This week, The New Group announced additional casting for its upcoming off-Broadway revival production of the award-winning musical Sweet Charity, which will launch the company’s 2016-2017 theatrical season.
Newly announced for the limited engagement are James Brown III (Ensemble), Darius Barnes (Ensemble), Donald Jones, Jr. (Ensemble), Sasha Hutchings (Rosie / Ensemble) and Asmeret Ghebremichael (Nickie). Other cast members include Yesenia Ayala (Ensemble), Lori Ann Ferreri (Swing), Ryan Worsing (Swing), Nikka Graff Lanzarone (Ursula / Ensemble), Emily Padgett (Helene), Joel Perez (Herman / Vittorio / Daddy Brubeck) and Tony winner Shuler Hensley (Oscar). Additional casting to be announced. Performances will begin on November 2, 2016 at The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center; opening night is set for November 20, 2016. Performances will continue through December 11. Choreographed by Joshua Bergasse and directed by Leigh Silverman, the production will feature sets by Derek McLane, costumes by Clint Ramos, lighting design by Jeff Croiter, sound design by Leon Rothenberg, orchestrations by Mary-Mitchell Campbell and music direction by Georgia Stitt.
Oddly enough, under the direction of Scott Elliott, the Artistic Director of the artist-driven theatre company, Sweet Charity is perhaps the most diverse and multiethnic cast The New Group has had since the company’s first musical, Avenue Q, went on to win three Tony Awards, for Best Book, Best Score, and Best Musical, in 2004. In recent years, most of the cast members in the majority of the shows produced by the award-winning theatre company have been composed of white actors in lead roles or speaking parts. Often, various diverse thespians hired by the company are tapped to play supporting characters who must be played by diverse actors. In its 2015-2016 season, Guatemalan actor Tony Revolori (Dope, The Grand Budapest Hotel) and Asian-American child actor Bradley Fong, played torture victims in Philip Ridley’s nihilistic dystopian play, Mercury Fur. In its 2014-2015 season, with The Spoils by Jesse Eisenberg, Kunal Nayyar (who plays astrophysicist Raj Koothrappali on “The Big Bang Theory”) played the emotionally abused cronie to Jessie Eisenberg’s lead character. In the same season, Tony winner Tonya Pinkins acted in the Cynthia Nixon-directed Rasheeda Speaking by Joel Drake Johnson, where she played a secretary having to deal with an abundance of white fragility. Most of the directors at the helm of these shows have been male and none are of color. Which is why the latest revival of Sweet Charity, is such a welcomed inclusion in the milky-white off-Broadway. Directed by Leigh Silverman (Violet on Broadway; Lippa’s The Wild Party at Encores! Off-Center)—one of a few Tony nominated women directors—the cast also boast one of the most diverse casts on Broadway and off.
That’s what makes the casting of Ghebremichael and Perez, in particular, so exciting. Ghebremichael has appeared on stage previously, performing leading roles in The Book of Mormon, Legally Blonde and Wicked. Perez ends his run with the acclaimed Broadway musical Fun Home in September. Both have been praised as future leading Broadway stars and being cast in these showstopping supporting roles could be the parts that make this viable options for bigger and splashier productions. As Nickie, one of the protagonist’s best gal pals, Ghebremichael will perform signature hits “Big Spender” and “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This.” In the part of Daddy Johann Sebastian Brubeck, the enigmatic leader of a counterculture church, Perez will lead the Act II showstopper, “The Rhythm of Life.”
Starring two-time Tony winner Sutton Foster (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Anything Goes) as Charity Hope Valentine—according to press notes, “the sassy, diehard romantic dancehall hostess whose naïvety and overeager embrace of every man she meets keeps getting her in hot water”—Sweet Charity will be staged in a three-quarter thrust. Based on the original screenplay of Federico Fellini’s 1957 drama Nights of Cabiria (co-written with Tullio Pinelli, Ennio Plaiano and Pier Paolo Pasolini), Sweet Charity features a book by Neil Simon, music by Cy Coleman and lyrics by Dorothy Fields. Originally conceived, staged and choreographed by iconic showman Bob Fosse, since the musical premiered on Broadway in 1966, the show has had two award-winning revivals (1986, 2005) and a star-studded film adaptation; it was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Music, Score of a Musical Picture (Original or Adaptation). The New Group production marks the 50th Anniversary of the classic musical.
For single ticket purchases, visit thenewgroup.org. Subscriptions and single tickets can also be purchased by calling Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200, or in person at 416 West 42nd Street.
