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Ledisi, Amber Iman, Jamar Williams & More Star in Witness Uganda West Coast Premiere

Jamar Williams, Ledisi, & Amber Iman set to star in Witness Uganda
Drew Shade

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The documentary musical, Witness Uganda, by Matt Gould and Griffin Matthews will make its west coast premiere at The Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts. After a successful Off-Broadway run as Invisible Thread, this new and revised production with direction by Matthews and music direction by Gould will run Tuesday, February 5 – Sunday, February 24, 2019, in The Wallis’s Lovelace Studio Theater.

Taking it back to the original title, Witness Uganda will star twelve-time Grammy nominee, Ledisi as Rain Lady/Church Lady, Hamilton alum & Off Book Podcast co-host Amber Iman as Joy,  and original cast member of Invisible Thread Jamar Williams now takes on the role of Griffin.

“This production gets back to the roots of Witness Uganda,” says Gould, and Matthews adds, “We’re excited to share this raw, real story about the complexity of helping others. It feels more relevant now than ever.

The cast also features Emma Hunton (Ryan), Kameron Richardson (Jacob), Naärai (Grace), Sha’leah Nikole (Eden), Dexter Darden (Ibrahim), Jordan Barrow (Ronny), Jai’len Josey (Vocalist/Understudy for Rain Lady/Church Lady) and Antwone Barnes, Kennan D Washington and Thurzday holding down the ensemble.

Ledisi will not perform on the evening of Friday, February 15 and for both shows on Sunday, February 17. In her absence, Jai’len Josey will play the roles of Rain Lady/Church Lady.

Witness Uganda will be choreographed by Abdur-Rahim Jackson, with music supervision by Remy Kurs, set design by Connor MacPhee, lighting design by David Hernandez, costumes by Carlton Jones and sound design by Martin Carillo. Assistant Director is Mark Jacob Chaitin, and Stage Manager is Sara Sahin.

Based on a true story, Witness Uganda follows Griffin, a New York City-based American volunteer, as he arrives in Uganda to help build a village school and escape his church’s condemnation of his sexuality. When he falls into a complicated relationship with a group of destitute, orphaned teenagers, he finds himself driven by a mission that will change his and their lives forever. From the rolling hills of the Ugandan countryside to a stifling apartment in New York City, from a joyous celebration of African youth to a terrifying abduction 8,000 miles away, Witness Uganda explores the question, “is changing the world even possible?”

Witness Uganda has been performed in concert by Gould and Matthews around the country and around the world since 2008. It had its world premiere at Harvard University’s American Repertory Theater in 2014 and premiered off-Broadway at New York City’s Second Stage Theater under the name Invisible Thread, both under the direction of Tony winner Diane Paulus. Witness Uganda has helped to raise over $275,000 for UgandaProject, an organization founded by Matthews and co-directed by Gould that sponsors the education of a group of students living in Kampala, Uganda. Both Matthews and Gould have each spent time living and working in Africa. Gould was a Peace Corps volunteer in The Islamic Republic of Mauritania from 2001 to 2003, and Griffin first went to Uganda in 2005 on an aid trip. For more than a decade since, the two have visited Uganda. They created Witness Uganda based on interviews with UgandaProject staff and students, weaving music through the words of the people.

Founder/Editor-In-Chief of BroadwayBlack.com | Actor | Artist | 1/3 of @OffBookPodcast | Theatre connoisseur | All Audra Everything | Caroline over Change | I'm Not Charl Brown | Norm Lewis is my play cousin | Producing an all-black production of Mame starring Jenifer Lewis in my head

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Cast List

35th Powerhouse Season: Casting Announced for Musical Workshop Goddess & More!

Broadway Black

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Cast of Goddess for 35th Powerhouse Theater Season

Vassar & New York Stage and Film have announced additional casting for the 35th Powerhouse Season in Poughkeepsie, NY, which continues through SundayJuly 28. Vassar & New York Stage and Film’s Powerhouse collaboration continues to be the launching pad for some of the most groundbreaking new works for the American theater. Dozens of celebrated projects trace their roots to Powerhouse and New York Stage and Film, including Hadestown, currently on Broadway; the Lynn Nottage musical The Secret Life of Bees off-Broadway at Atlantic Theater Company, & Colman Domingo’s Lights Out: Nat “King” Cole at the Geffen Playhouse.

