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We Were There: The Eve Of Jackie



The span and evolution of mainstream music in the United States is rooted and has been supported by the genius of black musicians. Using the stage as their ceremonial ground, the microphone as their symbol of greatness, and with their voices taking on griot powers – these artists transcend and surpass all physical barriers allowing us – the audience -into a world where a melody, a verse, a dance move allows us to feel a special kinship with them. The issue, however, with black genius is that for all of the glory and blessings that it bestows upon the world, it usually comes with its share of heartbreak. Hearing of a once popular black artists losing it all due to addiction, illness and pariahs that they had mistaken for friends is sadly not a rare thing. Their lights dim, their magic is forgotten and the names that were once on everyone’s lips evaporate with the movement of time.

Jackie Wilson is one of the most enigmatic singers to have emerged out of the later half of the 20th century. Having inspired greats such as Michael Jackson, his showmanship was unparalleled. But with his quick fall out of spotlight due to a debilitating heart attack, Wilson’s mark on music has been lost (unless you count the scene in Coming to America where Prince Hakeem belts out Wilson’s “To Be Loved”). As is the case with black genius, what many fail to remember one chooses to commemorate. On Monday March 4th at the supper club, 54 Below, Broadway Black witnessed the resurrection of Jackie Wilson through the highly talented Chester Gregory. Gregory parlayed the talents that have seen him awarded time and time again to breathe life to Wilson’s story.

The production, “The Eve of Jackie,” takes place on September 28, 1975 , a day before Wilson would suffer a collapse on stage that would lead to being in a coma for about eight years. Gregory infuses details about the man Wilson was through his dialogues and monologues as well as hit songs. Through the show we learn of Wilson being shot in the back, with a bullet lodged too near his spine to be removed. We learn of the killing of his son, the financial abuse he suffered at the hands of his manager, and his unending appetite for women.

The mark of a great performance is when the performer has such high levels of charisma, talent and sophistication that audience members suffer from the suspension of belief. This means that those witnessing the performance are no longer using a part of their brain to think about the upcoming commute home, their job or their kids — their mind stops focusing on minute matters to soak in every ounce of the brilliance that is taking place before them. Chester Gregory’s performance cast a spell strong enough on those present on March 4th to do so. In the heat of the show, audience members could be heard cheering him on with “Gon’ Jackie!” and other words of support, believing his body became a portal for the spirit of Jackie Wilson to come through and tell his story.

“The Eve of Jackie” is genuinely a strong body of work. In it we see how fame can be both a blessing and a curse for those with massive talent. We see how a man can burn down, rise from the flames anew to only be pulled away from the next chapter of his life. And most importantly we get to witness the respect of a black genius of today for a black genius of yesterday.

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The New Great Comet Is Lulu Fall’s “Pretty For A Dark Girl”

Andrew Shade



We often hear a great deal about the humanitarian efforts, music projects, and performances of the supposed “top tier” leading actors & actresses of Broadway, but the true waves and movements seem to come from those that hold down the ensemble.

Lulu Fall is a D.C. born vocalist, composer, and one ensemble member you can’t miss when you visit the Imperial Theatre to take in Broadway’s  Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. Her bright pink natural hair makes her stand out amongst a cast full of eccentric characters, reflective of her personality which also stands out in her everyday life.

Part of that life is the upcoming release of a music video and music single for “Pretty For A Dark Girl.” from the forthcoming album “The Unpaved Road,” which will be released August 22, 2017. This is a joint project with Count Basie Orchestra arranger, trumpeter, soloist Kris Johnson, who also serves as the Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Utah. The video features several women close to Fall including Sumayya Ali (The Great Comet), Anita Welch (FOX’s Black Nativity), Louise Fall (Lulu Fall’s mother), & The 2017 Tony Award Nominee Denée Benton (Leading Actress of The Great Comet.)

“As a child, I was teased because of my skin color and for having African parents. As an adult, I was told my beauty was an exception for my skin tone, because dark-skinned women aren’t considered to be as desirable. This song sheds light on Colorism. This song empowers Black women, and all women who were discriminated against because of their looks. This song is about me.”

