Spring Break is here! And the city is abounding with activity “24- 7- 365”. We have art celebrating popular culture in Harlem. Ballet, modern and more throughout the city. Blockbuster and Indie film share the silver screen, jazz to Motown grooves Midtown and the world’s most exotic cars hit the westside. Here are a few of the many events happening in the city that never sleeps guaranteed to keep you Out and About. Continue reading
By Walter Rutledge
Songwriter, recording artist, entrepreneur, and restauranteur Valerie Simpson can now add Broadway thespian to her impressive list of accomplishments. On March 12, 2018 Simpson made her Broadway debut as Matron “Mama” Morton in Broadway’s longest running musical Chicago. For her six-week run (through April 22) Simpson is flanked by a talented cast of Broadway veterans including: Amra- Faye Wright as the Vaudeville villainess Velma Kelly, Bianca Marroquin– the murderous ingénue Roxie Hart and Chaz Lamar Shepard as brash barrister Billy Flynn. Continue reading
Ruth Brown wins the 1989 43rd Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance in Black and Blue. And a performance of T’Ain’t Nobody’s Bizness If I Do with Linda Hopkins and cast. Continue reading
In Baryshnikov on Broadway – with Liza Minnelli Mikhail Baryshnikov sings and dances Honeysuckle Rose with Nell Carter. The 1980 TV show directed by Dwight Hemion starred ballet phenom Mikhail Baryshnikov and entertainer Liza Minnelli. Continue reading
The King and I is a 1956 musical film made by 20th Century Fox. The movie was directed by Walter Lang and produced by Charles Brackett and Darryl F. Zanuck. The screenplay by Ernest Lehman is based on the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II musical The King and I. The musical starred Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr. It was Brynner who pressed for Kerr to play the role. Marni Nixon provided Kerr’s singing for the film. Continue reading
A giant musical group led by Audra McDonald, Idina Menzel, Darren Criss, Kristen Bell, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Lena Hall performed the ’60s pop standard, “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center during the Democratic National Convention. Continue reading
Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, a Broadway musical revue, written for and starring American singer and actress Lena Horne. The show opened on May 12, 1981, and after 333 performances, closed on June 30, 1982, Horne’s 65th birthday. Continue reading
By Adewale Adekanbi Jr
The long await live broadcast of the 1975 Tony Award winning musical The Wiz airs tonight. The special will star performers Queen Latifah in the role of the Wiz, Mary J. Blige as Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West, Uzo Aduba as Glinda the Good Witch, David Alan Grier as the Cowardly Lion, Ne-Yo as the Tin Man, Elijah Kelley as the Scarecrow, Common as the Bouncer/Gatekeeper of the Emerald City and Stephanie Mills (who originated the role of Dorothy in The Wiz) as Aunt Em, among a number of other performers. It will also be the professional debut for actress Shanice Williams in the role of Dorothy Gale. Continue reading
By Walter Rutledge
What do you do when you need to replace a Tony Award winning actor? You replace her with anyone Tony Award winning actor! And that’s just what George Faison did with The Wiz: A Celebration In Dance And Music, the concert version of the 1975 Tony Award winning musical presented in the City Parks Foundation SummerStage series August 12 through August 14.
Dee Dee Bridgewater, who won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance as Glinda, the Good Witch of The South in The Wiz, opened the concert on Wednesday, August 12 at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park. Due to prior commitments Bridgewater could only perform opening night. On Thursday, August 13 the production moved uptown to Marcus Garvey Park for two final performances and in true “The show must go on” style Tony Award winner Lillias White took over the role.
Again for a second night the audience began to arrive in the afternoon for the free performance and by show time the overflowed crowd spilled out of the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater. White did not disappoint she stepped into the role of Glinda and with an entourage of tuxedo clad men brought Dorothy and the musical home!
There is one final performance tonight. The evening begins at 6:45 with a master class by Darrin Henson. This is a free performance and seating is first come first served so you better arrive early!
TO READ MORE ABOUT- The Wiz: A Celebration In Dance And Music CLICK BELOW
By Walter Rutledge
The concert version of the 1975 Tony Award winning musical The Wiz debuted on Wednesday, August 12 at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park. The Wiz: A Celebration In Dance And Music directed and choreographed by George Faison marked the 40th Anniversary of the groundbreaking musical. Before the performance started Rumsey Playfield looked more like it was a rock concert than a dance performance; the overflow crowd began lining up mid afternoon for the free outdoor theatrical event.
After a brief introduction by City Parks Foundation SummerStage dance curator Danni Gee, George Faison took to the stage with classic Faison panache. He and former Wiz munchkin Phylicia Rashad co-narrated the concert version of the musical, which featured the songs and dance numbers from the original musical plus new choreography and staging created for this production.
