Stage: Hamilton gets political; David Oyelowo, Deborah Cox lead new productions
Last week, Broadway saw a prime example of real life colliding with art. Things took a political turn when vice president elect Mike Pence visited the Big Apple to see a certain notorious Broadway production, and its cast had a message for him after the show. Meanwhile, David Oyelowo and Deborah Cox are leading new stage productions, and the upcoming Hairspray Live! is directed by a famous black Broadway director. For these stories and more, read on:
Broadway meets politics: Hamilton improvised some new material this month. With vice president-elect Mike Pence in the audience of its November 18 show, Brandon Victor Dixon (who plays ex-Vice President Aaron Burr) went off script at curtain call. “We, sir, are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights,” he said, to enthusiastic applause. “We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.” Pence was photographed smiling as he left, and has since made no comment. President elect Donald Trump, however, was not as amused.
The Broadway Advocacy Coalition (BAC) launched a new monthly series to promote initiatives concerning social issues on Broadway. The series will promote “civil education, community outreach, self care and liberation, social equality in our neighborhoods and the importance of unity” to see social change. Blending together artistic mediums like song, dance and poetry, the show will feature a panel of many artists each month. December 4th’s show, The American Hangover, will focus on post-election America, and is expected to be live streamed.
New productions: The Broadway adaption of Whitney Houston’s The Bodyguard kicked off November 25 at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Jersey City. The production stars Grammy Award-nominated Deborah Cox as Rachel Maddox, Houston’s original role. The show started in West End, where it won the best new musical award at the WhatsOnStage Awards. The story follows Rachel Maddox as a famous singer who hires protection against a stalker. Its national tour will officially kick off January 10 at the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis.
David Oyelowo has taken on yet another iconic role. The British actor most famous for playing MLK in Selma stars alongside Daniel Craig in The New York Theater Workshop production of Shakespeare classic Othello. Previews began November 22 to an audience that was sold out within hours. The production will officially open December 12 and run through January 18 at NYTW. The show is directed by Sam Gold, who won a Tony Award for best direction for Fun Home in 2015.
Tony Award nominee Danielle Brooks performed in a one-night only reading of The Amen Corner November 28. Part of Classic Stage Company’s annual First Look Festival, the festival presented works of three different American authors; Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, and James Baldwin, who wrote The Amen Corner. Along with the Orange is the New Black star, Adeola Role, Mirirai Sithole, Phumzile Sithole, Christina Redd, BranDon Jones, Curtiss Cook Jr., Kevin Mambo, Cristina Pitter and Folami Williams also performed.
Upcoming productions: NBC’s upcoming Hairspray Live! performed a preview scene at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The musical is co-directed by Alex Rudzinski and Kenny Leon, the latter of which who won the Tony Award for best director in 2014. Leon previously directed The Wiz Live!, which featured an entirely black cast, in 2015. He will be awarded the Mr. Abbot Award for outstanding creativity and artistry in 2017. Hairspray’s ensemble cast includes Jennifer Hudson as Motormouth Maybelle, Ephraim Sykes as Seaweed J. Stubbs, and Shahadi Wright Joseph as Little Inez. The production follows Rocky Horror Picture Show in a long line of musical productions on major television networks.
A film from a legendary Spanish filmmaker is being adapted to a Broadway show. Currently codenamed Buñuel, the production is based on Luis Buñuel’s 1972 film The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and 1962 film The Exterminating Angel. The script was written by famous composer Stephen Sondheim and playwright David Ives. Joe Mantello (director of Wicked) is reportedly signed on to direct the production, and will hold a workshop with a full cast and songs in March. If that goes well, the show will make its Broadway debut in the fall.
Awards: Playwright and The Walking Dead actress Danai Gurira was honored at the Theater Communication Group’s 2016 gala November 14. Gurira was honored for her script Eclipsed, for which she received a Tony Award nomination for Best Play. “By bringing the voices of women from Liberia’s civil war to the Broadway stage through their acclaimed production of Eclipsed, they’ve reaffirmed theatre’s power to humanize and connect us across borders,” said TCG executive director Terry Eyring. “The success of Eclipsed is also an example of TCG’s holistic approach to making a better world for theatre.”
New music: If you’re having a bad day, just watch this video. A multitude of Broadway stars and other artists came together to perform #BARS Medley Part 2, a fusion of rap and theater. Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal created the medley for actors who want to incorporate rap into their repertoire. A culmination of many creative forces, the video was directed by Carlos Lopez Estrada, and features Adrienne Warren, Javier Munoz, Pharoahe Monch, Anthony Ramos, Lemon Anderson, and many more faces. #BARS is an ongoing workshop created to investigate the relationship between contemporary art and theater.