In 1935, George Gershwin brought the script for his folk opera Porgy and Bess to the opera's original cast, which was entirely made up of African-American actors. "[In the original], every other word was N-word this, N-word that," says actor David Alan Grier. "[And] there's a very famous story: Al Jolson really wanted to play Porgy, in blackface."
Idina Menzel is touring the nation, performing "No Day But Today," her signature song from the musical Rent. That show made Menzel, playing the flirtatious performance artist Maureen Johnson, famous in the late-1990s. She followed with her Tony Award-winning role as the green-faced Wicked Witch of the West in the musical Wicked. More recently, she's had a recurring spot on the TV show Glee.
Actor and singer Cheyenne Jackson is equally at home on Broadway and in front of the camera. He made his Broadway debut as the understudy for both male leads in Thoroughly Modern Millie, and his cabaret debut, a one-man show titled Back to the Start, was a sold-out hit. His love of music comes from digging through vinyl at yard sales around his family farm in Idaho, and his love of Broadway comes from the time he saw a touring production of Les Miserables in Spokane, Wash., with his French teacher.
Each week on Nolavie.com, writer Keith Marshall contributes a column called How's Bayou? He examines the secrets that keep him sane while juggling an upscale Bed & Breakfast on Bayou Lafourche and working at Dixie Art Supplies in Elmwood.
On this week's Notes from New Orleans, Sharon Litwin brings her good friend to the microphone.
New Orleans veteran actor Ricky Graham takes on a one woman comedy as Southern Rep Theater presents Willy Russell's one character play - Shirley Valentine. We go Inside the Arts as Graham morphs into a middle aged housewife who is stuck in a rut and wants to live again.
Performances run thru May 27th at the Contemporary Arts Center, 900 Camp Street.
The Shaolin Warriors, from Shaolin Monastery in central China, put on a demonstration of traditional kung fu fighting techniques, with some crowd-pleasing stunts thrown in. They had never performed with a circus before this year.
Credit Courtesy of UniverSoul Circus
Zanda "Zeke" Charles began as UniverSoul's ringmaster sidekick 18 years ago. Today, he co-hosts the show, and, when not in the ring, he roams the audience signing autographs and giving out hugs.
For almost 20 years, the UniverSoul Circus has been pitching its tent in urban plazas across the country. The circus was founded by a Baltimore native as a showcase for black talent, one that he hoped would inspire black audiences.
In more recent times, the circus has evolved into an eclectic mix of acts from around the world. Now, it's pushing to diversify its audience, with a show called "Us."
Strength, Precision And Crowd-Pleasing Nerve
In the beginning, all of the talent was black. They came from Africa, the Caribbean and the U.S.
The New York Shakespeare Exchange says its goal is "to encourage an enthusiastic appreciation of classical theater and to expand the reach of the art form within new and existing audiences." More specifically, it's interested in the question of "what happens when contemporary culture is infused with Shakespearean poetry and themes in unexpected ways."
Audra McDonald has starred in stage classics and on TV, where she played a leading role on the ABC drama Private Practice for four seasons. But the actress might be better known for her stunning voice and for her performances in the Broadway productions of Carousel, Master Class and Ragtime, which helped her rack up three Tony Awards before the age of 30. She won a fourth Tony for her performance in A Raisin in the Sun, putting her in the company of Broadway greats Gwen Verdon and Mary Martin.