Some folks are trying to change the face of Broadway, literally. With the success of the Debbie Allen directed Cat on a Hot Tin Roof featuring a cast full of our people (and A Raisin in the Sun production featuring Sean Diddy Combs) producers are trying to find ways to keep us coming back to the Great White Way. Their solution? Let’s add some color. Next up a rainbow coalition cast gives us A Streetcar Named Desire. Yes, really. I don’t know about you but there’d be nothing better than seeing Forest Whitaker as Stanley Kowalski screaming STELL-A. Can’t you just picture it with Jessica Alba and Julia Roberts playing Blanche and Stella respectively?
I am joking but Stephen C. Byrd, Cat’s producer is not. Byrd wants to bring JeCaryous Johnson work to Broadway, maybe David E. Talbert and folks are definitely talking about the guarantee draw, Tyler Perry himself. Why Broadway? Producers only see the universal color, green. That’s why orchestra and mezzanine seats often top $100 each. On my second visit to The Color Purple, angry theatre-goings stormed the box office on a Saturday night because Fantasia was a no-show. Apparently she did that often. I stayed to support the understudy because I wasn’t there for an American Idol winner.
So we’ll go to the theater but we want to see people we know. Our folks come out in droves to see people like Billy Dee Williams, Morris Chestnut, Richard Roundtree, Robin Givens, Vivica Fox and others essentially playing themselves. I’m not mad at the actors/singers because everybody needs to eat and keep a roof over their heads. Denzel, Will, and Halle are exceptions, not the rule. But those of us who can see the difference between August Wilson and David E. Talbert are in danger of being overruled by the majority because success is measured by a return on an investment instead of a riveting performance.
I have much more tolerance for a formulaic production if it is a local/regional theater. But I have to pay over $100 for something I am expecting some quality. So I have to run out fast and get tickets for Laurence Fishburne’s turn as Thurgood Marshall because pretty soon our only Broadway option may be Madea and her madness.