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Its A Hit

We Were There: Motown’s Back On Broadway!

Jerrica White

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The grapevine’s been talking, and I heard Motown: The Musical is a smash hit production. Y’all weren’t lying. When I tell you I lived my best life from the third row last night. CHILE!

Back with more relevance than ever, Motown: The Musical opened to a packed house, swaying left and right with excitement levels that matched the neon, bright lights of David Korins’ beautiful set.

Based on Berry Gordy’s autobiography, Motown dramatizes the inception of the record label and Gordy’s relationship with Diana Ross.

Going into the theater knowing this is a jukebox musical, sets the right expectation as to the show you’re going to get. Berry Gordy is the mastermind that brought us classics from Diana Ross and The Supremes, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, and more. Well those classics are here, and they had us singing along from the audience.

We start with a fun play off between The Temptations and The Four Tops, where ensemble standout, Nik Alexander, was singing for the blood of the lamb, in preparation for the televised Motown reunion. We flashback to the moment Berry (Chester Gregory) knew he wanted to pursue record making, to the mounting of Hitsville, USA, and the story starts moving in full force from there.

Allison Semmes shines as Diana Ross, taking us on her journey from school girl to fierce front  runner in the world of 70/80s pop. She steals the show with her warm rendition of “Reach Out And Touch,” where she brings up members of the audience to sing along with her.

Let me tell you. Two of God’s beautiful black children were called up and sang in the harmony and innocence that baby girls of about 6 and 2 could give you.

And then there was a Sir. Sir (an audience member) was also called up to the stage. From the way he was suggesting he was ready to participate.. you would have thought he was, well, ready! But he was not ready at all. He did not have the range.

But these cast members did have the range! Leon Outlaw Jr., played young Stevie/ Berry/ and Michael. He showed up and showed out in the Jackson 5 section as Michael Jackson! The audience was so energized, I thought they were going to be forced to encore.  Jarran Muse’s Marvin Gaye stopped me in my tracks with the political anthem “What’s Going On.”

Outside of the Motown classics, there were a couple of songs penned just for the show. Gregory’s 11 o’clock number, “Can I Close The Door?” took us home, humming the tunes of Black Excellence. The tunes that are part of our history and forever part of American culture.

We had vocals. We had gowns. We had choreo. And most importantly we had fun.

Last night was the most enjoyable moment I’ve had in the past couple of weeks in light of current events. I was reminded of the sociocultural impact that Motown music had in the late 60s and 70s. From Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” album, to documenting Martin Luther King Jr. “I Have a Dream Speech,” Motown artists took a stance. We’re asking the same questions that were asked then. What’s going on? Can love really conquer hate? Do our lives matter?

Motown is a reminder that music is a healer, a unifer, and a catalyst for change. It’s really got a hold on me and my spirit.

Peace, Love & Understanding. ✌🏾

The smash hit production, featuring the music of the legendary Motown catalogue and a book by Berry Gordy, stars musical theater veteran Chester Gregory (Hairspray, Tarzan, Cry-Baby, Sister Act) as “Berry Gordy”. As he did with previous productions, Charles Randolph-Wright directs.

Three original Broadway ensemble members now shine in leading roles: Allison Semmes as “Diana Ross”, Jarran Muse as “Marvin Gaye” and Jesse Nager as “Smokey Robinson”. J.J. Batteast and Leon Outlaw, Jr. alternate as Young Berry Gordy/Stevie Wonder/Michael Jackson.

The 33-member ensemble cast features Nik Alexander, Erick Buckley, Chante Carmel, Chadaé, Lynorris Evans, Anissa Felix, Talya Groves, Rod Harrelson, Robert Hartwell, Rodney Earl Jackson, Jr., Trisha Jeffrey, Jamie LaVerdiere, Elijah Ahmad Lewis,Loren Lott, Jarvis B. Manning, Jr., Krisha Marcano, Marq Moss, Rashad Naylor,Ramone Owens, Olivia Puckett, Nicholas Ryan, Jamison Scott, Joey Stone, Doug Storm, Martina Sykes, Nik Walker and Galen J. Williams.

The original production of Motown The Musical opened on Broadway April 14th, 2013 and closed January 18th, 2015. After touring the country since 2014, the touring company landed on Broadway Tuesday, July 12 at The Nederlander Theatre, for a strictly limited 18-week-only engagement through Sunday, November 13, 2016.

Simply trying to thrive somewhere between Les Miserables & Lil Durk. Midwestern Charm. Arts Advocate. Tech Enthusiast. Eternally Awkward.

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Good Works

The World is Wide Enough: Hamilton Second National Tour to Begin February 2018

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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Only days after launching the first national tour of Hamilton last week, producer Jeffrey Sellers announced that a second national tour will kick off in Seattle starting February 2018. After a six-week engagement, the tour will travel to Portland, Oregon; Salt Lake City, Utah; Costa Mesa, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Des Moines, Iowa; Cleveland, Ohio; and Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The second touring company will be the fourth Hamilton production to play concurrently in the U.S. Joining the first national tour (currently in San Fransisco before moving to L.A later this summer), the sit-down production in Chicago (which started September  2016), and the current Broadway production, with a London staging debuting in November of this year.

