Tonight, HBO is bringing the Empress of Blues, Bessie Smith to life! Smith, played by Dana “Queen Latifah” Owens, studied under the Mother of Blues, Ma Rainey, played by Mo’nique. Queen Latifah has been waiting in the wings for 20 years to play this role and “Matron Mama” is thrilled to show you what she’s done. We knew this Queen had pipes when she graced the screen in the film version of Chicago and then again in Hairspray, but this being a little more jazz & blues helps bring Latifah into a dimension she seem very comfortable with.
Legendary playwright August Wilson introduced many to the rich cultured voice that Ma Rainey possessed through his play Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Fun fact: Actor Charles Dutton who made his Broadway Debut in August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is in this film as well.
It is a joy to see that these two women, Gertrude “Ma Rainey” Pridgett and Bessie Smith, will be on the HBO MainStage. Bessie was a legend in her own right, openly bi-sexual she took risks in her music and in her personal life. During the 1920’s folks were jailed and tortured for same-sex relationships. This bio-pic directed by Dee Rees (Pariah) engages us to see a woman who’s life was full of disparagement and valleys yet she overcame so much and broke down barriers. From the reviews out there, critics seem to love the chemistry on screen between Monique and Owens. Our stories, our voices are important. I will be glued to the screen for Bessie will you?
Here is synopsis about Bessie and some cool videos from HBO to get you ready:
Queen Latifah stars as legendary blues singer Bessie Smith in this HBO Films presentation, directed by acclaimed filmmaker Dee Rees from a screenplay by Dee Rees and Christopher Cleveland & Bettina Gilois. With a story by Dee Rees and Horton Foote, the film focuses on Smith’s transformation from a struggling young singer into “The Empress of the Blues,” who became one of the most successful recording artists of the 1920s and is an enduring icon today. BESSIE also stars Michael Kenneth Williams, Khandi Alexander, Mike Epps, Tika Sumpter, Tory Kittles, Oliver Platt, Bryan Greenberg, with Charles S. Dutton and Mo’Nique. Executive produced by Queen Latifah, Shakim Compere, Lili Fini Zanuck, Richard D. Zanuck, Shelby Stone, and Randi Michel. Ron Schmidt produces.
Dominique Morisseau’s Pipeline Will Air On PBS Feb 8th
The Live From Lincoln Center broadcast of Dominique Morisseau’s Pipeline, will debut February 8 at 9 PM ET. The LCT production opened in July 2017 was directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz and starred Karen Pittman as Nya.
The cast also includes Tasha Lawrence, Morocco Omari, Namir Smallwood, Jaime Lincoln Smith, and Heather Velazquez.
Nya, an inner-city public high school teacher, is committed to her students but desperate to give her only son Omari opportunities they’ll never have. When a controversial incident at his upstate private school threatens to get him expelled, Nya must confront his rage and her own choices as a parent. But will she be able to reach him before a world beyond her control pulls him away?
With profound compassion and lyricism, PIPELINE brings an urgent conversation powerfully to the fore. Don’t miss this deeply moving story of a mother’s fight to give her son a future — without turning her back on the community that made him who he is.
“We Were There” Check out our review of the 2017 production
NBC Cancels “Hair Live!”; Seeking Titles with Wide Appeal
Not too long ago, NBC announced that the musical “Hair Live!” would have life on the network and air May 19 with Broadway director Diane Paulus at the helm, reprising her position from the 2009 Tony-winning revival.
According to Variety, NBC is longer moving forward with the project. This announcement comes a week after “RENT Live” on Fox reported having the lowest ratings of any networks live musical.
NBC previously announced a live version of “A Few Good Men” with Alec Baldwin and a live production of “Bye Bye Birdie.” starring Jennifer Lopez, but the productions were both pushed back multiple times. Both projects remain in limbo.
Paul Telegdy and George Cheeks, co-chairmen of NBC Entertainment said in a statement:
“Live musicals are a part of this network’s DNA, and we are committed to continuing that tradition with the right show at the right time. Since these shows are such enormous undertakings, we need titles that have a wide appeal, and we’re in the process of acquiring the rights to a couple of new shows that we’re really excited about,”
So it is said that NBC “won’t be completely abandoning live musicals” According to an individual with knowledge of the decision, but will no longer plan on airing them as regularly as they have in the past with” The Sound of Music Live!” “Peter Pan Live!,” “The Wiz Live!,” & “Hairspray Live!”
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