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James Earl Jones and Donald Glover Join Live-Action Lion King Remake

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In today’s latest “we didn’t know we needed this until now” news, Variety has reported that recent Golden Globe-winner Donald Glover will lead the upcoming live-action Disney remake of The Lion King, directed by John Favreau, as Simba. Additionally joining him is original Mufasa himself, James Earl Jones, reprising the role he voiced in the 1994 animated film. And we couldn’t be more thrilled!

Favreau expressed his excitement on Twitter.

Tony and Emmy-winner Jones, one of the most distinguished actors of all time, reappeared on Broadway last season opposite Cicely Tyson in The Gin Game. Prior to that, his career has spanned more than 60 years.

No word yet on whether or not this will include songs, like its predecessor, or if it will incorporate live-action with a mix of CGI. Jeff Nathanson will provide the screenplay.

Loosely based on Hamlet, the Oscar-winning film tells the story of a young lion cub who flees his home into exile following the murder of his father by his power-hungry uncle. With the help of a ragtag duo and his childhood friend, an adult Simba must learn to face the past and accept his role as King of the Pridelands.

Featuring music by Elton John and Tim Rice, the animated feature has subsequently spawned two sequels, a spin-off, several animated television series, two Walt Disney Parks and Resorts attractions, and a Tony and Olivier Award-winning Broadway musical.

Now in its 20th year, The Lion King is the third longest running show on Broadway, with multi-lingual productions all over the world. With direction by Julie Taymor, it received five Tony Awards, including “Best Musical,” and has since grossed over $1 billion dollars, the highest of any show ever.

Scar and Mufasa face off in The Lion King.

Image: Joan Marcus

The Lion King is only one of many of Disney’s upcoming live-action features, including Mulan, Dumbo, Winnie the Pooh, The Little Mermaid, Pinocchio, and the widely-anticipated Beauty and the Beast, featuring Audra McDonald, in theaters next March.

In relation to his on-screen father, Glover will also make an appearance in another Disney movie, the Star Wars Han Solo spin-off, which has begun shooting.

Glover, also a rapper under the name “Childish Gambino,” won two Golden Globes for his critically-acclaimed show Atlanta on FX. We already know he’ll kill it as one of the most beloved characters of the Disney Renaissance.

(Calling it now: Cynthia Erivo as Nala. Make it happen).

Dream-cast. Go!

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Just Wow!

West Side Story’s Cool Reimagined by Los York Studios And It’s Pretty… Cool!

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Photo: Youtube

As described in their mission statement, Los York is “an integrated production company that executes live action, design, and experimental projects.” An older project of the company resurfaced recently, a reimagined rendition of West Side Story‘s “Cool” scene, is now circulating throughout the internet. The Emmy Award winner and director of the video, Seth Epstein has brilliantly captured the story of rivalry within two different ethnic groups, but this time with more melanin!

The video also features music by Jimek (Run the World Dave Aude Club Remix), and choreography by Keone and Mari Madrid (SYTYCD).

The electrifying footwork, where pirouettes are replaced with pop locking and break dancing in the place of battements, provides hope for bridging racial gaps and relieving tensions. This style is more interpretive, with urban based movements that add an extra layer to some of the barriers printed in the original 1957 production.One thing that I appreciate about the classic musical West Side Story is its transcendent nature and ability to comfortably conform to whatever generation of interest.

Above all else, West Side Story is a love story, a modernized interpretation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The timelessness in the modernized story–tension between two lovers of opposite gangs–reveals past and present issues found in American society however old and reoccurring they may be. The Los York video demonstrates that flexibility and once again creates an even bigger space for a fabulous classic.

Watch for yourself!

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Just Wow!