In a press statement, Seller comments:

“Beginning in 2018 more than 8,000 people a night will have the opportunity to see the show somewhere in North America. Indeed, Hamilton is for everyone. There has been tremendous interest in the show from markets across the country. The best way to get the show in front of as many people as possible is to form a new company to crisscross the country.”

The cast has yet to be announced, but keep checking into Broadway Black to be the first in the know!

Visit Hamilton for more information.

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Good Works

Montego Glover Set for The New York Pops at Feinstein’s/54 Below

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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Tony nominees Montego Glover, last seen in The Royale at Lincoln Center, and Tony Yazbeck  are set to star with The New York Pops in a  cabaret performance at Feinstein’s/54 Below in New York City  on September 19 to perform some of their favorite show tunes. Tony Yazbeck replaces the previously announced Joshua Henry. The event, described as “an intimate evening of dining and entertainment” will be led by Pops music director Steven Reineke.

“The New York Pops annual cabaret evening is one of our most intimate and exciting events each year,” said Reineke in a statement. “The event raises money for our vital music education programs, which reach thousands of New York City children each year. Montego and Tony are both extremely talented (and busy) performers, and they are extraordinarily kind and generous people. We are all looking forward to hearing them perform up close and personal. This is going to be a tremendous night.”

All proceeds will support The New York Pops’ PopsEd music programs, which reach over 4,000 New York City students each year.

Single tickets range from $275-$500 and ticket packages begin at $2,500. To purchase, visit www.newyorkpops.org or call 212-765-7677.

 

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Congrats!

Joshua Henry Joins Hamilton in Chicago

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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WON’T HE DO IT!

When one door closes, God surely opens an even BIGGER one, can I get an Amen? Two-time Tony Award nominee Joshua Henry joins the Chicago company of Hamilton: The Musical in Chicago as “Aaron Burr”, it was announced earlier today. Henry  just concluded the Broadway run of Shuffle Along where he created the role of “Noble Sissle.” Henry, who made his Broadway debut in Lin Manual-Miranda’s In The Heights , received Tony Award nominations for his roles in The Scottsboro Boys and Violet.

#AaronBurr @hamiltonmusical #grateful #Chicago

A video posted by Joshua Henry (@joshuahenrynyc) on

Additional casting announced Jonathan Kirkland, who recently appeared in the Encores production of Cabin in Sky, is slated to play “George Washington.”

As we previously announced Wallace Smith and Samantha Marie Ware joined the cast as  “Hercules Mulligan/James Madison” and “Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds” respectively.

The rest of the principal cast includes Miguel Cervantes (Alexander Hamilton), Ari Afsar (Eliza Hamilton), Alexander Gemignani (King George III), Chris Lee (Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson), Joseph Morales (Alternate Hamilton), Jose Ramos (John Laurens/Phillip Hamilton). This also marks Tony Award winner Karen Olivo’s return to the stage as Angelica Schuyler, after a two-year hiatus to teach in Wisconsin.

Rounding out the cast is ensemble members  Sam Aberman, Jose Amore, Amber Ardolino, Remmie Bourgeoise, Chloe Campbell, Joseph Chaikin, Carl Clemons-Hopkins, John Michael Fiumara, Jean Godsend Floridan, Aaron Gordon, Jin Ha, Holly James, Malik Kitchen, Colby Lewis, Dash Mitchell, Justice Moore, Samantha Pollino, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Gabriella Sorrentino and Aubin Wise.

How awesome is it that we’ll have Joshua and Brandon playing the same role, at THE SAME TIME (different cities) for a change. As we know, the two actors are often each other’s replacements and for the first time Shuffle Along allowed them to work along side one another.

If you didn’t get those tickets before, now is the time to figure out how you can be in the room where it happens.

Performances begin September 27 at the PrivateBank Theatre.

 

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How Do We Feel

Lillias White To Star In Phylicia Rashad Directed Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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We’ve been feeling down after going through what seems to be the black Broadway purge of 2k16. However, if there is anything that could give us some joy over here at Broadway Black, it’s the Center Theatre Group‘s casting for their production of August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom starring Lillias White as Ma Rainey, directed by Phylicia Rashad. Performances are set to run from August 31-October 16 with an official September 11 opening at The Mark Taper Forum in LA.

In the third installment of Wilson’s ten-play Century Cycle, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom depicts the racism and exploitation in the music industry through a 1927 recording session in Chicago with a legendary blues singer, inspired by the real-life Gertrude “Ma” Rainey.

