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Exclusive Behind The Scenes: Morgan James, Shoshana Bean, & Alex Newell Rock Jesus Christ Superstar Concert

Jerrica White

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Alex Newell played “Mary” in a one night only concert of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Jesus Christ Superstar, produced by Torya Beard, Morgan James, and Richard Amelius, Monday, at Highline Ballroon at 8:00PM (doors open at 6:00PM).

Illuminating the transcendent power of the human spirit, the Superstar Concert starred Broadway favorites Morgan James (Motown: The Musical, Godspell) as “Jesus” and Shoshana Bean (Hairspray, Wicked) as “Judas.”

Speaking to the genius of the cross-gender casting, James said:

Jesus Christ Superstar has always been one of my favorite shows, favorite scores; and I always wanted to know what it would be like to hear my favorite voices sing those roles. In fact, I had a dream about it and woke up desperate to make it happen.

And it happened. Some of the best and brightest voices you’ll ever have the pleasure of hearing. So, just imagine hearing them all together. We were scooped away on a journey. View our exclusives of the evening below.

All photos courtesy of ©Kevin Thomas Garcia

Big Beat Records recording artist Alex Newell is best known for playing the transgender student Wade “Unique” Adams on the Fox musical series Glee. As a singer, Newell released tracks with Clean Bandit, Blonde and The Knocks. “This Ain’t Over” is the first track on his 2016 debut EP entitled POWER. We’re excited to see his take on Mary in this highly anticipated production following a series of events so universally known.

Morgan James (Jesus) Original Broadway Casts: Motown: The Musical, Godspell (“Turn Back O’ Man”), Wonderland, The Addams Family. On Epic Records: debut studio album of original soul music entitled “Hunter”; and live Nina Simone tribute album, “Morgan James Live.”

Shoshana Bean (Judas) Her independent solo releases have topped the iTunes R&B and Blues charts in the US and the UK in peak positions 5, 3 and #1 with the release of her latest EP Shadows to Light. Shoshana is a veteran of the Broadway stage having debuted in the original cast of Hairspray and starred as the very first replacement for Elphaba, the green-skinned witch, in Wicked.

The cast of 13 singers performed the complete score, with accompaniment by a 5-piece band. directed by Richard Amelius and musically directed by Julie McBride will take on musical direction.

 are Tony Award winner Debbie Gravitte as Caiaphas, Tony Award nominee Orfeh as Pontius Pilate,  Pearl Sun as Peter, Bryonha Marie Parham as Annas, Shayna Steele as Simon, Ellyn Marsh, Sydney Morton, Pearl Sun, and Jasmin Walker as Apostles, Crowd, Lepers, etc., and Ann Harada as King Herod.

Check out our experience from last night below! We had a blast with exclusive access backstage stage brought to you by Drew Shade! 

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Events and Happenings

Nicolette Robinson, Leslie Odom Jr., & Cynthia Erivo Sign On to Produce Witness Uganda

Drew Shade

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It’s official! Tony Award winners Cynthia Erivo (The Color Purple) and Leslie Odom, Jr. (Hamilton), along with his wife Nicolette Robinson (Waitress) have joined on as producers for the biographical contemporary musical Witness UgandaAbigail Spencer of Hulu’s Timeless has also joined this list of new producers

Formerly Insivible Thread, Witness Uganda has currently extended its West Coast premiere until March 3rd at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. Creators Griffin Matthews and Matt Gould take on the roles of director and musical director respectively. The show has added new material and musical numbers since it’s Off-Broadway run at Second Stage Theater.

Based on a true story, Witness Uganda follows Griffin, a New York City-based American volunteer, as he arrives in Uganda to help build a village school and escape his church’s condemnation of his sexuality. When he falls into a complicated relationship with a group of destitute, orphaned teenagers, he finds himself driven by a mission that will change his and their lives forever. From the rolling hills of the Ugandan countryside to a stifling apartment in New York City, from a joyous celebration of African youth to a terrifying abduction 8,000 miles away, Witness Uganda explores the question, “is changing the world even possible?”

The musical stars twelve-time Grammy nominee, Ledisi as Rain Lady/Church Lady, Hamilton alum & Off Book Podcast co-host Amber Iman as Joy,  and original cast member of Invisible Thread Jamar Williams now takes on the role of Griffin.

READ: Ledisi, Amber Iman, Jamar Williams & More Star in Witness Uganda West Coast Premiere

The cast also features Emma Hunton (Ryan), Kameron Richardson (Jacob), Naärai (Grace), Sha’leah Nikole (Eden), Dexter Darden (Ibrahim), Jordan Barrow (Ronny), Jai’len Josey (Vocalist/Understudy for Rain Lady/Church Lady) and Antwone BarnesKennan D Washington and Thurzday holding down the ensemble.

The creative team is rounded out with choreography by Abdur-Rahim Jackson, music supervision by Remy Kurs, sets by Connor MacPhee, lighting by David Hernandez, costumes by Carlton Jones, and sound design by Martin Carrillo.

For more info visit Witness Uganda

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Events and Happenings

Iconic Entertainer Gregory Hines Honored With a Black Heritage Series Stamp

Drew Shade

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Savion Glover; Maurice Hines, Gregory’s brother; and Daria Hines, Gregory’s daughter Photo courtesy of USPS

The U.S. Postal Service honored iconic entertainer Gregory Hines with a Black Heritage Series stamp in a ceremony on January 28th. As the 42nd entry in the series, the stamp featuring a 1988 photo of a smiling Hines is now available at Post Offices and usps.com. 

At the ceremony Tony Award winner Savion Glover talked about the role Hines played in elevating tap into an art form and the value of his work. Joining him in the celebration were Maurice Hines, actor, dancer, choreographer, and Hines’ brother; Daria Hines, actress, costume designer, and Hines’ daughter; dancers Chloe and Maud Arnold; Tony Waag, the American Tap Dance Foundation’s artistic director, and tap dancer Jason Samuels Smith.

“I don’t exist without this man,” said Glover, “These young people that you see, they aren’t born without this. We are not here today without this.”

The Chief Postal Inspector, Gary Barksdale, who led the ceremony, said “Gregory Hines was an extraordinary artist in every sense of the word. This Forever stamp pays tribute to his life and career as an actor, singer and most importantly, as a performer whose unique style of tap dancing injected new artistry and excitement into a traditional American form.”

Gregory Hines’ Broadway credits include Eubie!, Sophisticated Ladies, & Comin’ Uptown,  all of which garnered him Tony Award nominations. He became a Tony Award winner for his starring role in “Jelly’s Last Jam” in 1992. In 2003 he passed away at 57 years old from cancer.

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