It was first announced in March when Producer Scott Rudin said that 6-time Tony Award-winner Audra McDonald would be returning to Broadway next spring, to star in a show that will look at the making of the 1921 hit “Shuffle Along” – one of the first Broadway musicals to be written and directed by African Americans.
To be titled “Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed,” the show will have a story by George C. Wolfe, who will also direct, with choreography by Savion Glover, who last worked together with Wolfe on the 1996 hit “Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk.”
Announced today, in an all-star lineup of sorts, 4 African American theatre star performers of our time, will be joining Audra next spring: Brian Stokes Mitchell, Billy Porter, Brandon Victor Dixon and Joshua Henry – with 5 Tony nominations (including two wins) among them (not including Audra’s 6 trophies).
The original “Shuffle Along” was a dance-heavy show that, in short, centered on a 2-way mayor race in a small Southern town.
According to Broadway.com: “In May 1921, ‘Shuffle Along’ became the unlikeliest of hits, significantly altering the face of the Broadway musical as well as that of New York City. By the time ‘Shuffle Along’ stumbled into town after a back-breaking pre-Broadway tour, it was deeply in debt and set to open at a remote Broadway house on West 63rd Street. In a season full of spectacles, such as Sally—a Ziegfeld musical comedy—and another edition of George White’s Scandals, ‘Shuffle Along’s’ failure was almost a foregone conclusion. New York City was still in the throes of the Depression of 1920. And despite being celebrated, vaudeville performers, Miller and Lyles and Sissle and Blake had never performed on Broadway, much less written a musical. However, with an infectious jazz score and exuberant dancing, ‘Shuffle Along’ ignited not just Broadway but all of New York City. George Gershwin, Fanny Brice, Al Jolson, Langston Hughes, and famed critic George Jean Nathan were among the many fans who flocked to see a cast which—during its run of 504 performances—featured such soon-to-be theatrical luminaries as Josephine Baker, Paul Robeson, Florence Mills, Fredi Washington and Adelaide Hall.”
“Shuffle Along” was written by Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle (music and lyrics).
McDonald won a Tony the last time she was on Broadway in 2014, playing Billie Holiday in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill.” She also won Tonys for “Carousel,” ”Master Class,” ”Ragtime,” ”A Raisin in the Sun” and “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess.”
Meanwhile Brian Stokes Mitchell won a Tony for “Kiss Me Kate,” Billy Porter for “Kinky Boots,” Brandon Victor Dixon was nominated for a Tony for “The Color Purple,” and Joshua Henry for “The Scottsboro Boys” and “Violet.”
With an all-star cast, as well as director and choreographer, I predict this will be a hot seller when it eventually debuts next spring! I’m not particularly big on stage musicals, but this is one that I’d definitely see when the time comes.