Stunning First Look of Condola Rashad as Joan of Arc Met with Racist Fury

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Previously it was announced that three-time Tony nominee Condola Rashad would star on Broadway in Saint Joan, playing the iconic role of “Joan of Arc.” However, it was the first look photo, released this weekend by Manhattan Theatre Club, that caused quite the stir. Broadway is no stranger to rolling the dice with shaking up the race and gender of a role, yet this time the response was immediate and toxic, and even racist at times. As commentary flooded social media, people questioned the appropriateness of changing the race of the 15th-century heroine from white to black, and if changing historical black characters to white would ever be acceptable. According to Shadow and Act, Rashad is only the second black actress to play Saint Joan on Broadway, the first being Diana Sands (the original Beneatha Younger in the stage and film versions of A Raisin in the Sun) in the 1968 Broadway revival.

Gorgeous, right?!

 


…and these are just a few reactions, some receiving more attention than the original post.

The theatre has always been a place of challenging the status quo across gender, sex, and race, changing the identity of characters to create new storylines and ways of thought around lived experiences. Broadway has long stood as one of the first places where social change can take place in a more radical sense to be dispersed to the masses, and appreciated.

In response to some of the “outrage”, Manhattan Theatre Club released this statement to Broadway Black:

“Manhattan Theatre Club is proud to be producing Bernard Shaw’s timeless and powerful play SAINT JOAN on Broadway at our Friedman Theatre starting performances April 3rd.

The role of Joan has been played on Broadway by some of the finest actresses of their generation and we are thrilled that Condola Rashad will continue that tradition and star in our production directed by Daniel Sullivan.”

This is not the first instance of a show changing the race of a cast to present historical figures in a different light. In 2016, the musical Hamilton took the history of the founding fathers and flipped it entirely on its head. Rather than cast white actors, historical figures like Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton, George Washington and others were played by African Americans and Latino’s; using rap as the vessel of dialogue in the play discussing the birth of America, and life of Alexander Hamilton after the revolutionary war. The play took home 11 Tony Awards and was the first sign of a noted shift in how actors of color could play roles traditionally meant for white actors, and excel.

In 2017, Once on This Island debuted with a spin on traditionally hetero black characters, bringing in Tony Award winner for Miss Saigon, Lea Salonga to play Erzulie, and Alex Newell of Glee fame to play Mother Nature. They also decided to take the role of Papa Ge, traditionally played by a black man and cast Merle Dandridge. Director Michael Arden stated “In casting the Gods that inhabit our island, it became imperative for me to break expectations and stretch beyond the bounds in which Gods are traditionally represented. It felt important that young people watching our production see themselves reflected back from the stage at them. The Gods are simply that: Gods. They are not bound by gender, race, sexuality or being human at all. I’m so very pleased to be collaborating with these four artists exploring the important and timely themes of this musical through their unique and incredible abilities.”

It is necessary for Broadway to continue to show representation and visibility in a new light, continuing to break barriers and stereotypes in an effort to create change in the way we see one another in society. As roles for actors of color are limited, they are often placed in situations where they must audition for characters traditionally played by white actors and actresses. Furthermore, Broadway continues to struggle with green lighting new productions that call for casting that requires actors of color. As diverse as the 2016 Tony Awards was, 2017 reverted back to the “Great White Way” seeing James Earl Jones received an untelevised lifetime achievement award, and August Wilson’s Jitney take home Best Revival of a Play.

James Earl Jones’ Entire Lifetime Achievement Award Acceptance Speech

Sunday evening, the incredibly brilliant multi-talented Mr. James Earl Jones, received the Special Tony Award for his lifetime achievements on the Broadway Stage. Unfortunately, the Tony Awards decided to air only a taped portion of Mr. Jones speech rather than allowing him to speak live, …

Condola Rashad continues to wow audiences in every role she has ever tackled, and this will be no different. Broadway Black is excited to see Ms. Rashad take on the lead role of heroine Joan of Arc, where her performance and not her race will be the main talk of the town.

Saint Joan is set to begin previews at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on Broadway April 3, 2018, ahead of an April 25 opening. The show will complete MTC’s 2017–2018 season lineup.

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