard Rodgers which was presented at Reprise Theater Company in LA in 2009.

So, is it possible that Billy Porter and Co. are bringing it back, this time to the east coast? One can only hope and pray that this turns out to be true and if indeed it is, I will be first in line to buy a ticket, CD, MP3 link, DVD, cassette tape, whatever is possible to hear that talented group of Broadway Black artists singing songs from one of the most brilliant composers.

Don’t worry, over here at Broadway Black we’re keeping our eyes peeled to keep YOU all in the loop. Stay Tuned.

 

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The Next Hamilton Is On The Horizon! Who Could It Possibly Be?

Tristan Halstead

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UPDATE: 6/16/2016- It has been confirmed that Javier Muñoz will, indeed, be taking over the role of Alexander Hamilton after Lin-Manuel Miranda takes his final bow (for now) on July 9th! Read below who also might be in the running somewhere in the Broadway run.

Twas the week before Tonys,
And all through Broadway,
Not a creature was stirring…

Until we finally received the impending announcement most of us have been dreading:

Lin-Manuel Miranda is leaving Hamilton.

That’s right, folks, the Tony Award-winning actor will take his final bow as Alexander Hamilton on July 9th. Yes, we’re all pretty shocked about this news, even though we all knew this day would come. But let’s be real, the guy’s had a huge year. He wants to create new work, he has a son to raise, you can’t blame him for wanting to take a… take some time to himself. I refuse to use any of those puns.

If your departure from your musical, for which you have three Tony nominations, is getting press from every outlet from the “New York Times” to “Rolling Stone,” and the world reacts, you had to have changed the musical theatre game in a massive, paramount way.

But just you wait (damn it!). Think of all of the many projects we can look forward to within the next few years! He’s officially tapped to co-star in Disney’s “Mary Poppins” sequel alongside Emily Blunt, “Mary Poppins Returns”; he’s writing music for Disney’s upcoming animated picture “Moana,” which may help him snag an Oscar, thus earning him that EGOT status; and early work for the long-awaited In the Heights film adaptation, now with The Weinstein Company after years in development Hell with Universal, will finally begin.

He’ll also probably oversee more Hamilton-related work on the US tour, London transfer, and first-ever musical production in Antarctica or something.

And if you think his leaving may somehow impact your chances of scoring a golden ticket to this Pulitzer/Grammy/future-Tony winner, fear not, my child. You’re still not getting tickets without selling an arm, a kidney, your newborn child, taking out a second mortgage, or forgoing a trip to Europe. Hell, can we talk about the fact that his final performance is currently going for $10,000 a ticket?

So, now that we’ve settled that, here’s who Broadway Black would like to see don the blue coat:

Javier Muñoz – Munoz may be the obvious choice, as he currently performs as the alternate Hamilton on select weekend performances. He also understudied and later replaced Miranda as Usnavi during In the Heights.

Corbin Bleu – This former Wildcat just announced a return to Broadway in Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn. He made his Broadway debut as another replacement (and might I add, phenomenal) Usnavi, and later played Jesus in Godspell and Seaweed in the Hollywood Bowl production of Hairspray.

Mos Def – Yasiin Bey has numerous film, television, and theatre credits to his name, including his Broadway debut in Suzan-Lori Parks’ play Topdog/Underdog.

Saul Williams – Williams recently appeared on Broadway in the ill-fated Tupac Shakur musical Holler If Ya Hear Me, alongside current Hamilton cast-member Chris Jackson.

Patina Miller – This leading lady recently scored a Tony Award for her dark turn as the Leading Player in the cirque-themed revival of Pippin. I think she’d make a fabulous Hamilton, or even Aaron Burr, as he’s essentially Hamilton‘s “Leading Player.”

Common – While many found his acting questionable in “The Wiz Live!” (I thought he was adorable), who’s to say he wouldn’t be able to brilliantly capture the nuance and swag that the tomcat Hamilton exudes?