 – Lulu Fall

This song is about Colorism. It highlights the harsh prejudices and stereotypes that darkskinned women and girls face interculturally, specifically in the African American community. As a dark-skinned woman, Lulu Fall pulled from her personal experiences, testimonies from female friends and family, and the social media community to shed light on such a taboo subject.

Lyrics by Lulu Fall, music by Lulu Fall and Kris Johnson Performed by Lulu Fall with the Kris Johnson Group Video directed and edited by Christen Cofer


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John Legend and Ariana Grande sing Beauty and the Beast

Malia West



In a few short days, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast will return to the big screen. The live-action remake has been the topic of conversation for some weeks now. Disney’s been the talk of the town, from the uproar in response to having an openly gay character to having to, yet again, defend and define feminism. We’d like to step away from the talking points surrounding Beauty and the Beast and focus on the music.

With every great Disney movie release comes great music. Lion King gave us “The Circle of Life” and Princess and the Frog gave us “Almost There”…right before they made the first black Disney princess a frog the whole movie, but no matter. Before the movies March 17th release, Disney released a new version of the movie’s theme, cleverly titled “Beauty and the Beast”. The movie’s titular song was released March 4th with a moving performance by singers by John Legend and Ariana Grande.


Legend has been inching closer and closer to Broadway, having produced the 2017 premiere of August Wilson’s Jitney and scoring musical films within the past couple years. Grande is no stranger to Broadway, before making her way to TV and pop music, she originated the role of Charlotte in 13 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, she also played Penny Pingleton in Hairspray Live!


Both musicians give an enchanting performance that captures the spirit of this classic tale. In the music video’s short four minutes, we are welcomed into the fantastical Beast’s castle and lulled through Belle and the Beast’s waltz by Legend and Grande’s flawless falsetto. The story’s most precious characters make appearances throughout the song and we are even guided through the video by the tale’s infamous rose. Disney really put their foot in this one!

What are your favorite Disney classics and who are you most excited to see in the remake? You all know my answer, Audra McDonald through and through! Leave your comments below!

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The Hamilton Mixtape: When Broadway Meets Busta Rhymes

Malia West



What do Jill Scott, Chance the Rapper, and The Roots all have in common? They clearly all love me, because while we the people played and replayed the Hamilton soundtrack, The Hamilton Mixtape was in the works! On December 2, The Hamilton Mixtape, will bless the world with music that unites the revolutionaries of music and their take on Hamilton’s story. Three tracks from the project were recently released and they give new life to Hamilton’s most beloved songs.



“Satisfied” left me stunned! Queen Latifah made a powerful return to theatre and hip hop in one fell swoop. She joined Miguel and SIA in a rendition of “Satisfied” that unearthed passion in the way that only SIA can. Hamilton honored its East Coast roots with an electric rendition of “My Shot. The Roots and, the inspiration behind Hercules Mulligan, Busta Rhymes. The song provided a look back into the origins of hip hop that inspired the musical’s existence, it brought revolutionized the song’s most classic hit and definitely has me desperate for more.

Hamilton was built from a love of hip hop and the written word. This love is etched throughout each of the twenty three songs that make up this project. On December 2nd, the voices of Andra Day,  Alicia Keys, and more will reimagine the show’s classics while Chance The RapperDessa, and others give life to Hamilton’s unsung songs.

While the world is reeling from political upsets, artists are arming themselves with the gift of song and we get to hear it. I hope you’ll join me in stanning to Jill Scott annihilating “Say Yes To This.” As we anticipate John Legend’s take on “History Has Its Eyes On You” and an Usher-Burr mashup, Lin-Manuel has already hinted at another mixtape. Stay ready, y’all. Hamilton is non-stop!

What track has you counting down to December 2nd?


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First Look

Audra McDonald Featured in Original Song for Live Action Beauty & the Beast

Tavia Riveè



If the new Beauty & the Beast wasn’t on your radar before, go ‘head and lock in March 17, 2017 because Queen Audra is opening the show.

Broadway royalty Audra McDonald will be playing the role of the lively wardrobe, Madame De Garderobe and according to composer Alan Menken, will have a special moment in one of the three new songs written for the highly anticipated production.

“It’s a moment within the prologue, just before the spell befalls the castle,” noted Menken. “We’re actually at an event at the Prince’s castle, where the Prince is about to be turned into the Beast, and he’s in his very selfish and self-indulgent phase of his life, and we see that, and we have the magnificent Audra McDonald singing this number.”

