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On Wednesday, Broadway Black broke the news of Okieriete “Oak” Onaodowan’s departure from the The Great Comet, and being replaced by theatre vet Mandy Patinkin, citing low ticket sales as the cause for the abrupt decision. The news sparked outrage from the Theatre community, with many citing ramped issues with diversity and how the underlying issue of race seemed to be playing a role.

Several actors, writers and producers jumped to the defense of Oak, Rafael Casal, who condemned the theatre community in a series of tweets.

 

#TheGreatComet quickly became a nationally trending topic. The amount of backlash quickly reached Producer Howard Kagan, who spoke about the decision and responded to the outrage by stating:

“This continues our show’s remarkable history of having great actors and singers see the show as audience members, only to tell us they are inspired to join the cast! Whenever possible we will accommodate them as we did here with Mandy and his Homeland TV schedule. Oak, who was scheduled to appear as Pierre for this period graciously agreed to make room for Mandy, and we sincerely hope that Oak will return to us in the fall or winter. He is a terrific Pierre.”

 

Oak, released a separate statement, letting us all know the break up was not as fluffy as Kagan made it seem. He stated:

I always try to speak from my heart with love after listening. I have listened. I’m more than grateful for all the love and support the community and fans have shown me.  It makes what we do and deal with as artists easier when you know many people do indeed have your back and that you are valued for your work. In spite of everything, I am grateful to have had the time to bring this character to life with a remarkable cast that truly make the Imperial Theater a sacred place every night.  My pops would always tell me to be aware of the company you keep.  I’m fully aware of the remarkable talents this cast holds, with Denee at the helm.  My work is just a reflection of what they bring, have brought and will continue to bring, be it me, Mandy, whomever is co-pilot to Denee. AUGUST 13th WILL BE MY LAST SHOW! I will not be returning. So make room in your schedule between now and Aug 13th. Come through, have a drink, and let’s celebrate the time we have because as always, that’s all we are guaranteed.  We make the most of the gifts we are given and I’m driven to deliver a defining moment in time, with every line I let loose on stage. #MynameisOak #TheHomiesRollDEEP #TheFansMadeRoom #WeAreTheChange #IPierredAndProspered #MyPierreWillPerish #August13th #OnwardsAndUpwords #KatyPerry #SkateyPierre?

A post shared by TheIncredibleOak (@oaksmash) on

“I always try to speak from my heart with love after listening. I have listened. I’m more than grateful for all the love and support the community and fans have shown me. It makes what we do and deal with as artists easier when you know many people do indeed have your back and that you are valued for your work. In spite of everything, I am grateful to have had the time to bring this character to life with a remarkable cast that truly make the Imperial Theater a sacred place every night. My pops would always tell me to be aware of the company you keep. I’m fully aware of the remarkable talents this cast holds, with Denee [Benton] at the helm. My work is just a reflection of what they bring, have brought and will continue to bring, be it me, Mandy, whomever is co-pilot to Denee. AUGUST 13th WILL BE MY LAST SHOW! I will not be returning. So make room in your schedule between now and Aug 13th. Come through, have a drink, and let’s celebrate the time we have because as always, that’s all we are guaranteed. We make the most of the gifts we are given and I’m driven to deliver a defining moment in time, with every line I let loose on stage.”

Following the brief silence from Wednesday, in a turn of events reported by The New York Times this afternoon, Mandy has decided to step down from the show citing the concerns with race, and the backlash from the theatre community. He states

“My understanding of the show’s request that I step into the show is not as it has been portrayed and I would never accept a role knowing it would harm another actor. I hear what members of the community have said and I agree with them. I am a huge fan of Oak and I will, therefore, not be appearing in the show.”

According to the New York Times, they were blindsided by the decision and have not announced any next steps with the show. However, producers of Great Comet, led by lead producers Howard and Janet Kagan, did issue an official apology stating:

“As part of our sincere efforts to keep ‘Comet’ running for the benefit of its cast, creative team, crew, investors and everyone else involved, we arranged for Mandy Patinkin to play Pierre. However, we had the wrong impression of how Oak felt about the casting announcement and how it would be received by members of the theater community, which we appreciate is deeply invested in the success of actors of color – as are we – and to whom we are grateful for bringing this to our attention. We regret our mistake deeply, and wish to express our apologies to everyone who felt hurt and betrayed by these actions.”

Stay tuned for updates as this is story continues to unfold…

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