Jussie Smollett – Smollett attempted some rapping in the hit musical television show “Empire.” Perhaps he could bring his talents to Broadway.

Renée Elise Goldsberry – She’s currently “work, work”-ing it as Angelica Schuyler, for which she’s nominated a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical, but what’s stopping her from possibly moving on from one fierce role to gender bending another (Lena Hall as Hedwig, anyone?).

Drake – Or as I know him, Aubrey Graham, or better yet, Jimmy Brooks of “Degrassi” fame. He did get his start in the long-running Canadian teen drama show, after all. And most of us know this wouldn’t be the first time he’s played a character who gets sh…. Yeah… moving right along…

Queen Latifah – I mean, come on. She could tackle either Hamilton or Washington and I’d believe it. #queen4ham

TBH, they wouldn’t have to cast a big name in any of the roles to bring in an audience to this behemoth. But rest assured Lin, to whomever you pass the torch, A.Ham is in good hands.

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How Do You Solve A Hiatus Like Audra?

Tavia Riveè

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Taking over a lead role early in the run of a high cost, highly anticipated musical could be daunting for any performer.  Taking over the lead role for an actress with more Tony awards than any other woman in history could be down right horrific.

So, no pressure to the sweet soul who will step into Audra McDonald’s shoes in  Shuffle Along, Or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed when the six-time Tony award winner takes a scheduled hiatus June 21 – Sept. 25 to fulfill a prior commitment. And OH, what large tap-dancing shoes they are.  Here’s who we think has the chops to succeed the diva and thrill the masses while she’s away:

Adrienne Warren
We have to imagine that production knew Audra would be stepping out for a few months before completing casting and thus prepared accordingly when adding this stunning performer to the Shuffle Along roster.  This lady would be beautifully suited to assume the role of “Lottie Gee” in Audra’s absence.  Warren, who is most known for her role in Bring it On: The Musical, is a strong singer, skilled dancer and versatile actress, as seen in her roles on shows like “Blue Bloods” and “Orange is the New Black.”

Marisha Wallace
For those of you who haven’t seen Something Rotten, maybe you’re not familiar with this tap-dancing kid, but the Baptized by Broadway star is definitely a force to be reckoned with.   Not only is she a hoofin’ fool, but a powerhouse belter who could definitely keep up with the likes of Savion Glover, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Billy Porter.  Something we’d LOVE to watch.

Vanessa Williams, Brenda Braxton, Adriane Lenox
Shuffle Along could take a page out of the After Midnight book and feature a rotating lineup of special guests over the three month span to appeal to audiences in the headliner’s absence.  These three ladies are just a few of the guest entertainers who made After Midnight special and could definitely bring the same star power to the Shuffle Along stage.  Williams with that velvety voice, Braxton with those flawless moves and Lenox…just being Lenox, would each make it a beautifully unique and exciting experience.

There have been no details as to what Audra’s “prior commitment” is, but with “Hello Again!” and the “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar” HBO Special in the works, it could be anything.  McDonald will return to Shuffle Along Sept. 27, but we will be waiting with bated breathe to hear who she’ll pass the torch to and you know Broadway Black will have it first.  Hopefully, they’ll take our suggestions into consideration.  Stay tuned!

 

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What If: Mo’ Better Blues Was A Musical?

George Kevin Jordan

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It is a question I’ve asked myself hundreds of times over the course of 20 years. Why are Spike Lee’s movies not being revamped for Broadway? Stylistically it makes sense. There has always been a backdrop of magical realism to his work.

The famous floating walk as seen in many of his movies is just one of the things that suspend Lee’s film from just being about reality. Plays and musicals seem the appropriate place to heighten those moments on the stage.

And one of the biggest and easiest films to transfer to stage would be the film “Mo’ Better Blues.”

I hate to use tired phrases like “no brainer”, but….

