THOUGHTS: Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill

Lady-Day-Cover-copyIt’s March 1959 in South Philly and you are about to see the enigmatic Billie Holiday onstage at Emerson’s Bar and Grill. The bar is run down, but who cares? Billie’s turned her life around and you want a chance to see the star back on the circuit!

OK, so technically you’re really at the Circle in the Square Theater in midtown Manhattan, but with the ambiance of this stunning production starring Audra McDonald, you will be taken to another time and place. The setting is of time as equally turbulent historically as it is personally for that of the show’s main character, Billie Holiday.

Read on to learn about what’s in store for you as Bille (Audra) performs one of the last show’s of her life before her death, a few months later, in July of 1959.

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THOUGHTS: Romeo & Juliet at Classical Theatre of Harlem

Sheldon Best & Natalie Paul as the star-crossed lovers Romeo & Juliet

Sheldon Best & Natalie Paul as the star-crossed lovers Romeo & Juliet

All the passion and romance you’d expect to see from Romeo & Juliet, but with a bit more pizzazz! Under the inspired direction of Justin Emeka, a diverse cast of wonderfully talented actors capitalize on bringing ‘ethnic realness’ to this well known Shakespeare tragedy. Emeka’s modernizing concept works beautifully and is especially relevant for today’s audience!

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THROWBACK THURSDAY: 5 Interesting Facts about The Hot Mikado

Hot-Mikado-Playbill-05-39This week we’re taking it way back to 1939 for THROWBACK THURSDAY with The Hot Mikado, an all black cast adaptation of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado. Starring the iconic Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, the original Broadway production hit the stage at the Broadhurst Theatre on March 23rd, 1939 with a total of 85 performances. The musical set in Japan features a comedic story of lovers kept apart, crazy laws, resistance to forced execution, and imposing royals. It’s quite the comedy of errors. While Gilbert and Sullivan gave an operatic version of the story, The Hot Mikado gave it a jazzy flavor.

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TALKS: Grease’s Telly Leung

tellyheadTelly Leung. Name sound familiar? Well if not, it should be! Telly is an absolutely phenomenal performer of color who has been featured on Glee as Wes, a bevy of shows on Broadway (Godspell, Flower Drum Song) and regionally at Music Circus, PCLO and numerous others.

He is a Caregie Mellon University alum and is currently playing the role of the Teen Angel in Papermill’s popular production of Grease!

Keep reading for my exclusive audio interview with the Broadway and TV star!


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THROWBACK THURSDAY: 5 Interesting Facts about Dreamgirls

DreamGirls_Playbill_300This week’s THROWBACK THURSDAY is taking a look at the 6 time Tony award winning musical DreamgirlsMany of you may be very familiar with the film that came out in 2006 starring Jennifer Hudson, Jamie Foxx, Beyonce, Eddie Murphy, and Anika Noni Rose, but how much do you know about the stage production? The musical, spanning the 60s and 70s, follows the highs and lows of a Chicago girl group called “The Dreams.” With music by Henry Kreiger and book and lyrics by Tom Eyen, the original production of  Dreamgirls came to Broadway in 1981 at the Imperial Theater and went on to be nominated for 13 Tony awards that year!

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THOUGHTS: The Story of Yu-Huan

Ashley Liang as the title character in "The Story of Yu-Huan"

Ashley Liang as the title character in “The Story of Yu-Huan”

Yangtze Repertory Theatre of America was founded in 1992 and has become New York’s most significant entry point for dramatic works by Asian artists. Friday night I travelled to NYC’s East Village to see their latest production, “The Story of Yu-Huan” presented by Theatre for the New City. Written and directed by the theatre’s Artistic Director of 22 years Joanna Chan, “The Story of Yu-Huan” centers on a woman born of royal lineage during the Tang Dynasty who trained as an artist. The play tells the story of her remarkable life and the tragic death that marked the end of 130 years of unprecedented prosperity in the Middle Kingdom. Continue reading

THOUGHTS: After Midnight

afmidFrom the opening music and lights of “After Midnight,” I felt that something magical was about to happen. At that moment, I surveyed my surroundings and realized how proud to be a part of the theater community and reflected on the fact that during the height of the Cotton Club’s glory, Black people were not even allowed to enter the venue as patrons.

The Black performers, had to enter through the back door of the night club and were often relegated to restrictions their white counterparts were free to enjoy. However, thankfully much has changed in this regard.

The show originally stars Dule Hill ( from USA Network’s “Psych”) and American Idol alum Fantasia Barrino with direction and choreography by Warren Carlyle (Hugh Jackman: back on Broadway). It’s no surprise that the show garnered seven Tony nominations and a win on Sunday!

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THOUGHTS: Girls of Summer

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Credit: Mark Glenn

There are so many stories about African-Americans in the United States that have yet to be told that I always look forward to learning something new. Though this play is not about actual people, it is rooted in a lot of truth. The Girls of Summer is a play about a fictitious all women’s baseball team in Chicago in the 1940′s. These women are Black. Although Black women did play in the Negro Leagues, they would not have been allowed to play in The All-American Girls Baseball League, which was made of all White players.

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THOUGHTS: Sawbones & The Diamond Eater

Sawbones and the diamond eater

I cannot say that I have ever seen a play about the medical world from the perspective of the operating table.  That is, until now.  At the HERE Arts Center’s MainStage, I saw a double-header of two evocative, short medical plays set during two major wars in our world’s history.  We are transplanted to the Civil War in Sawbones, then we journey on to  WWII in Germany in The Diamond Eater. Both plays were written by Carrie Robbins and, I was shocked by this, based on true stories by RD Robbins MD.

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THROWBACK THURSDAY: 5 Interesting Facts about M. Butterfly

M-Butterfly-Playbill-03-88On this THROWBACK THURSDAY, we are taking a look at one of renowned playwright David Henry Hwang’s greatest works: M. Butterfly. The gender-bending play inspired by Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly premiered on Broadway at the Eugene O’Neill Theater in 1988. John Lithgow starred as Rene Gallimard, a French civil servant working at the Embassy in China who falls in love with Chinese Opera singer Song Liling, played by B.D. Wong. Song, a man masquerading as a woman to serve as a spy, and Gallimard, carry on a 20 year affair with Gallimard believing Song is a woman. Gallimard is tried and sent to prison for treason, learning that his love is really a man. This play has received many awards and nominations, including the Tony for Best Play, Best Featured Actor in a Play (Wong), and Best Direction of a Play (John Dexter).

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THOUGHTS: Color Purple at Karamu House

ColorPurple posterLast weekend, I had the privilege of seeing the opening night performance of The Color Purple at Karamu House in Cleveland, OH. Karamu House, the oldest African American theatre in the country, will be celebrating 99 years this June. I’m so thrilled I was in my hometown this Memorial Day weekend because this is truly a production not to be missed!

Based on the Alice Walker novel of the same name, The Color Purple spans over thirty years, following a young African-American woman named Celie and her struggles with gender roles, violence, poverty, sexuality, love, and her relationship with God.

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THROWBACK THURSDAY: 5 Interesting facts about Zorro the Musical

zorroThis week we’re only throwing it back 6 years, but it’s a fun one! Now I know what you may be thinking: “Zorro the musical?” Yes, it exists, although it hasn’t made it to Broadway yet, this musical has graced the stage all over the world ( New York is just slow on the uptake). Zorro is based on the iconic figure that many of you may know from the Antonio Banderas films or the old black and white shows that came on way back when. Based on the fictional biography of the title character, lets take a look at the Stephen Clarke (book and lyrics) and Helen Edmundson musical (book).

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