The four male leads are equally consummate stage artists who go a long way toward finding depth in their underdeveloped characters. Perhaps the first jazz musical, the 1921 production of Shuffle Along was a sensation, proving that a book musical by and about people of color … "Shuffle Along," the final new Broadway musical of the 2015-16 season has achieved all of this. February is Black History Month, a time to celebrate the accomplishments of African-Americans in all areas of life, including on Broadway. When the show came back to New York, about a year later, during the Depression of 1920–21, the production owed $18,000 and faced strong competition on Broadway in a season that included Florenz Ziegfeld's Sally and a new edition of George White's Scandals. Choreographer: Savion Glover Book: George C. Wolfe; original book: F.E. Venue: Music Box Theatre, New York Sitemap | [17] It was the first Broadway musical to feature a sophisticated African-American love story, rather than a frivolous comic one. They resolve their differences in a long, comic fight. [citation needed] However, the success of the show set limits on the black-themed shows that followed. Whether it’s considered a revival or a new musical, Shuffle Along or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed is for most of its overstuffed duration an exuberant entertainment. It’s also a social and showbusiness history lesson that’s … Sam wins with the help of a crooked campaign manager. Harry gets the people behind him and wins the next election, as well as the lovely Jessie, and runs Sam and Steve out of town. by [19], After Shuffle Along, nine African-American musicals opened on Broadway between 1921 and 1924. Yet, if a show strayed from what had become the standard formula for the black musical, disastrous reviews became almost inevitable. However, the married Blake's more aw-shucks manner wins Lottie over, and they begin a long affair. After finding a small source of funding, Shuffle Along toured through New Jersey and Pennsylvania. David Rooney The uncommon ambition behind writer-director George C. Wolfe's project is baked into the show's hefty subtitle: Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed. Miller & Aubrey Lyles Shuffle Along, Or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed (Original, Musical, Broadway) opened in New York City Apr 28, 2016 and played through Jul 24, 2016. | California Privacy Rights Even beyond her numbers, McDonald kills it with her timing — every word, look or gesture smacks its target. [15] The musical toured successfully throughout the country up to 1924. It goes without saying at this point that there's nothing the superhuman McDonald can't do onstage, but rarely do we get to see her cut loose in exuberant comedic mode to the extent she does here. Wolfe's book exacerbates that by attempting to cover too much and sacrificing focus as tensions flare, rivalries erupt, opportunities are botched and bitter disappointments ensue. "Nothing but high notes and bad attitude" is how the very smooth Sissle describes her before launching an ill-considered charm offensive that gets a withering reception. …and Aubrey Lyles to produce Shuffle Along, the first all-black Broadway show to play for full Broadway prices. The aim of this celebratory new macro-musical is to acknowledge that bittersweet outcome while reclaiming the original Shuffle Along’s jubilant place in the history books. Like one of those complicated presents your grandmother might buy you at Christmas, George C. Wolfe’s “Shuffle Along or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed,” now at the Music Box Theatre, is a history lesson wrapped in a vivid theatrical entertainment wrapped in a… The energy and elasticity of Glover's work is simply astonishing, as are the skills of his athletic dancers, who effortlessly evoke the heyday of the Nicholas Brothers. [8][18], According to theatre historian John Kenrick, "Judged by contemporary standards, much of Shuffle Along would seem offensive ... most of the comedy relied on old minstrel show stereotypes. Among their high spots, Mitchell puts his soaring baritone behind "Swing Along," accompanied by the syncopated slapping of hands on suitcases, to lift the company's spirits when the tour money doesn’t come through; Dixon and Henry are a riot doing the comedy song, "Affectionate Dan"; and Porter sends "Low Down Blues" through the roof, even if it's unclear why Aubrey gets the emotional 11 o'clock number. [7] Promoters were skeptical that a black-written and produced show would appeal to Broadway audiences. Location: 230 W. 45th St., New York City. The cast is magnificent. Book