Tag: “A Raisin In The Sun”

THEATER: How Black Stars on Broadway are Redefining Legacy of “The Great White Way”

Keke Palmer And Sherri Shepherd's Debut In 'Cinderella' On Broadway
Keke Palmer And Sherri Shepherd’s Debut In ‘Cinderella’ On Broadway (Source: Jenny Anderson / Getty)

‘The Great White Way’ is seeing a serious dose of color these days.

In 2014, Black actors broke ground on Broadway when Norm Lewis became the first Black male to play the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera, and Keke Palmer played Rodger and Hammerstein’s first Black Cinderella on the stage. This year, Brandy scored another career milestone as the third notable Black actress to play femme fatale Roxie Hart in Chicago. And just last week, photos of Taye Diggs as Hedwig & The Angry Inch’s first Black male superstar hit the web to tons of excitement.

These inspiring moves are not only monumental for the actors, but also for the world of Broadway. While television and film are often called out for their extreme lack of diversity, Broadway has a long history of incorporating actors of color, as well as from the LGBT and disabled communities. And yet, despite impressive attempts at inclusivity, most people remain unaware of the strides made in the theater world.

To put it mildly, Hollywood could learn a lot from the Great White Way’s  moves to culturally harmonize the stage.

Brandy Norwood Prepares Her 'Chicago' Broadway Debut
Brandy as “Roxie Hart: in “Chicago” (Source: Bruce Glikas / Getty)

Black actors first began standing under those bright white lights in 1920 when Charles Giplin became the first Black actor on Broadway to play the lead role in The Emperor Jones. Seven years later, Ethel Waters became the first Black actress in a lead role in Africana. Meanwhile, Show Boat was the first production to feature an integrated cast and even an interracial marriage.

The Roaring Twenties gave us our “Black firsts” on Broadway, but racism and segregation marred an otherwise elegant art scene, due much in part to the terrible effects of minstrelsty.  Minstrels shows may not have been “Broadway” productions, but the racist shows garnered popularity nonetheless. Sometimes performed through the vaudeville platform (think baby Broadway), the productions continued through the 1960s, when fight for civil rights decreased their popularity.

Still, amid all of the setbacks, Black actors persevered by singing, dancing and acting their way into our hearts. More importantly, they did so not for the amusement of the White man, but out of their talent and genuine passion for the field.

In 1950, Juanita Hill was the first Black woman to win a Tony Award for a Supporting Role as Bloody Mary in South Pacific. Another Rodgers and Hammerstein production, the story was far from the famed duo’s most famous shows, but was notable for its tackling of the harmful affects of racism head-on.

The next 30 years would see a number of other noteworthy moments, including Diahann Carroll’s Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for No Strings. Vinnette Justine Carroll‘s achievement as the first Black female director of Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope, the production of Ntozake Shange’s emotional For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf, powerhouse actress Audra McDonald winning and of course Jennifer Holliday’s portrayal of Effie White in Dreamgirls:

But the last two years have been extremely notable for their high-profile and consistent opportunities for Black stage actors. Not only did Broadway darling Audra McDonald make history by winning her sixth Tony in 2014 (also becoming the only actress to win in all four acting categories), but Phyllicia Rashad won a Tony for the revival of A Raisin In The Sun and Denzel Washington shone in his much-praised role in August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Fences.

Continue reading “THEATER: How Black Stars on Broadway are Redefining Legacy of “The Great White Way””

R.I.P. Oscar-Nominated Acting Legend and Civil Rights Activist Ruby Dee

Ruby Dee
Ruby Dee, best known for her role in 1961’s “A Raisin in the Sun” and latterly for her Oscar-nominated turn as Denzel Washington’s mother in 2007’s “American Gangster,” died Wednesday in New York. She was 91.

Dee’s Oscar nomination in 2008 for her performance as the feisty mother of a Harlem druglord played by Washington in Ridley Scott’s “American Gangster” was particularly impressive because the actress made an impression on the Motion Picture Academy with only 10 minutes of screen time. She won a SAG Award for the same performance.  Dee also won an Emmy in 1991 for her performance in the “Hallmark Hall of Fame” movie “Decoration Day.”

She and her husband, Ossie Davis, who often performed together, were among the first generation of African-American actors, led by Sidney Poitier, afforded the opportunity for significant, dignified dramatic roles in films, onstage and on television.

Continue reading “R.I.P. Oscar-Nominated Acting Legend and Civil Rights Activist Ruby Dee”

“A Raisin In The Sun” Earns Three Tony Awards; Audra McDonald Makes History

Raisin_650

Although the Denzel Washington-headlined revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s classic play did not garner its lead an award tonight, “A Raisin in the Sun” fared quite well in several other categories, winning three Tonys overall, for Best Director (Kenny Leon), Best Featured Actress in a Play (Sophie Okonedo) and Best Revival of a Play.

