Black Breakthroughs on Stage and Behind the Scenes. Sutton Foster Joins Hugh Jackman. #Stageworthy News of the Week

Ephraim Sykes in Ain’t Too Proud, Corbin Bleu in Kiss Me Kate, Daveed Diggs in White Noise: These are some of the black breakout stars in shows that opened last week on Broadway or Off Broadway. But there are also African-American stars behind the scenes – Raja Feather Kelly, whom I profiled as the busiest choreographer Off-Broadway and has been appointed the artistic director of New Brooklyn Theater,  Dominique Morisseau, whom I interviewed as an acclaimed playwright making her Broadway debut;  and Nataki Garrett, a long-time stage director and theater administrator, who was appointed the sixth artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Bill Rauch, the current director, who is leaving for The Perelman Center, praises the “historic appointment” of a black woman as artistic director of a big-budget regional theater. She is just the latest in what some see as a shift to a more diverse leadership nationwide.

 

The Week in New York Theater Reviews

Ain’t Too Proud

In the six decades since The Temptations began, as we’re told near the end of the latest Broadway jukebox musical “Ain’t Too Proud,”  24 men have performed at one time or another as members of this R & B quintet…The Temptations, in other words, is less a band than a brand….”Ain’t Too Proud is an extension of that brand. It’s subtitled “The Life and Times of The Temptations,”  but it would be more accurate to label it The Song and Dance of the Temptations. Those are the reasons people will want to see this show, and these are the aspects of the show that will most reward them….

Kiss Me Kate

The most exciting moment in this fourth Broadway production of Cole Porter’s backstage musical riffing on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew comes at the top of Act II, when the cast at first languidly sings “Too Darn Hot” but then quickly throws themselves into Warren Carlyle’s warp-speed choreography – simultaneously old-fashioned and eye-catching, gymnastic, aerial – featuring a tap-dancing Corbin Bleu demonstrating why he is one of the great song-and-dance men of his generation.

I was thrilled. I was impressed. But I also couldn’t help thinking:  If it’s so hot, why are they moving around so much?

It was a silly question, but it offered a clue to why, even in its most entertaining moments, I had trouble fully embracing this Kiss Me Kate….

White Noise

Leo (Daveed Diggs) makes an outrageous request of his best friend Ralph (Thomas Sadoski) in Suzan-Lori Parks’ bizarre, disturbing and in some ways brilliant new play, White Noise, at the Public Theater. Leo wants to become Ralph’s slave…His friends are skeptical, but go along with him. Most audience members will surely require a suspension of disbelief longer than the George Washington Bridge to buy into this premise…If Parks’ conceit is fanciful, the play is predominantly neither farcical nor fierce. It’s illuminating.  White Noise dips deep into the racial divide in America. The playwright weaves in her sharp social and cultural observations in various ways….

Nantucket Sleigh Ride

Nantucket Sleigh Ride is an old whaling term, as one of the characters explains in John Guare’s crafty new play. “Sailors would harpoon a whale. The whale would drag the sailors on a frantic race across the ocean – for hours – for days – until the whale died or the whale drowned the sailors.” That’s more or less the ride  that poor  Edmund Gowery winds up taking in “Nantucket Sleigh Ride.”…It’s a mostly comic tale of ambition, neglect, corruption and deception that has far too many twists and teases and tumult to hazard even a brief outline…

Fosse Verdon preview:

In “Fosse Verdon,” an eight-part series that begins on April 9th on FX, current Broadway royalty and a cast of Broadway regulars (see below) tell the story of a king and queen of Broadway who for three decades reigned (sort of) on stage, on film and in life, Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon.

 

The Week in New York Theater News

After a six-year absence from the Broadway stage, Sutton Foster will star as Marian Paroo opposite Hugh Jackman

James Corden, will be host of the 73rd annual the Tony Awards, presented at Radio City Music Hall, and broadcast live on CBS, on Sunday, June 9, 2019

Brandon Dixon and  Bebe Neuwirth will announce 2019 the Tony nominations live at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, live streamed and broadcast at 8:30 a.m. on April 30th

The opening of Gary, the play that marks Taylor Mac’s Broadway playwriting debut, has been moved ten days, to April 21st Broadway openings:

For the third consecutive year, the Trump administration’s budget has proposed the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts,” said Actors Equity president Kate Shindlein a statement. “Given that the arts drive a larger share of America’s economy than transportation, tourism, agriculture and construction, this proposed elimination is short-sighted at best.

Harvey Fierstein will star as Bella Abzug in his new solo play Bella Bella, set in 1976, on the eve of her bid to become New York State’s first female Senator. Opening at MTC October 22, 2019

Lauren Yee and Michael R. Jackson were the two playwrights among the ten writers to receive 2019 Whiting Awards, Jackson for his musical A Strange Loop, which will soon receive a production at Playwrights Horizons and Yee  for her play Cambodian Rock Band (which you’ll be hearing more about.)

Heidi Schreck and Amy Herzog win the Horton Foote Playwriting Award and $12,500 apiece. The award recognizes playwrights “whose work seeks to plumb the ineffable nature of being human.”

Brian D’Arcy James and Corey Stoll join the cast of Steven Spielberg’s remake of the film West Side Story, as police officers.

James is currently leading the replacement cast of The Ferryman.

 

Ryann Redmond is the new Olaf in Frozen.

John Doyle will direct the Sondheim/Weidman musical ‘Assassins’ at Classic Stage Company, part of CSC’s 2019-2020 season.  It will make the third and final John Weidman-Stephen Sondheim collaboration Doyle has directed, following Pacific Overture at CSC and Road Show at the Public.

Doyle is apparently expecting 2020 to be a horror-filled year, because the CSC season will include new productions of “Dracula” and “Frankenstein”  (not the ones pictured) in repertory.

Brenda Pressley replaces Suzzanne Douglas in Chisa Hutchinson’s Proof of Love, a monologue about a woman whose happy life is derailed by an accident. It opens May 14 at Minetta Lane.

 

Rest in Peace

Antonia Rey, 92, eight-time Broadway veteran, “with scores of small parts on the stage (including in “A Streetcar Named Desire”), in movies (“Klute”) and on television (“Who’s the Boss?”). But with few leading roles available for Hispanic actresses in the New York theater world of her era, she would not regain the stature she had achieved in Havana. Still, she did not regret leaving.”

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Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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