Tag: Brandy

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””

Chaka Khan, Brandy and Lianne La Havas Join Honoree Jill Scott at ESSENCE Black Women in Music

BWIM 2015-

Chaka Khan, Brandy and Lianne La Havas have been added to the lineup for our annual ESSENCE Black Women in Music ceremony.

The three performers join this year’s honoree, Jill Scott, in celebrating the best and brightest moments in Black music over ESSENCE’s 45-year history. The 6th annual event recognizes the achievements of the generations of Black women singers who have inspired and paved the way.

Past ESSENCE Black Women in Music honorees include Mary J. Blige, Kelly Rowland, Janelle Monáe, and Solange Knowles. This year’s event will feature an exclusive performance from Scott as well as several other performances from several classic eras of music. And for the first time, community fans will be able to join in the festivities of this invitation-only event.

Ten-time Grammy winner Chaka Khan has been on the scene for over three decades, racking up accolades and earning the praise of her peers, such as Aretha Franklin and Miles Davis. We’ve watched Grammy winner Brandy grow up right before our eyes since her 1995 debut. She helped shape a generation with songs like “I Wanna Be Down” and “The Boy Is Mine.” Newcomer Lianne La Havas burst on the scene in 2012 with her album, Is Your Love Big Enough? The London-based singer attracted the attention of Prince—the two collaborated for his song, “Clouds.”

The ESSENCE Black Women in Music event will kick-off our year-long commemoration of the 45th anniversary of ESSENCE Magazine, where Black women have always—and will continue to—come first.

Catch these women, along with other music trailblazers, during ESSENCE Black Women in Music on February 5 in Los Angeles.

article by Taylor Lewis via essence.com

Essence Festival: Free Essence Fest Convention Experience Dazzles with Celeb Sightings, Giveaways

Scenes from the Essence Festival convention experience

A cheer goes up that one would expect to hear for a rock star when Rev. Al Sharpton enters the open MSNBC studio at the Essence Festival. “I love Al Sharpton,” one onlooker says as the activist and pundit takes his place in the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

In the middle of huge exhibits and interactive displays, the MSNBC host of his show Politics Nation talks Trayvon Martin and matters of policy with fellow network show host Alex Wagner for a segment on her program, Now.

It’s a thrill for the thick throng. Gathered in the electric atmosphere of the Essence Festival convention center expo, thousands will take in the many interactive showcases here, where spectators can interact with big brands, huge stars and impressive thought leaders.

Essence Festival: More than just music

The Essence Festival is not just about the music. Yes, the incredible concerts, featuring marquee names such as Brandy and Beyonce this year, are amazing. But, the gigantic, free convention center experience — the complementary arm of the Essence Festival concerts — is nothing short of extraordinary.

“This is very exciting for us,” Fred Jackson, promotions director for Essence and the Essence Festival, told theGrio. “To gather what will probably be more than 400,000 people for this weekend to celebrate urban culture, music, and just celebrate us, is an amazing thing.”

You have to see the convention hall for yourself to get an idea of the extravaganza event organizers have created. Coca-Cola has crafted a dance floor, flanked with a three-story-high wall emblazoned with its iconic colors of red and white. McDonald’s has a store and stage, complete with an exterior facade suitable for a city street. Inside, hundreds line up for free food.

“You can win a car from our partners at Ford. I can’t even name all the things that the partners are going to do, because I’ll leave somebody out, and I’ll be in trouble,” Jackson joked.

Continue reading “Essence Festival: Free Essence Fest Convention Experience Dazzles with Celeb Sightings, Giveaways”

Jill Scott, Maxwell Return to Re-Branded Essence Fest

Singers Jill Scott (L) and Maxwell arrives at the 41st NAACP Image awards held at The Shrine Auditorium on February 26, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for NAACP)

Singers Jill Scott (L) and Maxwell arrive at the 41st NAACP Image awards held at The Shrine Auditorium on February 26, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for NAACP)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Essence Music Festival is dropping the music — from its name, that is.

The festival held in New Orleans every July 4th weekend for the past 18 years has rebranded itself The Essence Festival. Organizers say the change is designed to showcase the event as more than a music festival.

Still, music will remain a focus for the 19th annual festival, which is July 4-7.

The lineup includes more than 30 acts — a number of them Essence veterans. On the roster are Jill Scott, Maxwell, New Edition, Charlie Wilson, Keyshia Cole, LL Cool J and Brandy.

As in past years, concerts will be held at the Superdome while empowerment seminars on health, beauty, careers, education and relationships are held at a nearby convention center.

article by Stacey Plaisance via thegrio.com