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Shuffle Along

Shuffle Along, or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and all that followed.  The musical is playing at the Music Box Theatre located at 239 West 45th Street.  It runs two hours and twenty minutes with one intermission.  The show is open ended.  It is an African American musical revue with music and lyrics by Nobie Smith and Eubie Blake.  The show premiered on May 23, 1921 and ran for 504 performances at Daly’s 63rd Street.  It launched the careers of Josephine Baker, Adelaide Hall, Florence Mills, Hall Johnson, Florence Mills, Gertrude Saunders, William Grant Still, Will Vodery and Paul Robeson.

George Wolfe is the director.  He won a Tony Award in 1993 for Angels in America: Millennium Approaches.

Savion Glover is the chorographer.  He won a Tony Award in 1996 for Bring ‘Da Noise, Bring, ‘Da Funk.

Audra McDonald won six Tony Awards for Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill (2014), Porgy and Bess (2012), A Rasin in the Sun (2004), Ragtime (1998), Master Class (1996) and Carousel (1994).  She won five Drama Desk Awards for Lady Day, Porgy and Bess, 110 in the Shade (2007), A Rasin in the Sun and Carousel.  She was nominated for two Tony Awards for 110 in the Shade (2007) and Marie Christine (2000).

Brian Stokes Mitchell won a Tony Award for Kiss Me Kate (2000) and was nominated for three Tony Awards for Man of La Mancha (2003), King Hedley Ii (2001) and Ragtime (1998). 

Billy Porter won a Tony Award, Drama Desk Award and an Outer Circle Critics Award for Kinky Boots (2013).

Joshua Henry was nominated for two Tony Awards for Violet (2014) and The Scottsboro Boys (2011).

Brook Ashmanskas was nominated for a Tony Award and a Drama desk Award for Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me.

The musical take place in 1921.

F. E. Miller  (Brian Stokes Mitchell), Aubrey Lyles (Billy Porter), Noble Sissle (Joshua Henry) and Eubie Blake (Brandon Victor Dixon) are friends.  They want to create a show like no other show done before with all black actors. If all goes as planned they will bring the show to Broadway.

Act on is how the show evolves.

Among the female actress to perform in the show were Lottie Gee (Adura McDonald), Gertrude Saunders/Florence Mills (Adrienne Warren) and Eva/Mattie Willes (Amber Iman).

Lottie was reluctant to become involved with Eubie since he is married but she does.

Their agent Sam ( Brooks Ashmanskas) finds someone to back the show. They take the show on the road.  But they still get into debt.  There is fear traveling around the United States that something might happen to the cast members.

They finally arrive in New York but not on Broadway but on West 63rd Street.  The show is a success.

Act two we learn what happen to the characters we met in act one.

If you want to know more you will just have to see the show.  You won’t be disappointed.

I found the first act to be cumbrous but still enjoyable.  Act two was light and flowed smoothly.

It gives you a feeling like you are in 1921.

The choreography was excellent. Congratulations to Savion Glover for a job well done.

Brian Stokes Mitchell and Brandon Dixon have beautiful voices.  Brooks Ashmanskas has several roles and does a great job.

Billy Porter and Audra McDonald do a solo song each in act two. They are so good it will take your breath away.  Bravo!

The ensemble was the best I’ve seen especially Phillip Attmore and Curtis Holland. 

An added surprise is with your regular Playbill and they give you an equivalent of one from 1921. It has pictures of the people portrayed in the show and what happened to them.

Review by Rozanna Radakovich.

Photos by Annazor.

To read a candid interview with the cast, scroll down to the left for recent photos. Click on recent photos for this and other shows.

 

 

 

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