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Okieriete “Oak” Onaodowan Departs The Great Comet; Mandy Patinkin Will Replace

Jamara Wakefield

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You heard it here first, Okieriete “Oak” Onaodowan, is leaving Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812. According to sources, the New Jersey born actor who is best known for the roles of Hercules Mulligan and James Madison in Hamilton, is being replaced by Mandy Patinkin in an effort to “boost ticket sales.” Oak’s relationship with The Great Comet has been rough from the start, as he was initially set to succeed Joshua Groban at the Imperial Theatre July 3 until delays caused him to start on July 11th. It was at the time that Onaodowan, tweeted in June that the show mysteriously needed another week to prepare for his arrival.

Although this delay was not clarified by The Great Comet, it seems odd that Oak became responsible for communicating this information to fans as opposed to the show. The story of Onaodowan joining the cast with delays followed by the abrupt replacement of his role to boost ticket sales raises questions about how Black actors are valued and supported within Broadway. It is ironic when Black actors participate in narratives about colonial history, change present day history by adding to the diversity to Broadway, and then are easily replaced as if their only value to a production is based on ticket sales.

In 2016, Onaodowan won a Grammy award for his contributions to the Hamilton soundtrack. He is a talented actor with a rich stage resume on Broadway (Hamilton & Rocky), Off Broadway (Langston in Harlem & Neighbors) and on the small screen debuting as Afrika Bambaataa in three episodes of the Netflix original series The Get Down.

Critics agree that his performance in The Great Comet is stellar bringing a deeply moving energy to the character of Pierre.  While it is a great loss to lose such a talented actor, it is clear The Great Comet will not be the last stop on his path of Black excellence. Onaodowan’s last performance as Pierre on Broadway is August 13th 2017.

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17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Jodi Disario

    July 26, 2017 at 2:54 PM

    Saw the show this past week. When I bought the tickets, I didn’t realize that Groban had left and Oak had replaced him. I literally wept with JOY when I found out. Oak was SO amazing. When I listened to the cast album later, I was heartfully disappointed that there is not a legal recording with Oak as Pierre, because his characterization of the role is so rich and beautiful it should be preserved. Oh, and that theatre was packed. I did not see a single empty seat. I think this is a stunt to create buzz before they announce the tour. People outside of the theatre world don’t know Oak, but they know Inigio Montoya and the guy from Homeland and Criminal Minds. That will be their selling point. I wholeheartedly disagree with their lack of faith in theatregoers across America.

  2. Julia Neufeld

    July 26, 2017 at 3:43 PM

    I have been wanting to see this show since it was Off-Broadway, and it wasn’t until they announced that Oak was going to play Pierre that my mom agreed to get tickets during our upcoming trip to NY (she’s not a Josh Groban fan, but LOVES Oak). Fortunately our tickets are for next week so we’ll actually get to see him as Pierre 🙂 Still very disappointed that he’s leaving so quickly. Oak is an amazing actor and even without seeing the show yet I know he’s going to be incredible

  3. JD

    July 27, 2017 at 9:39 AM

    I agree with others that while the optics of this situation are awful, Okieriete’s replacement is a living broadway legend making a return to the stage after many years. The show was likely to toss anyone out in order to have him join the cast, even for a paltry 3 week run. I am a strong advocate for more diversity in theater, but I do not believe this was a racially motivated replacement. Unfortunately, Okieriete has run into the challenging situation of bigger name casting. It can happen to anyone. If Audra McDonald wanted to step into a role of a young white actress, you’d better believe that actress would be asked to make room…

    Additionally, while I know the people making racism accusations of this situation may want to be supportive of Okieriete, I really hope they don’t ultimately cause his career more harm.

    This man wants to work, he is not a star, and is only known for one Broadway role. I’m not trying to discourage advocacy or conversation, but people (particularly white liberals) really need to be thoughtful about their words and actions here. For instance, of his “friends” is very aggressively going at the Great Comet on Twitter and encouraging others to do the same. Ultimately, I think that will only hurt Okieriete’s ability to work. Please don’t burn bridges on his behalf. He will need them.

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Kareem Lucas’ The Maturation of an Inconvenient Negro (or ‘iNegro’) Kicks Off Cherry Lane Theatre’s Mentor Project

Drew Shade

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Cherry Lane Theatre Kicks-Off Mentor Project With THE MATURATION OF AN INCONVENIENT NEGRO (OR INEGRO)

Cherry Lane Theatre is proud to kick-off its Obie Award-winning Mentor Project with this year’s first production, The Maturation of an Inconvenient Negro (or iNegro) written by and starring Kareem M. Lucas, mentored by Craig ‘muMs’ Grant. The Maturation of an Inconvenient Negro is directed by David Mendizábal and began performances on Wednesday, February 20 and runs through March 2 at the Cherry Lane Theatre (38 Commerce Street, NYC). Tickets are $25 ($60 for a three-show membership) and can be purchased by visiting cherrylanetheatre.org or by calling 866-811-4111.

This solo show of heightened poetry and raw self-reflection takes the audience on the subversive journey of a young Black man coming into himself, as he struggles to break free of what he holds onto most tightly. In iNegro – No one is safe. Nothing is sacred.

This marks the first show of three Mentor Project productions. Upcoming productions include three girls never learnt the way home, written by Matthew Paul Olmos and mentored by Taylor Mac (March 13 – 23, 2019) and The Climb written by C.A. Johnson and mentored by Martyna Majok (April 3 – 13, 2019). Casting and creative team TBA.

Craig ‘muMs’ Grant (left) & Kareem Lucas for Cherry Lane Theatre’s 2019 Mentor Project

The creative team includes set design by Wilson Chin, costumes by Dede Ayite, lighting design by Cha See, sound design and composer Mauricio Escamilla, and Kristy Bodall is the Production Stage Manager.

The Mentor Project, winner of an Obie Award for its dedication to helping early-career playwrights develop new work, each year partners an emerging author with a seasoned professional for a year of script work, rewrites, casting, rehearsals and a full production at Cherry Lane. Mentor Project is also the recipient of the James Kirkwood Award for American Playwrights.

This marks the 21st year if the Mentor Project which has helped develop works by playwrights such as Jocelyn Bioh, Katori HallRajiv Joseph, and Antoinette Nwandu.

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Meet The Press: Loy A. Webb’s The Light Now Running Off-Broadway

Drew Shade

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McKinley Belcher III, Mandi Masden, Logan Vaughn, & Loy A. Webb Photo by Drew Shade

MCC Theater presents the first show in their new home on 52nd street. It’s the New York Premiere of The Light by Loy A. Webb and directed by Logan Vaughn.

Broadway Black had the chance to meet with the entire company. The cast of The Light features Drama Desk Award winner McKinley Belcher III and Mandi Masden.

Not every marriage proposal goes as planned. Loy A. Webb’s The Light introduces us to Rashad and Genesis on what should be one of the happiest days of their lives, but their joy quickly unravels when ground-shifting accusations from the past resurface in this gripping two-character drama. Can their relationship survive the growing divide between them over who- and what – to believe? Directed by Logan Vaughn, The Light is a reckoning that unfolds in real-time and peels away the layers of truth, doubt, pain, and ultimately the power of love.

The Light currently in previews officially opens February 10, 2019, and runs thru March 17, 2019

The creative team includes scenic design by Kimie Nishikawa, costume design by Emilio Sosa, lighting design by Ben Stanton, sound design by Elisheba Ittoop.

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