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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

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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Cast List

Adrienne Warren Will Star In Tina The Tina Turner Musical On Broadway

Drew Shade

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Adrienne Warren as Tina Turner in the West End cast of TINA Photo by Manuel Harlan

Adrienne Warren Photo by Ted Ely

As previously reportedTina the musical about the iconic entertainer Tina Turner will be headed to Broadway this fall. Announced today, Adrienne Warren who currently stars in the production on The West End through April 13, 2019, will reprise her role for the upcoming Broadway production.

Also released today, the first single from the upcoming Tina – The Tina Turner Musical cast album, featuring Adrienne Warren performing the iconic song “River Deep – Mountain High”. Warren is featured on an accompanying music video of the single also released today. Watch the video below.

“Working on this show has been a life-changing experience for me. Tina’s unshakable courage, grace, and determination have been our constant inspiration, and I am honored to have had the opportunity to be part of this telling of her story. It has been an amazing year in London, working with the incredible Phyllida Lloyd, Katori Hall, and the creative team, in a city that has welcomed me with open arms. Returning home to Broadway, in this role and in this show, is a dream come true”. – Adrienne Warren

Tina Turner in the rehearsal room for TINA Photo by Hugo Glendinning

“I’m so proud of everything that Adrienne has achieved over the last year in the West End. She has given it everything she’s got, she has poured her soul into it, and she deserves every success. I am thrilled she will be reprising her role in New York, and I cannot wait to see her on that Broadway stage on Opening Night.” – Tina Turner

Dates, venue, and additional casting for Broadway will be announced at a later date

The musical features the original discography of Turner with a book written by Katori Hall (The Mountaintop) with Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins and directed by Phyllida Lloyd

The creative team also includes choreography by Anthony van Laast, with set and costume designs by Mark Thompson, musical supervision, additional music and arrangements by Nicholas Skilbeck, lighting by Bruno Poet, sound by Nevin Steinberg, projection design by Jeff Sugg and orchestrations by Ethan Popp.

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