Are you ready to throw your shoe?! Or maybe catch the Holy Ghost? Either is probable when Marisha Wallace and Nick Rashad Burroughs join forces at their Feinstein’s/54 Below debut, Baptized By Broadway!
Likely due to popular demand, the Broadway stars are collaborating to bring their sanctified sound to the popular basement hangout. After their brief, yet highly re-tweeted appearance at Highline Ballroom’s Broadway Does Bruno Mars this summer, it’s a wonder the two didn’t collaborate sooner. If you’ve seen the video, just know — all of that is simply a precursor of what’s to come!
Set at the newly renamed Feinstein’s/54 Below, the concert will outline their journey growing up in a southern church to finally singing on the Great White Way. The pair is sure to excite with their array of vocal stylings including soul, gospel, jazz and, of course, showtunes. The show will also feature a special guest, Alex Newell of Glee fame.
Burroughs moved to New York a little over a year ago to make his Broadway debut in Kinky Boots as Angel/Lola understudy. He’s performed regionally in shows such as Shrek, Hairspray, and Jesus Christ Superstar which earned him a Broadway World Award for Best Local Actor in a Musical. Wallace is currently tapping herself through the Renaissance in the Tony-nominated comedy Something Rotten. Previously, she could be seen in Broadway’s Aladdin and as part of The Book of Mormon’s first national tour.
Read our exclusive interview with the duo below:
BroadwayBlack (BB): What does it mean to be Baptized By Broadway?Nick: It’s means to sit back and relax and let Marisha and I give you our version of broadway, the version that’s rooted in soul and gospel singing that no one can give you like 2 southern preachers kids can, that sound mixed with our love and passion for broadway gives you.., Baptized By BroadwayMarisha: We wanted to tell our story about the journey from our small southern towns knowing nothing about musicals. To making it to Broadway and thriving. And It is because of our faith , passion, and humor that we are here.BB: Why did you two team up? What is your relationship dynamic?Marisha: I feel like I bring the structure and soul and Nick brings you the spontaneity and passion. Together we balance each other. We both push each other to go higher and take chances.Nick: We’ve always known each other from mutual friends in NYC but it wasn’t until Corey Mach from “Broadway Sings” asked us to do a duet together in Broadway Sings Bruno Mars that the real bond began, we suddenly realized we’re and electric pair together and after a standing ovation from our duet of Run Away Baby at The Cutting Room for Broadway Sings Bruno Mars the rest was history!BB: How did Alex Newell get involved with your 54 Below debut and what can we expect from the featured guest?Nick:Alex and I became good friends from hanging out every Wednesday night at Queen of the Night for Live Band Karaoke, Belting in each other’s faces and being complete idiots together! When Marisha and I decided to do a concert together we just had to get him to sing with us. You can expect for Alex to give you some fierce Whitney Houston that night.BB: What have you discovered to be the most useful tool in your career?Marisha: Being true to your self in every way, and using what makes you different as your strength.BB: Will Aunt Viv be ready to serve?Nick: Oh absolutely, get ready to dance!
— Broadway Black (@BroadwayBlack) November 2, 2015
BB: What was your first experience singing a solo in church?Nick: Well for me it started very early for me being a preachers kid, I was 6 when I song my first big solo in church and I sang holy is the lamb by Oleta Adams and I knew from that day on I had a passion for performing.Marisha: I forgot all the words to a Shirley cesar song and cried. I was five years old. I never forgot the words again.
Are you ready to be Baptized By Broadway? Use our discount code for tickets to see @marishawallace & @nickrburroughs over at @54below! Read our exclusive interview with the duo only at BroadwayBlack.com!
A photo posted by BroadwayBlack (@broadwayblack) on
Named for “Great American Songbook” creator Michael Feinstein, Feinstein’s/ 54 Below has become one of the premiere destinations for Broadway performers and fans alike. While it is famous for its informal cabarets led by esteemed theater vets, it’s also become a wonderful venue for young performers to sharpen their skills and build their network.
We Were There: Sojourners & Her Portmanteau
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Playwright, educator, opera singer, and Queen, Mfoniso Udofia has two plays running at New York Theatre Workshop. *pause* TWO PLAYS. In the SAME season!?!? *ends congratulatory gasp* Sojourners and Her Portmanteau are performed in repertory, as two chapters of Udofia’s sweeping, nine-part saga, The Ufot Cycle. Admittedly, before researching each show, I didn’t know the definition of either word; and in the spirit of keeping it consistent with the honesty, I didn’t like either play. I loved them.
Minimalism seems to be the name of the game these days. I sat down to a completely black stage, sans a multimedia display lodged on the ceiling at a 45-degree angle. Clutching my all white program and bobbing my head to the ‘70s pop rock pre-show music, I prepared my heart for the story of Sojourners, well at least that was the plan. The stage begins to rotate and we meet Abasiama (Chinasa Ogbuagu) and Ukpong (Hubert Point-Du Jour), Nigerian expatriates sojourning in Houston, Texas with the plan to start a family, earn their degrees, and go back to Nigeria until life happens.