Audra McDonaldAlso of major note was Audra McDonald‘s Best Lead Actress in a Play win for “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill.” Not only did she earn her record sixth Tony (surpassing Angela Lansberry and Julie Harris at five each), she also became the only actor to ever win a Tony in all four acting categories.

To see a full list of winners, click here.

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

“A Raisin In The Sun” Revival Garners Four Tony Nominations

A Raisin In The Sun

The Tony Nominations for 2014 were announced this morning, and the current production of the Lorraine Hansberry classic, A Raisin In The Sun, earned four, including Best Revival of A Play.  Raisin‘s LaTanya Richardson Jackson was nominated in the Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play, and Sophie Okonedo and Anika Noni Rose both were nominated in the Featured Actress category for their outstanding work in the production.

Denzel Washington, who anchors the play by reviving the Walter Younger role that garnered Sidney Poitier a Tony nomination in the original Broadway production, was overlooked in the Leading Actor category.

Another notable nomination is Audra McDonald for her Leading Actress performance as Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill. The full list of Tony nominees follows: Continue reading ““A Raisin In The Sun” Revival Garners Four Tony Nominations”

THEATER REVIEW: “Raisin in the Sun” Brings Denzel Washington Back to Broadway

From left, Sophie Okonedo, Mr. Washington, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Bryce Clyde Jenkins and Anika Noni Rose play members of a family pondering whether to move to a suburb. (Credit: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times)

The spark of rebellion, the kind that makes a man stand up and fight, has almost been extinguished in Walter Lee Younger. As portrayed by Denzel Washington in Kenny Leon’s disarmingly relaxed revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun — which opened on Thursday night at the Ethel Barrymore Theater — Walter appears worn down, worn out and about ready to crawl into bed for good. Frankly, he looks a whole lot older than you probably remember him.

That’s partly because, at 59, Mr. Washington, the much laureled movie star, is about a quarter of a century older than the character he is playing, at least as written. (This production bumps Walter’s age up to 40 from 35.) But it’s also because, as this production of Raisin makes clearer than any I’ve seen before, Walter inhabits a world that ages men like him fast.

Listen to how his mama, Lena (LaTanya Richardson Jackson), describes her late husband’s existence: “I seen him, night after night, come in, and look at that rug, and then look at me, the red showing in his eyes, the veins moving in his head. I seen him grow thin and old before he was 40, working and working like somebody’s horse.”

In this engrossingly acted version of Hansberry’s epochal 1959 portrait of an African-American family, Walter is all too clearly his father’s son. Lena may tell him, shaking her head, that he is “something new, boy.” But you know that her great fear is that he is not. Small wonder she shows such smothering protectiveness to Walter’s 11-year-old son, Travis (Bryce Clyde Jenkins).

A claustrophobic fatigue pervades the cramped, South Side Chicago apartment in which A Raisin in the Sun is set. And despite its often easygoing tone, a happy ending feels far from guaranteed. As designed by Mark Thompson, the Youngers’ living room cum kitchen is a narrow corridor that keeps its three generations of inhabitants in close, erosive proximity.

The production begins with a searing vision of bone-weariness. Ruth Younger (Sophie Okonedo), Walter’s wife, stands frozen center stage in a bathrobe, amid sallow morning light. Her face is harrowed, and her arms are braced against the kitchen counter in what is almost a crucifix position. She is trying to find the strength to get through another day.

Mr. Leon relaxes that initial tautness for the scene that follows, in which the Youngers — who also include Walter’s sister, Beneatha (a first-rate Anika Noni Rose), a pre-med student — go through their usual morning rituals. And the play as a whole has a genial, conversational quality; it always holds you, but without trying to shake you.

Still, that opening scene strikes a note that will resonate. Exhaustion is pulling at the Youngers like a dangerous force of gravity. As Hansberry puts it in her stage directions, “Weariness has, in fact, won in this room.”

Continue reading “THEATER REVIEW: “Raisin in the Sun” Brings Denzel Washington Back to Broadway”

UPDATE: Denzel Washington To Star on Broadway in “A Raisin In The Sun” with Diahann Carroll, Anika Noni Rose and Sophie Okonedo

Denzel Washington will star opposite Diahann Carroll in the Broadway revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s classic A Raisin In The Sun. Previews begin March 8, 2014, with opening night on April 3, 2014 at the Barrymore Theatre where the original production opened 55 years ago. Set on Chicago’s South Side, A Raisin In The Sun revolves around the divergent dreams and conflicts within three generations of the Younger family: son Walter Lee (Washington), his wife Ruth (Sophie Okonedo), his sister Beneatha (Anika Noni Rose), his son Travis and matriarch Lena, called Mama (Carroll). Rounding out the cast are Stephen Tyrone Williams, Jason Dirden, and Stephen McKinley Henderson. Washington won a Best Actor Tony for his performance in 2010′s Fences. The Kenny Leon-directed A Raisin In The Sun is a limited engagement, running 14 weeks only through June 15, 2014. Washington currently can be seen in Universal’s action thriller 2 Guns with Mark Wahlberg which opens today.

article via deadline.com