Muhammad Ali, who died Friday at 74, was among “one of the most famous faces on Earth” as the world heavyweight boxing champion. Fewer know he also starred on Broadway.
In 1969, when he was banned from the ring because of his refusal to be drafted into the Vietnam War, Ali starred in a musical called Buck White, playing the title role of a militant black lecturer who addresses a meeting organized by a black political group. The musical ran a total of 16 perviews and seven regular performances.
“How is Mr. Clay?” Clive Barnes wrote in his review. “He emerges as a modest, naturally appealing man; he sings with a pleasant slightly impersonal voice, acts w/o embarrassment, moves with innate dignity. You are aware he is not a professional performer only when he is not performing. He has no trained histrionic presence and when left in the background, he disappears completely in a manner no experienced actor would. For all this, he does himself proud.”
He re-created his role on the Ed Sullivan Show.
A brief documentary years later.