Charming and handsome, Ukpong becomes defined by his leather jacket, shoulder work and shimmy which match the fascination and yearning for freedom that illuminates his eyes every time he talks of peace, protest, and Prince–all shaping his view of 1970s America, and consequently, the American Dream. But does leather compensate for grit? Is a movement or vibe really a panacea for disappointment, aimlessness, and a need to find yourself? Abasiama enters the play pregnant, purposed, and outfitted in pieces of Nigerian garb, grounded in duty showing a stark contrast to Ukpong who floats in desire. What’s lost in your household is found elsewhere, and this is when we start to see, and root for, Abasiama’s transformation from timid to tenacious.
Enter Moxie (Lakisha May), a colorful prostitute turned protector and friend. There is a mutual respect despite great differences between her and Abasiama, with their love for one another creating moments that make you believe in the beauty of humanity. Enter Disciple (Chinaza Uche), another warm and determined hearted immigrant who has come to the United States to study, rounding out the timely additions of love, support, and security when Abasiama needed them the most.
Through and through this is Abasiama’s story and she glows. Her kindness, her sisterhood, her strength, her worthiness, and the realization of her American Dream, guide her decisions—which is the catalyst behind the entire Ufot Cycle.
Her “portmanteau”, or red suitcase, makes a return as 30 years have passed. Abasiama now has two daughters, one raised in America and the other who has come from Nigeria to reconnect with her family.
This is a good moment to mention that each story is informed by the other, but can certainly stand alone on substance, content, and the amazing direction of Ed Sylvanus Iskandar. The staging is exciting and deliberate, while minimal, putting the full focus on the tension and growth to be expected of a family reunited after a substantial amount of time and distance.
Chinasa Ogbuagu returns to the stage, this time as the American-born daughter, Adiagha Ufot, Adepero Oduye as Iniabasi Ekpeyoung (Ukpong and Abasiama’s daughter), and Jenny Jules as the mother, Abasiama Ufot.
Seated on a couch in Adiagha’s small New York Apartment, no amount of preparation readies your mind and spirit to form the words to make up for 30 years of life, connection, and memories missed. We’re taken on a ride of resentment, hurt, love, and forgiveness, as the portmanteau is literally unpacked. We watch the teeter-tottering between offense and defense as one sister tries to assimilate into American culture, and the other attempts, albeit stubbornly, to fall in formation in honoring a family she shares blood with, but little time or tangible history.
It’s powerful to see a story of history and continuing a legacy despite lost time, faulty promises, and difficult choices explored with an all-woman cast as far too often the idea of legacy is framed in patriarchy. Jules admirably takes Abasiama through the fire to heal, to feel, and to fix her family. The narrative allows us to empathize and understand the struggle that comes with upholding family values versus cultivating a space to achieve personal dreams and happiness.
Her Portmanteau (and Sojourners) is written in a way that finds your soul, gently massaging it with humor, while leaving it with very real questions. I’ve never felt a greater need to binge read nine stories and simultaneously study the story of my own family tree. I left changed. I left wrapped in the strength of my mom and my mom’s- mom’s sacrifice. I left pensive and with seeds of future forgiveness planted. I left changed.
For capturing our hearts with wit and with truth. For putting Black women at the center of a poignant narrative. For unapologetically telling a story you haven’t seen told and telling it in the way you want it to be told.
We thank you Mfoniso. We thank you.
Have you seen the #duetplays? Sound off in the comments below![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Our Story in 2 Plays for 1 Price: Mfoniso Udofia’s Sojourners & Her Portmanteau
Last winter, we reported on Sojourners by playwright Mfoniso Udofia, a new play about a Nigerian family who has come to America with the goal of earning a college education, starting a family, and returning to Nigeria. But not without the twists and turns that come along with every plan that seems straightforward.
Thanks to New York Theatre Workshop, we get to relive this moment and continue the dialogue, decades later, with Her Portmanteau. Performed in repertory, these two chapters of Udofia’s sweeping, nine-part saga, The Ufot Cycle, chronicle the triumphs and losses of the tenacious matriarch of a Nigerian family.
Ed Sylvanus Iskandar directs the two-part story in association with The Playwrights Realm, who premiered Sojourners last winter in a limited engagement world premiere production. Her Portmanteau also received the 2016 Edgerton Foundation New Play Award grant.
As if that wasn’t enough to get excited about, we have an exclusive deal for our Broadway Black readers!
Our Story in 2 Plays for 1 Price!
Yes. That’s two shows for one price! The discount code BWYBLACK will take 50% off tickets to ANY performance(s) if purchased by May 15th!
Go ahead and grab your tickets. We have ours!
Sojourners and Her Portmanteau plays at NYTW until June 4th.