Recently there has been a serious buzz about Black Broadway, or BroadwayBlack as we like to call it, and it’s all due to a new book called Black Broadway: African Americans on The Great White Way by six-time Tony Award winning producer and author Stewart F. Lane (La Cage aux Folles, A Gentleman’s Guide…, War Horse). The pictures began to pop up and take over every social media newsfeed I have. I mean, as soon as I saw it my eyes lit up like a kid on Christmas morning. I thought to myself that this can’t be real. Oh, but is it ever and it’s just as glorious as you might imagine.
Uniquely illustrated with over 300 dynamic photographs (many of which have never been published to date), Black Broadway chronicles the journey of black theatre in America, alongside a running timeline of African-American history. Celebrating the performers, playwrights, songwriters, directors, choreographers and designers who changed theatre throughout America and the world, Lane offers a detailed account from Minstrel Shows to Vaudeville, from the Jazz Age to the Golden Age of the American Musical, through the dramas inspired by the Civil Rights Movement to the present day Broadway.
The book features a foreword from Tony-award winning Broadway director Kenny Leon (A Raisin in the Sun, Fences,Stick Fly), who calls Black Broadway “a unique tribute to the many African-American actors, directors, playwrights, and others who have contributed to the fabric of American theater.” Described by Booklist as a “wonderfully illustrated and researched book,” Black Broadway provides an insider’s look at Broadway by focusing the spotlight on landmark shows including A Raisin in the Sun, Porgy and Bess, Dreamgirls, Fences, The Wiz, Purlie Victorious, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Bring in ‘Da Noise Bring in ‘Da Funk,and The Scottsboro Boys; great theatre writers including August Wilson, Lorraine Hansberry, Eubie Blake and Ossie Davis; legendary performers such as Paul Robeson, Ethel Waters, Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson, Pearl Bailey, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, Bert Williams, Sammy Davis Jr., and Cab Calloway; to Tony-winning stars who continue to light up the boards including Audra McDonald, Denzel Washington, James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson, Savion Glover, Ben Vereen, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Leslie Uggams, Tonya Pinkins, Whoopi Goldberg, Jennifer Holliday, Billy Porter and more.
“For decades, African Americans have struggled to become a part of Broadway, and while the fight continues, many battles have been won and significant changes have been made,” says Stewart Lane. “It is my hope that this book serves as a guide to many people who have blazed a trail to the Great White Way and made it more accessible to everyone – black and white – who seeks to entertain and enlighten through the performing arts.”
I first tried to order the book on Amazon to no avail because it was SOLD OUT after only being released about two weeks prior. So I dug a little deeper and I found out that Barnes & Noble was holding an event that included a discussion with Lane, as well as Tony winner Leslie Uggams ( Hallelujah, Baby!, King Hedley II, On Golden Pond) and Broadway director Sheldon Epps (Baby, It’s You!, Play On!) coming up soon. My jaw dropped. I just had to be there. Plus, I know I’d be able to buy the book. So, it was set. I was going.
The day of the event I trekked my way to the Barnes & Noble on 86th street and sat down to listen to a discussion that would soon take my breath away. Listening to the Broadway experts and living legends on the panel was nothing short of amazing. After I pulled myself together, I began to record the conversation happening. Check out a part of the discussion below where they talk about all sorts of good tidbits; Color blind casting, Uggams’ meeting with Lena Horne, and how long it took Lane to write this book, and lots more. It’s a little lengthy and doesn’t necessarily start at the beginning of it all but still worth the listen. Don’t feel like that’s enough? Don’t worry. I’ll have more details from the author himself next week.
While you listen and yearn for more, order your copy of the book today —>> HERE!!!