Black to Broadway

Black to Broadway
ESSENCE.COM Nov, 16, 2009

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On November 23, Tony Award-winning choreographer Bill T. Jones brings “Fela!,” the controversial story of Nigerian musician and activist Fela Anikulapo-Kuti (played by Sahr Ngaujah), who died of AIDS in 1997, to the big stage. The production uses many of the Afrobeat musician’s soul-stirring songs (“Water No Get Enemy”) and Jones’s visionary staging to delight new audiences. Jay-Z, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith are producers. Now playing at Eugene O’Neill Theatre.

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Set in a crumbling Chicago neighborhood, “Superior Donuts” tells the story of a retro donut shop owner who’s reluctant to change with the times. His only employee, an ambitious African-American teenager (played my Jon Michael Hill) with bold ideas, gets under his skin and the two form an unlikely friendship. Now playing at the Music Box Theatre.

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Playwright Tarrell Alvin McCraney’s unapologetic-yet-riveting work has already gotten critical acclaim. His new production, a trilogy called “The Brother/Sister Plays,” focuses on several African American families in a Louisiana housing project on the eve of Hurricane Katrina. Now playing at The Public Theater.

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When Daniel Breaker starred in “Passing Strange” he played a coming-of-age rocker. In “Shrek the Musical” he plays a talkative ass, well, at least a funny one. As the Donkey in the Broadway adaptation of the animated movie, “Shrek,” Breaker steals the show as the feisty sidekick. Now playing at The Broadway Theatre.

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When two sons return home to take care of their down-on-his-luck father, their family dynamic is put to the test. Starring “The Wire’s” Wendell Pierce, “Broke-Ology” is written by Nathan Lucas, who’s won two Lorriane Hansberry Playwriting Awards. Now playing at the Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater.

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Wendell Pierce, who will star in the new HBO series “Treme” next spring, gets raves reviews for his turn on stage. Says WOR Radio, “Broke-Ology is extremely rich, at times very funny and the acting, especially by Wendell Pierce, is excellent.”

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When two star-crossed musicians—-a White radio DJ and a Black nightclub singer—-meet for a soulful collaboration, they end up making more than just music together. Inspired by true events in 1950’s Tennessee, “Memphis” is an interracial love musical that questions will love conquer all? Now playing at the Shubert Theatre.

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“Ragtime’s” history on Broadway is as long as the history that plays out in this classic, Tony Award-winning musical. Set at the turn of the century (last century that is), “Ragtime” follows three families as they try to navigate a new America. Quentin Earl Darrington and Stephanie Umoh star as the young Black couple determined to make it. Now playing at the Neil Simon Theatre.

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As part of the Brits Off-Broadway series, “My Wonderful Day” tells the poignant story of Winnie, 8-year-old African-Caribbean girl (played by Ayesha Antoine) who carefully observes her mother and her mother’s employers for one day in North London. Now playing at the 59E59 Theater.

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More scenes from Tarrell Alvin McCraney’s trilogy, the “Brother/Sister Plays.”

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Producers for this new David Mamet play (he wrote “Glengarry Glen Ross”) are being hush-hush on the play’s crime drama plot. But in the hands of this “Race” cast—James Spader, David Allan Grier, Kerry Washington and Richard Thomas—audiences will be running to see this who-done-it. Now playing at the Barrymore Theatre.

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Fresh off its big screen adaptation, “Dreamgirls” gets a revival when it comes uptown for a limited run at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Until December 6, relive the rag-to-riches tale of an R&B girl group who learn the harsh realities of success. Newcomer Moya Angela stars as Effie White, the role that turned Jennifer Hudson into an Academy Award winner. Now playing at the Apollo Theater.

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