Black Plays Are Knocking on Broadway’s Door. Will It Open?


“I don’t know how to solve the diversity issue on Broadway,” Bioh said, “other than calling attention to it, and cultivating a generation of producers who are not afraid.”

The three jukebox musicals with Black writers already expected next year include two that opened in 2019 and were paused by the pandemic: “Ain’t Too Proud,” about the Temptations, with a book by Dominique Morisseau, and “Tina,” about Tina Turner, with a book by Katori Hall. The newcomer is “MJ,” about Michael Jackson, which has a book by Nottage and is aiming to open next April.

Each of those musicals is, to a degree, presold based on a popular song catalog. But for plays in today’s Broadway economy, marquee casting often calls the shots.

For example: The producer Robyn Goodman is looking to bring Cheryl L. West’s “Jar the Floor,” a 1991 play about four generations of Black women, to Broadway, but said, “for Broadway you have to have a star or two, and we were close to that, but now nobody knows their schedule, and we just have to wait a couple months until people start planning.”

“Blue,” a 2000 play by Charles Randolph-Wright about a successful family of funeral home operators, is being produced by Brian Moreland, who is also producing “Thoughts of a Colored Man.”

Moreland tried to get a Broadway theater for “Blue,” directed by Phylicia Rashad, co-produced by John Legend, and starring Leslie Uggams and Lynn Whitfield, before the pandemic. When he couldn’t, he booked it into the Apollo Theater in Harlem, which is not a Broadway venue (although there is discussion about reconsidering that).

Sensing that the climate is shifting, he is again hopeful. “If they could shake loose a Broadway house,” he said, “we would take it.”

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