McDonald is one major part of a star-studded cast including Broadway vets Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Josh Gad and Kevin Kline.

The tale is being brought to life under the direction of Dreamgirls and Chicago film director Bill Condon, so we know we’re in for a good thing!

Check out the trailer below and be sure not to be on CP time on March 17 so you can get ALL the life Mama McDonald has to give.


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A Must See

Todrick Hall Joins the Cast of Kinky Boots November 1st

Tristan Halstead



Everybody say “Yeah!” as YouTube and MTV star Todrick Hall laces up the sparkly red knee-high boots to join the cast of the Tony Award-winning musical Kinky Boots. The 31-year-old performer takes on the role of drag queen Lola, previously played by the likes of Billy Porter (which earned him a Tony) and Wayne Brady, starting November 1st.

Doing what he’s best at, Hall posted a short music video on YouTube to announce the casting.

Hall made his Broadway debut in the original production of The Color Purple. He initially rose to fame when he auditioned for the ninth season of “American Idol,” making it to the semi-finals.

Since then, he’s created countless YouTube parodies and music videos, earning over 2 million subscribers. This success lead to his own MTV show, “Todrick,” cancelled after one season.

In 2014, Hall played Rum Tum Tugger in the La Mirada/McCoy Rigby production of Cats. He appeared as a prominent guest judge on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

Focusing on his music career, Hall spent the summer on tour to promote his latest visual album, “Straight Outta Oz.” Inspired by Hamilton and Beyoncé‘s “Lemonade,” the hour-long video  presents a personal account of his life and his frustrations with the Hollywood industry.

With music and lyrics by recording artist Cyndi Lauper and a book by Harvey Fierstein, Kinky Boots tells the true story of a young man who, with the help of a drag queen, tries to save his father’s dilapidated shoe factory by developing a line of high-heeled boots.

Rivaling Matilda the Musical during the 2012-2013 season, the show earned six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, three Olivier Awards, and a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album. It has since opened subsequent international productions in South Korea, Australia, Toronto, Sweden, and Japan, with a US touring company.

With many of Todrick Hall’s videos parodying shows like Chicago and Beauty and the Beast, it’s no wonder his heart belongs to Broadway.

For tickets, visit Kinky Boots.

Visit Todrick Hall to see his YouTube videos.

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Coming Soon

What Comes Next for Daveed Diggs? Film, TV & New Music!

Tristan Halstead



It’s been only four days since Daveed Diggs announced his sudden departure from Hamilton, with his final curtain call taking place Friday, July 15. But not to worry. Already, the Tony Award-winner has a series of various projects lined up.

Last month his noise-rap trio, clipping., dropped a 6-track EP called “Wriggle.” Shortly after, they released a music video, made up of fast cuts of popular gifs, for the title song.

Let’s just say I lived for the “Mommie Dearest” and “Showgirls” plugs.

He also collaborated on a track with experimental rap group True Neutral Crew, called “Modern Art,” from their debut album “soft rules.” Listen below:

He’s signed on to Andy Samberg’s (The Lonely Island, “Saturday Night Live”) HBO mockumentary titled “Tour de Pharmacy,” a limited series that tackles the role of doping in the world of professional cycling.  The cast also includes Phylicia Rashad and Mike Tyson. He certainly has the comedic chops this show may require.

Get ready to binge-watch Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming Netflix series “The Get Down,” a fictional narrative about the birth of hip-hop among kids in the South Bronx, premiering August 12. Luhrmann revealed that Diggs will act as the narrator.

In what may be the first of many more film roles to come, Diggs joins the cast of Lionsgate’s “Wonder,” starring young actor Jacob Tremblay (“Room”), Julia Roberts, and Owen Wilson. Based on R.J. Palacio’s novel, the story follows Auggie Pullman, a young boy with a facial deformity as he enters the fifth grade. Stephen Chbosky directs.

Despite our lingering sadness, we couldn’t be happier for him. He’ll always be our Marquis de Lafayette, our Thomas Jefferson, but he has more than enough talent and charisma to take on a plethora of different roles. And we can’t wait to witness every one of them.

Best of luck, Daveed! You’re welcome back to Broadway any time!

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