by George C. Wolfe. Miller & Aubrey Lyles. There has been debate about whether this is a musical revival or a new musical. [13][14] The orchestra included William Grant Still and Hall Johnson. It opened at the Broadway Theatre on May 8, 1952, and closed after four performances, but was recorded in an abridged form by RCA Victor, combined with selections from Blackbirds of 1928. The show's dancing and 16-girl chorus line were more reasons why the show was so successful. The piece premiered on Broadway in 1921, running for 504 performances[3] – an unusually long run during that decade. However, even if the structural limitations of Wolfe's undertaking are unable to support the scope of his noble intentions, it's a genuine thrill to watch this outrageously talented cast herald the achievements of a team that brought innovative black artistry to mainstream American theater. Directed by George C. Wolfe. "[16] Black audiences at Shuffle Along sat in orchestra seats rather than being relegated to the balcony. And this spring’s star-studded Broadway production of Shuffle Along provides a great reason to celebrate. It, and another similar short featuring Miller and Lyles, were found in the Warner Bros archives in 2010, where they had been misfiled. Sam keeps his promise to appoint Steve as chief of police, but they begin to disagree on petty matters. Musical supervision, arrangements & orchestrations: Daryl Waters The exchange (between Broadway royalty and a gifted young talent) is a concentrated master class, as Lottie hijacks the song, airborne on her own glorious sounds, before stepping back with a sinking face as she realizes the girl is a serious threat. The four writers were African-American Vaudeville veterans who first met in 1920 at a NAACP benefit that was held at the newly opened Dunbar Theatre in Philadelphia. Music Box Theater 239 W. 45th St. 212/239-6200 Broadway favorite Audra McDonald will return to the theater next spring in the backstage historical tribute Shuffle Along, Or, The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed. [citation needed] In 1928, Lew Leslie's Blackbirds of 1928, starring Adelaide Hall and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, became the longest running all-black show on Broadway (up to that point), running for 518 performances. [27] The cast starred Audra McDonald as Lottie Gee, Brian Stokes Mitchell as Miller, Billy Porter as Lyles, Brandon Victor Dixon as Blake and Joshua Henry as Sissle. The uncommon ambition behind writer-director George C. Wolfe's project is baked into the show's hefty subtitle: Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed. [3] It was directed by Walter Brooks, with Eubie Blake playing the piano. Tony winners Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell, George C. Wolfe, Billy Porter and Savion Glover collaborated on the backstage story. Her wacky creations for a Chinese restaurant scene are inspired, as are her flashy threads for the guys when they become suddenly flush with success. Theater:Music Box Theatre. Miller and Aubrey Lyles, was a groundbreaking Broadway show that changed the way that theatre audiences saw relationships in the black community.Historians agree that it was not only a big hit in 1921, but that it helped to lead the way towards a new Broadway. [12] Bessie Allison's first professional performance was in Shuffle Along. Sound designer: Scott Lehrer As told here, another important part of the show's gestation was Lottie Gee (Audra McDonald), an established "chitlin circuit" star who had toured internationally as a soloist and was something of a grand diva by the time she joined the company. Once the show left New York, it toured for three years and was, according to Barbara Glass, the first black musical to play in white theaters across the United States. [2], President Harry Truman chose the show's song "I'm Just Wild About Harry" for his campaign anthem. And she can tap-dance, too! [6][10] Its appeal to audiences of all races, and to celebrities such as George Gershwin, Fanny Brice, Al Jolson, Langston Hughes and critic George Jean Nathan, helped to unite the white Broadway and black jazz communities and improve race relations in America.