The cast was a combination of young performers, many who have honed their craft under Faison, and original cast members returning in roles and cameos. Darlesia Cearcy (Dorothy) and Anita McKinney (Aunt Em) opened the evening with McKinney’s rendition of The Feeling We Once Had. The tornado dance followed creating a whirlwind of moment. Khalia Campbell wowed the audience as the Tornado Eye. The tall and limber Campbell reminisced the memorable performance of Broadway diva Evelyn Thomas who transported Stephanie Mills and the Majestic Theater audience to Munchkinland.
Ebony JoAnne had fun in the role of Addapearle, and her playful rendition of He’s The Wizard sent Dorothy on her journey to Oz. Her escorts Jahmal Chase, Martel Ruffin, Nehemiah Spencer and Devonte Jerome Wells were the funky yellow brick road quartet complete with trademark yellow Afros and poles. Throughout the entire performance the audience clamped and sang along.
It was evident that time had not diminished the popularity of the Charlie Smalls’ score. Dance Arranger/ Musical Supervisor Timothy Graphenreed and a six piece on-stage Wiz band featuring Edward Callahan (Keyboard 2) John Matthew Clark (Bass Guitar) Paula Green (Percussion) Jeremy Jordan (Keyboard 3) Segdrick Marsh (Drums) and Damien Sneed (Keyboard) kept the face paced production moving. While Oz Singers Chenee Campbell, Anitra McKinney, Matia Washington and Darryl Jovan Williams provided the background vocals.
Garry Q Lewis was an energetic Scarecrow, John Manzari’s strong tenor voice and tap dance acumen endeared his Tin Man to the audience and Reji Woods’ comedic cowardly Lion was entertaining. Inaya Day (the second Dorothy) cooled the audience with her soothing rendition of Be A Lion. One of Faison’s real gifts is showcasing performers strengths; Day also returned to sing Home and again proved a capable balladeer.
A new number, the Emerald City dance, is a sharp, lively and invigorated addition. The stylish sequence complete with emerald-green attire and copper-colored wigs had “Emerald City elegance”. Gate Keeper Devonte Jerome Wells proved a formidable triple threat with his strong dancing, stage presence and vocals.
The Poppies scene became an immediate audience pleaser when six ladies from the 1975 original production appeared on stage. Shirley Black Brown Coward, Paula Brown Douglas, Jamilah Halvorson, Alyson Williams, Joni Palmer and Gina Ellis strutted, posed and brought sexy back. This sextet of sexy sirens seduced the Lion with ole’ school charisma and swagger.
Another standout was Nehemiah Spencer as the Lead Monkey, which remains a pivotal role as the leader of Evilene’s bidding. Speaking of the wicked witch, Elaine Nicole Phifer attacked the role with great command. Evilene was mean (and clearly hungry), but her No Bad News and chant were definitely good news for the audience. Her eventual demise provided witty comic relief and was a clever transition to Brand New Day complete with full stage kick line.
Andre De Shields returned in his signature role as The Wiz. Complete with white jumpsuit, cape and platform shoes he played a major role in this production. De Shields seemed to enjoy performing the role almost as much as the audience enjoyed his performance. The proof was his show-stopping sustained vocals, swashbuckling super hero cape, which billowed across the stage with great aplomb, and De Shields’ three songs ranging from up-tempo, to ballad, then gospel infused lyrics.
Dorothy returned home with the helped of Glinda and an armada of white-clad dancers. Dee Dee Bridgewater floated on stage via the shoulders of four men in white tuxedos. Bridgewater’s impassioned delivery had the élan of an accomplished performer and again made us all “Believe”.
The Wiz celebrates 40, but this classic musical remains timeless. Faison continues to do what he has done for more than 40 years, to mold talented young artists- this is his true genius. Even before The Wiz Faison trained dancers, many of the returning artists met Faison as teenagers; and eventually became members of his dance company the George Faison Universal Dance Experience.
The number of artists who have experience “The Faison Boot Camp” and now have profession careers are as plentiful as the lights on Broadway. All speak of him with respect, admiration and great affection. Congratulation to George Faison, co-producer Tad Schnugg and The Wiz as they continues to “Ease On Down The Road”.
The production moves uptown to Marcus Garvey Park for two final performances Thursday, August 13 and Friday, August 14. The evening begins at 6:45 with a master class by Darrin Henson. Seating is first come first serve so please come early.
In Photo: 1) Reji Woods 2) Ebony JoAnne and Darlesia Cearcy 3) John Manzari 4) Darlesia Cearcy and Dee Dee Bridgewater
Michael Seto Photographer
TO READ MORE ABOUT –The Wiz: A Celebration In Dance And Music CLICK BELOW