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Brian Stokes Mitchell Will Reunite With Audra McDonald On Broadway

It’s a been a long time since the Tony Award winners Audra McDonald & Brian Stokes Mitchell have graced the same Broadway stage. 17 years to be exact. Well, that count won’t make it to 18 years because they have both signed on to take roles in upcoming Broadway musical Shuffle Along, Or, The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed. Produced by Scott Rudin, the jazz musical will be written and directed by George C. Wolfe and choreographed by tap virtuoso Savion Glover, marking that team’s first collaboration since the 1996 smash, Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk. McDonald will play 1920s star Lottie Gee. 

It has not been officially announced of what character Mitchell will portray. It hasn’t been officially announced that he will be a part of this show at all. However, it is listed on his website calendar and we sort of knew this cast list anyway so we feel confident in reporting this collabration and are very excited to see it come into fruition.

The new production traces the path to unexpected success and the creative legacy of the 1921 all-Black revueShuffle Along, which was conceived by Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lylesand featured music by Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle, four celebrated vaudeville performers who met at a 1920 NAACP benefit. As one of the first all-Black Broadway musical hits that was also written by Blacks, Shuffle Along significantly altered the face of the Broadway musical as well as that of New York City. The show opened the door for Black performers and writers on the stage during the period in the 1920s known as the Harlem Renaissance.

Notwithstanding its success, Shuffle Along was not without its challenges. By contemporary standards, it remains problematic: some actors performed in blackface and the score included a song about how lighter-skinned Black women are more attractive than women with darker skin. Shuffle Along arrived in Depression-era New York mired in debt from a pre-Broadway tour, set to open at a remote Broadway house on West 63rd Street. And despite being celebrated vaudeville performers, Miller and Lyles and Sissle and Blake had never performed on Broadway, much less written a musical.shuffle along 2

However, Shuffle Along immediately caught on with its jazzy score and exuberant song-and-dance styles. “It was a groundbreaking moment – they were creating these dances in the streets,” Mr. Glover said. “I’m hoping to reignite that sense of exuberance – that sense of joy through expression.” The plot involved two old friends who run against one another for the office of mayor of their town, each promising to hire the other if elected. Once in office, however, the two find themselves at odds. “I’m in love with these characters, and I’m in love with their bravery – brilliant, astonishing, extraordinary artists created a show that redefined rhythm and entertainment and vitality on Broadway,” Mr. Wolfe said.Shuffle Along ran for over 480 performances, helping to launch the careers of such artists as Josephine Baker, Adelaide Hall, Florence Mills, Fredi Washington and Paul Robeson.

Previews for Shuffle Along, Or, The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed begin on March 14, 2016, at the Music Box Theatre, with official opening set for April 21.

Written By

Drew Shade is a theatre artist and enthusiast who fosters artistic diversity and excellence for the love of Black theatre artists. He is the Founder/Creative Director of Broadway Black, Off-Book Podcast & The Antonyo Awards. “Have a belief in yourself that is bigger than anyone’s disbelief.” – August Wilson


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