Musical Workshop – Goddess

Goddess, the third musical workshop presentation of the 2019 Powerhouse season (July 26-28), conceived by Saheem Ali, music and lyrics by Michael Thurber, book by Jocelyn Bioh, additional lyrics by Mkhululi Z. Mabija, and directed by Saheem Ali; will feature Phoenix Best (Dear Evan Hansen), Rodrick Covington (Once On This Island), Amber Iman (Shuffle Along…, Soul Doctor), Janelle McDermoth (A Bronx Tale), Drama Desk Award winner Abena Mensah-Bonsu (School Girls; or, The African Mean Girls Play), Adesola Osakalumi (Fela!), Lance Roberts (My Fair Lady, “Yo Gabba Gabba!”), Avery Smith (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical), and Antoine L. Smith (CarouselMiss Saigon).

A young man returns home to the African coastal city of Mombasa, Kenya, to marry his betrothed and step into his family’s political dynasty. But when he visits Moto Moto – a steamy afro-jazz club and the stomping ground of his youth – he finds himself drawn to a beautiful, mysterious new singer. Soon, he must decide whether to fulfill the legacy of his lineage, or give in to his love of music and a newfound attraction.  A story of love, destiny, the spirit world and the power of passion, inspired by the ancient myth of Marimba, the goddess of music.

performances 
July 26th at 8pm
July 27th at 8pm
July 28th at 2pm
July 28th at 7pm

Play Workshop – The Best We Could

The Best We Could (a family tragedy), the second ‘Inside Look’ Play Workshop of the season (July 25-27), by Emily Feldman and directed by Daniel Aukin, will feature Drama Desk Award winner Eboni Booth(Dance Nation), Drama Desk Award nominee Kristin Griffith (The Fatal Weakness), Tyrone Mitchell Henderson (Much Ado About Nothing), Drama Desk Award nominee Lisa Joyce (“Insecure,” The Ugly One), and Tony Award winner Frank Wood (NetworkThe Iceman Cometh).

A daughter’s road trip with her father becomes a theatrical journey across more than just state lines. This funny, wise, and heartbreaking debut from an exciting new writer will be brought to vibrant life by director Daniel Aukin.

performances 
July 25th at 8pm
July 26th at 8pm
July 27th at 2pm

 

July Reading – The Excavation of Mary Anning

 

The Excavation of Mary Anning, the seventh reading of the season (July 21 at 4pm), by Ian August and directed by Sammi Cannold, will feature Sami Bray (1984School of Rock), Alejandra Escalante (Tee’d Off), Vanessa Kai (credits), Amy Jo Jackson (Theresa & Allison), Nike Kadri (credits), and Patrena Murray (Gloria: A Life).

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Cast List

Shoshana Bean Will Return To Broadway In Waitress

Drew Shade

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Now, this may seem off-kilter but trust me, it’s not. The producers of Broadway musical Waitress have announced today that Shoshana Bean will take over the role of Jenna on March 18 and will be in the show through May 12, 2019.

Shoshana Bean is a treasure. Her vocal ability and overall presence is a gift that keeps on giving.  She was last seen in concert with Cynthia Erivo at The Apollo Theatre and also slaying all the tracks with Mykal Kilgore on the new Songs for a New World remake album. Her latest album Spectrum landed her at #1 on the Billboard Jazz Charts & she made her Broadway debut in the original cast of Hairspray and starred as the first replacement for Elphaba in Wicked. Most recently in the theatre, she appeared as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl and as Cee-Cee Bloom in the new musical adaptation of Beaches.

Shoshana Bean said, “I am thrilled to be coming back to the New York stage in such a special role and show! To get to tell this beautiful woman’s story and sing this extraordinary score is an honor.”

Waitress tells the story of Jenna, a waitress and expert pie-maker who dreams of a way out of her small town and rocky marriage. Pouring her heart into her pies, she crafts desserts that mirror her topsy-turvy life such as “ The Key (Lime) to Happiness Pie” and “Betrayed By My Eggs Pie.” When a baking contest in a nearby county — and a satisfying run-in with someone new — show Jenna a chance at a fresh start, she must find the courage to seize it. Change is on the menu, as long as Jenna can write her own perfectly personal recipe for happiness. 

Shoshana will take over the role of Jenna from Stephanie Torns and joins Charity Angél Dawson as Becky & Lenne Klingaman as Dawn. Find out more at waitressthemusical

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