Original dateline January 31, 2016, republishing:
The Great White Hope with James Earl Jones and Jane Alexander was one of the highlights of my 1968 theater-going season. (It played through January 1970 and was tecognized for the 1969 Tony for both actors and the play, and received a Pulitzer for its author, Howard Sackler.)
Marco Ramirez’ The Royale, at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi Newhouse Theater starting February 11th, retells the story of the flamboyant Jack Johnson from a different vantage point.
Johnson was the World Heavyweight Champ from 1908 to 1915, amidst great controversy. His supremacy for the title caused much racial tension. There was a rallying cry for a great white fighter to knock him out of the ring and riots in many of the cities in which he fought.
Greg Pierce, author of Slowgirl, which also played the LCT3 Claire Tow, (and a slew of other works produced around the country) has a new play opening in LC’s blackbox upstairs, beginning February 6th.
Like Slowgirl, Pierce’s Her Requiem looks to be an arresting piece. Tickets at just $30 in a house that holds just 112 people go fast. Starring Peter Friedman, Mare Winningham, Joyce Van Patten, Kelly McQuail, Naian Gonzalez Norvind, and Robbie Collier Sublett, this will prove to be an interesting drama.
Shuffle Along…, coming to the Music Box Theatre in March, will be not just “another opening of another show” but an event. It’s a historically significant musical, having had great success as the first all Negro production to make it big on Broadway in 1921. With music and lyrics by Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake, Shuffle Along launched Josephine Baker, Paul Robeson and Adelaide Hall. The book by Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles was a stretch, using a connecting plot about a corrupt mayoral race. In 1921 it ran for 504 performances and was revived in 1933 for just 17 evenings, and again, even less successfully in 1952. Road shows toured the country through 1924 to great acclaim, however, and Shuffle Along legitimized the African-American performer and proved that audiences would indeed pay to see an all black production.
Officially titled Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, it will feature the original music from Shuffle Along and a libretto written by its director, George C. Wolfe. Audra McDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell will be reunited in this production. Billy Porter and Joshua Henry will also star in Shuffle Along…. The choreographer is Savion Glover.