Sure, ‘Hamilton’ Is a Game-Changer, But Whose Game?

hamilton2-1940x1293Lamentably, however, much of the acclaim that has and will accrue to Hamilton brands it as one of the first pieces of theatre to successfully incorporate hip-hop elements and sensibilities. That’s like someone thinking they’ve discovered rap music after hearing Eminem’s song “Stan” (coincidentally, and arguably, another white narrative). This is unfortunate; it not only ignores the 20-plus year legacy of hip-hop theatre in the U.S.—Idris Goodwin, Eisa Davis, Psalmayne 24, Hip-Hop Theatre Junction, Teo Castellanos, Will Power, Universes, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, etc. It also, more disturbingly, ignores LMM’s own In The Heights, a hip-hop-infused musical with a contemporary story about Latinos in a changing neighborhood that ran on Broadway for 3 years, won 4 Tonys and recouped its money after just 10 months. Yet we’re still in a cultural landscape where In The Heights and other hip-hop generation stories will never be celebrated to the extent that Hamilton will be, simply by virtue of who the show is about.

-April 23, 2015 – Excerpt from a piece by Danny Hoch for American Theatre.  Read it all here.

‘The Wiz,’ With Added Street Cred, Heads for TV and Broadway

by 

WATCH LIVE NOW ON NBC!

Clockwise from top left, Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, Uzo Aduba and Ne-Yo in “The Wiz,” on Thursday on NBC.

Perched atop a spiky chariot, Mary J. Blige rolled onto a set here and began making demands. “What’s that there?” she yelled, pointing to an invisible blotch. Underlings scurried to clean up. “Worrrk!” she bellowed.

Ms. Blige, the enduring R&B star, was rehearsing her part as Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West, in “The Wiz,” the enduring musical, which NBC will broadcast live on Thursday night at 8, Eastern time. As with its live-broadcast predecessors “The Sound of Music” and “Peter Pan,” the cast is a mix of Broadway, television and film veterans, alongside music stars like Queen Latifah as the Wiz, and Ne-Yo as the Tin Man. There will be spectacle, too, in the form of Cirque du Soleil acrobats.

Unlike the audiences of the previous shows, Thursday’s viewers may get a chance to see this one again, off screen: “The Wiz” is already scheduled for a Broadway run next year, with much of the same design, costuming and choreography, including the Cirque performers. For the actors, then, it amounts to a live televised tryout.

Ms. Blige has been cramming. In a break from rehearsals last week, she talked about plumbing her “nasty, dark side” and showed off her crimson-tipped nails, which she has been growing long to feel witchy. She lobbied to play Evillene, she said, because the character’s number “Don’t Nobody Bring Me No Bad News” is one of her favorites.

“My sister and I were singing this song recently, before I even got the part, just playing around with it,” she said. “Something about that ‘no bad news’ part relates to me now as a businesswoman: I don’t want to hear it. I want you to make it happen.”

For a while, though, it looked as if a full-fledged new “Wiz” might never happen.

An urban adaptation of “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Wiz” won seven Tonys after it opened in 1975, a milestone for a show with an all-black cast, and introduced the song “Home,” sung by Stephanie Mills, as a radio hit. It became a cultural touchstone, especially for African-American audiences, who grew up on the over-the-top 1978 film version starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson, a pricey critical flop that went on to have a devoted following. The show is also a school theater staple.

But a 1984 Broadway revival was short-lived. And a starry Encores! concert production in 2009 at City Center that featured members of the creative team now behind “Hamilton” generated tepid reviewsthat seemed only to remind critics of the show’s flaws.

Read the full article from the New York Times here.

‘Playing the Assassin’ Shows Football’s Power

By, Jim Rutter, for The Inquirer

Playing the Assassin” performed by the Delaware Theatre Company stars Ezra Knight (right) and Garrett Lee Hendricks.

In 2013, I called David Robson’s Assassin a brutal gridiron drama, a verdict that holds up for his revised Playing the Assassin, now in a thrilling production at Delaware Theatre Company.

His current script builds on his original themes of guilt and recrimination, accidental suffering born of tragic circumstances (the hit didn’t violate rules, but Baker, like his real-life counterpart, Tatum, never apologized) and expands the depth of its humanity.

Some credit goes to Knight’s ferocious performance; like a tiger, he stalks the stage in a partial crouch, ready to unload on offenders, and instills his braggadocio with authenticity. But much goes to Robson, who has added great insight into the relationship of football to society and the evolution of the game as it has gone from a city-vs.-city sport to a corporate behemoth more bent on coddling millionaires and selling advertising and merchandise than on fueling intense rivalries.

The verbal sparring between the never-played Lewis and the veteran Baker accurately captures how football (and all team rivalry based sport) enables populations to sublimate violent urges into something less catastrophic and localized, no matter how violent that surrogate.

Read the full review here.

Ticketing information:
Playing the Assassin
Through Nov. 8 at Delaware Theatre Company, 200 Water St., Wilmington.
Tickets: $30 and up. Information: 302-594-1100 or www.delawaretheatre.org

St. Germain’s ‘BEST OF ENEMIES’ in Burbank: Racial fireworks explode from the stage

bestofenemiesOnly one week left to catch Mark St. Germain‘s BEST OF ENEMIES at the Colony Theatre in Burbank, CA.  “The production is mandatory viewing for anyone who values the stage’s ability to provoke thought about serious social issues,” remarked reviewer David C. Nichols of the LA Times.

Based on a true story, Ann, an African-American civil rights activist, and C.P., the Exalted Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan, are forced to work together by the federal government to achieve integration in their small North Carolina town fifteen years after Brown v. Board of Education.

Read the full review here, and for more information and ticketing, follow here.