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A Must See

NBC Takes Us Behind The Yellow Brick Road With The Making of The Wiz Live!

Jerrica White



I think it’s safe to say, we’re all sitting on the edge of our seats with popcorn and Sour Patch Kids, waiting for the Dec 3 arrival of NBC’s The Wiz Live!  We may not be able to reach new levels of obsession over Shanice Williams and the rest of the star studded and immensely talented cast, but let me tell you something: there is more good news! Ne-Yo, I mean NBC, is taking us on a backstage, all-access look into the teamwork it takes to ease on down the road through “The Making of The Wiz Live!” on November 25 from 8-9pm EST.

We’ll see Shanice belting her face off, Queen Latifah bringing back “U.N.I.T.Y,” Mary J. Blige teaching us how she fits her infamous bop into her role as “Evilene”, and the original Dorothy, Stephanie Mills, reliving her experiences from the original Broadway production.
Okay, okay, okay! None of that was promised.. but tune in for an hour of insight that covers costumes to casting! And I’m sure candid (or not so candid) shots of Shanice singing! #yassss
UPDATE: Watch the latest promo video for #TheWizLive below!

The Wiz is an adaptation of L. Frank Baulm’s timeless, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,  told through a lens that weaves in African American culture. Many were exposed to The Wiz through the 1978 film which featured Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, and Richard Pryor. However, the show we’ll see in December is based on the 1974 Broadway production of The Wiz that went on to snag seven Tony awards, including Best Musical.
The cast is like the Broadway Black version of The Avengers, bringing together our favorite veterans to give life to the revamped 2015 version of The Wiz. Shanice Williams leads us through the streets of Oz as “Dorothy”, Queen Latifah serves as the powerful, yet powerless legend: “The Wiz”, Mary J. Blige is “Evillene” (The Wicked Witch of the West), David Alan Grier searches for courage as the “Cowardly Lion”, Uzo Aduba is “Glinda”, Amber Riley is “Addaperle”, Stephanie Mills joins the company as “Auntie Em”, Elijah Kelley finally gets his brain as the “Scarecrow”, Common is the “Bouncer”, and Ne-Yo gets loose as the “Tin Man”. In the midst of so many talented stars, it’s no surprise that creativity produced magic. Ne-Yo, Elijah Kelley, music producer Harvey Mason, Jr., and music director Stephen Oremus, cowrote a new song which will be featured in the show.
Maybe we’ll get insight into that new song. Maybe we’ll see David Alan Grier crack jokes on his fellow castmates. Maybe we’ll just see Shanice smiling. All I know is we’re getting a glimpse into this highly anticipated production– the very glimpse my impatience needed.
Take a look at glimpse of the panel discussion we attended with a part of the cast at the Apple Store in Soho. If you follow us on Periscope you know we streamed the entire thing. It was great!

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A Must See

We Were There: Sojourners & Her Portmanteau

Jerrica White



[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

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]

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A Must See

Our Story in 2 Plays for 1 Price: Mfoniso Udofia’s Sojourners & Her Portmanteau

Jerrica White



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.

Image result for Sojourners and Her Portmanteau

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.

The cast includes Jenny JulesLakisha Michelle MayAdepero OduyeChinasa OgbuaguHubert Point-Du Jour, and Chinaza Uche.

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.

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Twitter: @BroadwayBlack

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