Tag: “Dreamgirls”

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.

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Jennifer Hudson Receives Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame

Jennifer Hudson

By her own admission, Jennifer Hudson is having a “fantastic and surreal year.” The Oscar and Grammy winner, who received a star today, Nov. 13, on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her music work, kicked off 2013 with a trifecta of high-profile performances: the presidential inauguration, the Super Bowl and the Academy Awards.

And as the year winds to a close, she shows no signs of slowing down, conquering all aspects of media. Television? She dropped in on NBC’s Smash for a multi-episode arc. Music? She just released her new single “I Can’t Describe” from her upcoming third studio album. And movies? Hudson has no fewer than three this year, with her long-gestating Winnie Mandela biopic Winnie released in September, followed by The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete, and the upcoming Black Nativity.

It’s the latter film that marks Hudson’s first movie musical since her 2006 film debut in Dreamgirls, which went on to win Hudson an Academy Award for Supporting Actress. She admits that after the success of that film, many movie musicals came courting. “But I was always ‘No, no, not now,’” she says. “And I don’t want to be typecast, because this industry is quick to box you in and say, ‘OK, everything you do should be a musical.’ So I’m very selective.”

But there was something about the message of holidays and family in Black Nativity that persuaded Hudson. A modern retelling of the Nativity story with an all-black cast, Black Nativity is based on Langston Hughes’ acclaimed play, which made its Broadway debut in 1961. Hudson plays the single mother of a troubled teen (Jacob Latimore) who is sent to spend the holidays with his grandparents, played by Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett.

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‘The Butler’ Becomes 1st Black Film with Black Director To Break $100 Million Sales Mark In Over 20 Years

Lee Daniels’ The Butler has reached a new milestone.  According to reports, the drama is the first black film of 2013 to surpass the $100 million sales mark at the box office. In addition, it’s now the first “black film” directed by a black filmmaker to reach the achievement in the last 23 years.  “You’d find very few films that tell stories about black people, and that were directed by black filmmakers, with grosses of over $100 million,” Indie Wire reports.

“Part of the reason for that is that, within the studio system, black directors just haven’t always been given the opportunity to direct “black films” – especially those that did gross over $100 million in recent years, like Django UnchainedDreamgirlsThe Pursuit Of Happyness, and even Big Mommas House, which all grossed over $100 million, in their years of release, un-adjusted for inflation.”  Thanks to the success of the film, Lee Daniels says big box office bucks are no longer a concern for his future projects.

“I don’t think I’m going to have a problem now. I made $100 million for The Butler,” he said. “I’m in a rare group. So this is something I feel good about.”  Sources say the The Best Man Holiday, set for a November 15 release, has the potential to reach a similar height.

article by Myeisha Essex via blackamericaweb.com