Rounding out the cast is Tony nominee Keith David (Jelly’s Last Jam) as Slow Drag, Jason Dirden (A Raisin in the Sun) as Levee, Glynn Turman (A Raisin in the Sun) as Toledo, Damon Gupton (Clybourne Park) as Cutler, Matthew Henerson  as Sturdyvant, Nija Okoro as Dussie Mae, Lamar Richardson as Sylvester, Ed Swidey as Irvin, and Greg Bryan as Policeman.

The creative team will include scenic design by John Iacovelli, costume design by Emilio Sosa, lighting design by Elizabeth Harper, and sound design by Dan Moses Schreier.

Tickets for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom are available online here or by calling (213) 628-2772. Tickets range from $25 – $85 (ticket prices are subject to change). The Mark Taper Forum is located at the Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue in Downtown L.A. 90012.

If you are in LA, do not miss this amazing production, also please let Broadway be the next destination we could use more color.

Here’s a little taste of how Lillias snatches wigs!

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Concert Night

We Were There: Leslie Odom Jr. Begins His Residency at the McKittrick Hotel

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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It was small. It was intimate. It was smoky. It was the epitome of Jazz.

 

Leslie Odom Jr. kicked off his New York Residency at the McKittrick Hotel in Chelsea last night and what a night it was. Shall I give you the play by play? Yes, I will. Read along for all the fun.

10:30 PM – The tickets said doors open at 11, so we figured if we get there a little early we can have good seats. We were right. We were behind about 20 other people all waiting to be in “The Room Where It Happens.”

10:50 ish  – Leslie, with his gorgeous wife Nicolette Robinson makes their way into the venue and they walk right by us in line. My best friend almost fainted.

11:00 PM– Doors open. They let us in, we tell them our name and we are led through the darkest, most fun maze to get to the venue. It was like a game, but I didn’t come to play- I came to hear good music!

11:20 PM– My best friend and I see someone with dreads, I think to myself that can’t be Ledisi can it? IT WAS LEDISI. More about that later. Then a few more people made their way into the reserved section Billy Porter and Spike Lee, to name a few.

11:30 ish – The band comes out and warms up a little bit, shortly after Leslie makes his way to the stage dressed to the nines, there’s some applause then he wastes no time getting into the first song, “Autumn Leaves.”

11:30 PM-12:45 AM Leslie sings song from his self-titled album including; “Look For The Silver Lining”, “Joey Joey Joey”, “Cheer Up Charlie”, the most beautiful rendition of Bessie Smith’s “Nobody Knows You” and a jazzed up arrangement of Spring Awakening’s “The Guilty Ones”. His voice was as smooth as ever as he crooned and swayed the night away. The small setting added to the overall intimate feel of the concert, sometimes you felt like he was singing right at you. Between songs he offered a few anecdotes and provided context. Other than that he let his singing do the talking. The best part- halfway through the concert he told the audience he had a special guest. This special guest was none other than LEDISI. You heard me correctly! First, she sang the most beautiful arrangement of “Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered” from Pal Joey. And yes, scatting was included! Then she and Leslie did the unthinkable, THEY DID A DUET OF LEDISI’S “ALRIGHT”. Let me tell you, thats one of my favorite Ledisi songs, so to hear her and Leslie sing together was the epitome of “melodies from heaven.” He also  couldn’t end the night without singing Hamilton, so he did a lovely rendition of “The Room Where It Happens”. He ended the night with the beautiful “The Party’s Over”, and just when you thought he was done he sent us on our way with a beautiful prayer.

Safe to say, Leslie Odom Jr. is making a name for himself in the music world and we can’t wait to be there for the ride. This is the first of his three Thursday night residencies at the McKittrick Hotel. All shows are, sadly, already sold out. But fear not! Let these videos hold you over, and keep checking his Twitter for when he announces more concert dates. This is a show you DON’T want to miss.

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Behind The Scenes

EXCLUSIVE: Broadway Black Behind The Scenes Dreamgirls 35th Anniversary Concert

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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It’s been 35 years since The Dreamette’s “moved” their way into our hearts, and if you had the childhood I had, your home stereos. Which is why Broadway Black was more than thrilled to learn about the Dreamgirls 35th anniversary concert that would reunite its original stars Sheryl Lee Ralph, Loretta Devine, and Jennifer Holliday. I mean thrilled, to the point I was trying to figure out how to not pay bills thrilled. On July 10th, the ladies performed at their one night only (Ha!), sold-out show in Hollywood, and they were even joined by some of our other favorite performers Frenchie Davis and Mary Wilson!

A night that was sure to be one for the books, it’s a shame that everyone in the world wasn’t able to witness it. However, this is Broadway Black and in true Broadway Black fashion our readers should know by now, WE GOT YOU. Check out an EXCLUSIVE behind the scenes look of the Dreamgirls 35th Anniversary Concert below, brought to you ONLY by Broadway Black.

 


If you still can’t get enough of Dreamgirls, remember it’s coming to London this fall (and hopefully Broadway after that!).

 

 

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