The film already rides on a jazz and bluesy wave with music by Bill Lee, Spike’s musician father. The soundtrack was created by Bradford Marsalis and Terence Blanchard. The entire movie is about a bad-ass musician, his rival and the two loves of his life.

The movie felt like music and in a lot a ways like an August Wilson play.

Even the lighting and cinematography lends itself to the highly dramatic form with shades and shots that felt like stage spotlights.

And if all those elements weren’t compelling enough, what if you brought back both Denzel Washington and Wesley Snipes and put them on a stage together? Their chemistry was something that could not be matched and I am sure it would be the same today.  Remember we were talking about two of the biggest black male stars in Hollywood together in one film. A reunion of that magnitude would not only sell tickets but would be riveting to see in person.

It would also be intriguing to see Spike tip his hand towards stage directing. It would be fascinating to see how he works a stage to tell his story. “Mo’ Better Blues” would be a musical miracle on the stage.  If Hollywood doesn’t appreciate you Spike, the theater definitely will.

This film was made for the stage!

 

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A Must See

What If: Idlewild was a Broadway Musical

George Kevin Jordan

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You cannot understand what a Black Mecca is unless you live there. There is something about being surrounded by black folks, HBCUs and soul food every day. You can forget, for a minute, the rest of the world and all its troubles. It feels like make-believe. It is a fantasy world you never want to leave. And since we are there, let’s think for a second what we would like to go to the theater to see.

What if Outkast’s musical tribute to Georgia made its way to Broadway? “Idlewild” in 2006 was a brave move for the duo that held a firm grip on the southern hip hop movement and popular music in general. The movie musical was written and directed by Bryan Barber, a music director who cut his teeth with videos for many huge pop stars including Outkast. The film centered around a fictional place called Idlewild, Georgia and followed the antics of Percival (Andre 3000) and Rooster (Big Boi).

“Idlewild” was Barber’s film debut, and while the film may not have measured up in a cinematic or musical sense, it fused hip-hop with a medium that could easily be its great aunt. Hip Hop runs parallel with musical theater. There is bravado and showmanship and metaphor and beautiful language.

I think “Idlewild,” if put in the right hands, could soar as a Broadway musical. Even better would be to see Andre 3000 and Big Boi on stage dancing and singing their songs. The thing that makes Atlanta so special is it’s not quite hard, but definitely not soft. There are so many middle-class people here it is hard to create the type of economic and artistic desperation that pulsated through much of early hip hop, especially music originating from New York and L.A. But there is pain and suffering here, there is a religious fervor that punctuates the bassline and rhythm sections of most of Southern rap, and Outkast delivers with sweet irony. A musical version of their film would only bring that type of depth to a new height.

Will it happen? Who knows? But, for a little while, stay in this southern dream with me.

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Rodney Hicks & Krystal Joy Brown Spit Fire In The Super Bowl Mixtape

Andrew Shade

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Need to know the highlights of The Super Bowl (commercials & performances included, of course!) but you only speak musical? Well, this video is for you. Presented by The Kicker, “Sports… The Musical?” breaks down all that happened that Sunday in the form of a rap song. It’s got a little Hamilton musical flare with a touch of Carmen: The Hip Hopera. You’ll enjoy it tho. It’s a quick and funny video, you’ll be sure to get a kick out of it.

You’ll see some familiar faces in this musical comedy sketch. Rodney Hicks, best known for his roles in the original companies of RENT & Scottsboro Boys, takes on the role of a commentator. He throws a little shade at Beyonce but we’ll let him live. Also, Krystal Joy Brown, known as the last Diana Ross on Broadway in Motown: The Musical, is seen here as a moderator for the Super Bowl discussion. Watch the video below!

CAST:
Rodney Hicks as Commentator 1
Scott Richard Foster as Commentator 2
Krystal Joy Brown as Moderator

CREW:
Written by David Ingber
Producer: Todd Pellegrino & Pete Iannucilli & New Wave Entertainment
Director: Evan Kaufman
Music Composition: Brian Usifer

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