Stage: Sarah Jones announces one-woman show; see Broadway castings and departures
This month, stages all over the world announced many new show debuts, awards, castings and departures. The immensely talented Sarah Jones will share the spotlight with her other personalities on stage, and Cicely Tyson was honored for extensive career on and off stage. For these stories and more, read on:
Debuts: Tony Award-winning Sarah Jones announced her new one-woman show about sex trafficking, Sell/Buy/Date. Jones rose to Broadway fame by channeling multiple different characters at the same time, often portraying multicultural viewpoints. In her new show, she will conjure five different characters whom discuss how people in the future may interpret modern day issues like sexuality and gender. Previews for the show began at the Manhattan Theatre Club September 27, and opening night is scheduled for October 18.
One aspiring playwright is transcending from Twitter to stage. Jonny Sun, perhaps better known by his Twitter name jomny sun, will see the debut of his first play Dead End at Theater Lab in Toronto on October 6. Set in a world overrun by a zombie apocalypse, the darkly comedic play follows two survivors cornered by a zombie with just “one bullet and one granola bar” to aid them. A Yale graduate, Jonny rose to Twitter fame for his surreal tweets featuring clever wordplay, which he broadcasts to more than 181k followers.
Theater production company ice&fire announced its cast for its upcoming production The Island Nation. The cast features diverse performs like Ayesha Darkher (Othello), Bally Gill (Fall of the Kingdom), Nikki Patel (Future Conditional) and Neran Persaud (Dr Blighty). Taking place in Sri Lanka during the 26-year civil war, the show will follow the human side of the war. It will debut in the Arcola Theater on West End October 28.
Awards: The American Theatre Wing celebrated Tony winner Cicely Tyson September 26. Stars such as Danielle Brooks, Saycon Sengbloh and Adriane Lenox. Tyson has starred in television, film and Broadway, perhaps best known on stage for her starring role in A Trip to Bountiful. “Cicely Tyson exemplifies what the American Theatre Wing is all about, from her career-defining performances, to her passionate commitment to arts education via her namesake performing and fine arts school,” said Wing president Heather Hitchens. Tyson most recently appeared on stage opposite James Earl Jones in a revival of The Gin Game.
Broadway actor turned Kimmy Schmidt sidekick Tituss Burgess will be honored with the first Voice & Visibility Award at NewFest. The LGBT film festival, in its 28th year, was created to empower the LGBT community by giving them a platform to tell their stories. “It’s an honor to be the first recipient of this award,” Burgess said. “What a lovely reminder to us all that being yourself gives others permission to stand proudly in their own individuality.”
Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ work as a playwright is receiving appropriate recognition. He was named among the 23 winners of this year’s MacArthur “Genius” Grant for his work penning several scripts, including An Octoroon, Gloria and Appropriate. His writing style is described as drawing from many contemporary and historical genres to bring attention to issues such as identity, class and race. Winners receive $625,000 as prize for the grant.
Departures: Heather Headley took her final bow as Shug Avery in John Doyle’s The Color Purple October 2. The Trinidadian star is perhaps best known for her starring role in Aida, for which she won a Tony, and played the role of Avery since the production’s revival in 2015. Headley will be replaced by Jennifer Holliday, who joins the remaining cast of Cynthia Erivo, Danielle Brooks, Kyle Scatliffe, Isaiah Johnson and Joaquina Kalukango.
Leona Lewis has run out of her nine lives on Broadway. The X-Factor winner will exit the revival of Cats October 9, appearing since the show debuted on July 31. In her Broadway debut she played the role of Grisabella, who sings the popular show tune “Memory.” “I’ll miss my Cats family like crazy!” she wrote on Twitter. Her replacement has not yet been announced.
Casting: The new Broadway musical Anastasia will bring Ramin Karimloo back home, or at least to Broadway. The actor, who previously played the “Bring Him Home”-crooner Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, will play Bolshevik general Gleb in the new musical. Based on the 1997 animated film, the show will feature songs written for the original film. First debuting as a tryout run in Connecticut, the show will open on Broadway April 24.
Dion Johnstone will take the lead in Red Bull Theater’s production of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. This will be the Canadian first performance in the Big Apple, but far from his first in Shakespeare, with previous theater credits including Othello, The Tempest and MacBeth. The play follows the election year in Rome, 493 B.C.E., when riots are rife in the streets and one troubled man rises to political power. The play will premier at the Barrow Street Theatre October 30.
Hamilton: PBS is developing a documentary about a musical about American history. Lin Manuel-Miranda’s Hamilton will get a documentary produced by RadicalMedia and directed by Alex Horwitz. The doc promises to explore the creation of the show, featuring previously unreleased footage of the cast exploring historic sites, and interviews with prominent figures such as President Barack Obama. It will also feature Manuel-Miranda performing early versions of the show and composing songs that would one day become Broadway hits. The doc will air October 21 in the season premier of the PBS Arts Fall Festival.