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Africans, Caribbeans Color The Great White Way

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It was no surprise that “Hamilton,” — a hip-hop musical about a Caribbean-born, founding father and the first treasury secretary — would sweep top nods for Broadway’s best honors. Tuesday, the enlightening production about Charlestown, Nevis-born Alexander Hamilton won 16 Tony nominations, a feat no other musical has ever accomplished.

Seven thespians won nominations.

That the diverse cast of rappers, dancers, poets and savvy hip-hop proponents also represent the most colorful cast on a challenging and demanding forum known as the Great White Way is what’s most surprising.

President Barack Obama took first lady Michele on a date-night outing to see the critically-acclaimed presentation.

Fans and critics regard Broadway as the esteemed platform where some of the best stories have been staged.

While still great, as cultural norms change, Broadway is no longer as White as it used to be.

This season, actors James Earl Jones and actress Cicely Tyson colored the pathway starring in “The Gin Game.”

Forest Whitaker made his debuted starring in “Hughie.”

Currently Kenyan Lupita Nyung’o “Eclipsed” is winning audiences while telling a story about the Liberian Civil War and female empowerment.

Nominated for six Tony awards, Nyung’o is up for the best leading actress Tony.

Undeniably, Disney has contributed heavily to the coloring of the prestigious showground by presenting “Aladdin” in a unique and humorous musical where a kingdom, a magic lamp, Princess Jasmine, and a homeless youth provide entertaining songs and lyrics to fuel an incomparable genie who uses pop culture to tell the age-old tale.

Anyone who has seen “Aladdin” will not soon forget the role portrayed James Monroe Iglehart. Just last week, he added Beyonce’s “Lemonade” controversy to his comedic monologue.

Throughout the production he cartwheels, and pops in and out of a lamp that at each performance demands more wishes than the fabled tale permits.

The child-friendly producers are also savoring the success of the “Lion King” which continues to attract full houses at each performance.

Featuring actors from South Africa, the USA , Canada and the Caribbean, the Tony-winning production has consistently starred and featured minorities of all age.

Most alluring too has been six-time Tony award winning “Kinky Boots,” which debuted three years ago. Regaled for its musical treasures, the storyline based on a true story addresses discrimination and boldly provides a solution that profitably revolutionizes the perceptions of a community of workers.

Billy Porter first illuminated the role of an oppressed character who suffered prejudice from everyone beginning with his own father. The actor won a Tony for his compelling characterization.

Also heavily color-casted, “The Color Purple” returned to Broadway and on its second coming has earned itself another Tony nomination in 2016. Premiering in 2005, the revival returned last year and again competes among the best in the best performance by an actress in a lead role category.

“Shuffle Along” opened last week and is the closest contender to “Hamilton” with 10 nomination.

Audra McDonald stars in this rousing toe-tapping production. She is acclaimed for portraying Bess in the musical “Porgy & Bess” and for her incomparable Tony-winning parody of jazz singer Billie Holliday in “Lady Day.”

Through the years, Blacks have added color to the once-lily-white platform.

In 2014, Norm Lewis became the first-ever African-American to command the lead role in “Phantom of the Opera.”

That Lewis would portray the most coveted lead role in Broadway’s longest running show in history was quite a feat.

That same year, 21-year-old Keke Palmer made her Broadway debut becoming the first African-American to portray “Cinderella” on the Great White Way.

Blacks have long traversed the Broadway stage. Most dominant in musicals, their roles have surpassed and transcended race in “A Raisin in the Sun,” “Porgy and Bess,” “Dreamgirls,” “Fences,” “The Wiz,” “Purlie Victorious,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “Bring in ‘Da Noise Bring in ‘Da Funk,” “The Tap Dance Kid,” “Ma Rainey,” “Amen,” and “The Scottsboro Boys.”

Some of the great Black theatre writers include: August Wilson, Lorraine Hansberry, Eubie Blake and Ossie Davis.

Legendary performers include Paul Robeson, Ethel Waters, Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson, Pearl Bailey, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, Bert Williams, Sammy Davis Jr. and Cab Calloway.

Tony-winning stars who continue to shine include Audra McDonald, Denzel Washington, James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson, Ben Vereen, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Leslie Uggams, Tonya Pinkins, Whoopi Goldberg, Jennifer Holiday and Savior Glover.

Unfortunately, data from the Broadway League reveals that more than 80 percent of Broadway tickets this season were bought by Caucasian theater goers.

That “Hamilton” also won a Pulitzer Prize should inspire and motivate Africans, African-Americans and Caribbeans to see more plays. While Blacks are starring in many more roles, they are featured in virtually every production.

Take note that “Motown The Musical” is returning to Broadway on July 12 for an 18-week limited run at the Nederlander Theatre. The show will star Chester Gregory as Berry Gordy, Allison Semmes as Diana Ross, Jesse Nager as Smokey Robinson, Jarran Muse as Marvin Gaye and J.J. Batteast and Leon Outlaw Jr. as Young Berry Gordy, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson.

The musical about Detroit’s most successful record company closed last year after 775 performances.

Catch You On The Inside!

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