Cast Announced for The First Deep Breath by Lee Edward Colston II at National Black Theatre
Dr. Barbara Ann Teer’s National Black Theatre [NBT] announces the cast of the first workshop production for this year’s cohort of I Am Soul Playwriting Residency by playwright Lee Edward Colston II. Colston’s workshop production of The First Deep Breath will be February 13 – 17, 2019 and will be directed by Malika Oyetimein.
As part of NBT’s Soul Series L.A.B. [Liberating Artistic Bravery], The First Deep Breath will conclude an 18-month residency for Lee Edward Colston II as the institution celebrating NBT’s 50th season which is themed “Liberation: A Journey Beyond Walls.”
The full cast for this workshop production will be: Paris Campbell (Albert), Paris Crayton III (Leslie), SJ Hannah (Abdul Malik), Vanessa A. Jones (Ruth), Drew Shade (Tyree), Cole Taylor (AJ), Chelsea Lee Williams (Dee Dee), C. Kelly Wright (Pearl). NBT is also excited to have on the creative team: Izmir Ickbal (Set/Lights), Elia Chuaqui (Sound), Beylnda Hardin (PSM).
About The First Deep Breath: Pastor Albert Jones plans a special church service to honor his late daughter Diane on the sixth anniversary of her death. But when his eldest son, Abdul-Malik, returns home from prison, the First family of Mother Bethel Baptist Church is forced to confront a hornet’s nest of long-buried secrets. With each member of the Jones clan desperately fighting to stay afloat, sometimes a family that stays together drowns together.
Launched in 2012, I AM SOUL – Playwright Residency Program is the only program in the country that is dedicated to Black playwrights, whose work demonstrates exceptional artistic merit and excellence in the theatrical field, with a commitment to production. Coined as a dream MFA program this eighteen (18) month residency also seeks to unleash the soul of a playwright on the page so that they can develop, hone and explore new ways of artistic expression in a safe, supported and transformative environment. With I AM SOUL, NBT seeks to deepen the artistic relationship between Black theatrical institutions and Black playwrights in order to re-establish Black theatrical institutions as the foremost supporters and producers of new works created by Black playwrights.
Past residents: Mfoniso Udofia, Aurin Squire, Angelica Chéri, Derek Lee McPhatter, Nambi E. Kelley, Dennis A. Allen II
Current residents: Eric Micha Holmes, Lee Edward Colston II, Tracey Conyer Lee & Darrel Holnes.
Tickets for The First Deep Breath are now on sale. www.nationalblacktheatre.org
Once On This Island Broadway Revival Cast Announced
The moment we’ve been waiting for has arrived, partially. The first cast announcement for the Broadway revival of Once On This Island has been made by producers Ken Davenport and Hunter Arnold. We’re excited to announce Tony Award nominee Phillip Boykin (Porgy and Bess) as Tonton Julian, Alysha Deslorieux (Hamilton) as Andrea, Kenita R. Miller (The Color Purple) as Mama Euralie, and Isaac Powell as Daniel will lead the cast.
Also, joining the cast as Storytellers are Darlesia Cearcy, Rodrick Covington, Cassondra James, David Jennings, Grasan Kingsberry, Tyler Hardwick, Loren Lott, T. Oliver Reid, and Aurelia Williams.
Once On This Island is the Broadway musical celebration that sweeps us across the sea to a small village—where, in the aftermath of a great storm, a joyous new life begins. It is the tale of Ti Moune, a fearless peasant girl who falls in love with a wealthy boy from the other side of the island. When their divided cultures threaten to keep them apart, Ti Moune, guided by the island gods, sets out on a remarkable quest to reunite with the man who has captured her heart.
The revival will play in the Circle in the Square Theatre (235 W. 50th Street, NYC) this fall, directed by Tony nominee Michael Arden, and choreographed by the critically acclaimed Camille A. Brown. Tony Award winner Nikki M. James is set as the Assistant Director. Production is set to begin preview performances on Thursday, November 9, 2017, and officially open on Sunday, December 3.
Additional casting will be announced at a later date. Ti Moune, Papa Ge, & more are yet to be announced.
The creative team also includes Dane Laffrey (Scenic Design), Clint Ramos (Costume Design), Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer (Lighting Designers), Peter Hylenski (Sound Designer), Chris Fenwick (Music Supervisor), Alvin Hough, Jr (Music Director), David Perlow (Associate Director), and Telsey + Co / Craig Burns, CSA (Casting Agent).
Once On This Island premiered at Playwrights Horizons in May of 1990. The Broadway production opened in October of that year and ran for 469 performances garnering eight Tony nominations including Best Featured Actress (LaChanze), Best Original Score, Best Book of a Musical and Best Musical. The 1994 West End production won the Olivier Award for Best New Musical.
For more information on the Broadway revival including tickets and specific dates visit www.OnceOnThisIsland.com