[6][7][11]. An excerpt of Shuffle Along, the musical fight between the two leading characters, was made into a short talkie film by Warner Bros in the early 1930s. It's a hazard of every rise-and-fall story that the downward spiral can bring a corresponding loss of buoyancy to the material. Music director: Shelton Becton The titles are "The Mayor of Jimtown" and "Jimtown Cabaret". Harlem Renaissance patron Carl Van Vechten (Brooks Ashmanskas, none too subtly multitasking as all of the story's white characters) takes snarky pleasure in his sadly accurate prediction that the musical would not be remembered. In a Broadway season notable for making the Great White Way a full spectrum of onstage diversity, it's good to honor the pioneers. “Shuffle Along, or, The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed” has music and lyrics by Sissle and Blake, an original book … However, with little funding, it was difficult to meet travel and production expenses, and the cast rarely got paid. However, while the showmanship is extraordinary, Shuffle Along could have benefited from a pre-Broadway developmental run to hone the fluidity of its storytelling. | EU Privacy Preferences. [8] It introduced musical hits such as "I'm Just Wild about Harry", "Love Will Find a Way", and "In Honeysuckle Time". "[22] Loften Mitchell, author of Black Drama: The Story of the American Negro in the Theatre, credited Shuffle Along with launching the Harlem Renaissance,[citation needed] as did Langston Hughes. [2] The show also contributed to the desegregation of theaters in the 1920s, giving many black actors their first chance to appear on Broadway. [5] It had brief revivals in 1933 and 1952. Full title: "Shuffle Along, Or, The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed." "[2] But the musical drew repeat audiences due to its jazzy music styles, which were a modern, edgy contrast to the mainstream song-and-dance styles that audiences had seen on Broadway for two decades. Santo Loquasto's scenic design ranges from the eloquent simplicity of a bare stage with a ghost light through elaborate backdrops and flats modeled on those used at the time. It's almost impossible to stay still in your seat when the internally motorized ensemble of Shuffle Along explodes into one of choreographer Savion Glover's seismic tap routines, or when the thoroughbred leads wrap their velvet pipes around those syncopated jazz sounds. Shuffle Along yielded Sissle and Blake’s best-known song, “I’m Just Wild About Harry,” as… FACEBOOK Check out scenes and songs from George C Wolfe & Savion Glover's "Shuffle Along Or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed" on Broadway. Executive producers: Joey Parnes, Sue Wagner, John Johnson Her sweeping first entrance — wearing a radiant smile and a royal blue velvet shimmy fringe dress — shoots a high-voltage charge through the audience. “Shuffle Along” is often called the first successful all-black musical. "Shuffle Along" is one of the most anticipated musicals of 2016. The visuals also are top-notch. Music & lyrics: Noble Sissle & Eubie Blake Ann Roth's costumes replicate the styles of the day with wit and flair. "Any show that followed the characteristics of Shuffle Along could usually be assured of favorable reviews or at least a modest audience response. The show was the baby of two vaudeville duos who met at a 1920 NAACP benefit: F.E. Shuffle Along Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed Music & lyrics by Noble Sissle & Eubie Blake. The musical opened on May 23, 1921, and became a groundbreaking long-running production, closing after some 500 performances. [citation needed], A stage adaptation, titled Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, featured the original music from Shuffle Along and other songs by its creators, with a book written by George C. Wolfe based on the original by Miller and Lyles and historical events. Josephine Baker, who was deemed too young at the age of 15 to be in the show, joined the touring company in Boston, and then joined the Broadway cast when she turned 16. Cast: Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Billy Porter, Brandon Victor Dixon, Joshua Henry, Brooks Ashmanskas, Adrienne Warren, Amber Iman, Phillip Attmore, Darius de Haas, Afra Hines, Curtis Holland, Adrienne Howard, Kendrick Jones, Lisa LaTouche, J.C. Montgomery, Erin N. Moore, Janelle Neal, Brittany Parks, Arbender Robinson, Christian Dante White, Joseph Wiggan, Pamela Yasutake, Richard Riaz Yoder Shop Brand New Color Playbill from Shuffle Along, Or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed starring Audra McDonald Brian Stokes Mitchell Billy Porter Brandon Victor Dixon Joshua Henry Book by George C. Wolfe, Music by Eubie Blake, Lyrics by Noble Sissle and more music, movie, and TV memorabilia at Amazon's Entertainment Collectibles Store. But the troupe refused to give up, and the show became the talk of the town, running almost 500 performances. In May 1921, the new musical "Shuffle Along" became the unlikeliest of hits, significantly altering the face of the Broadway musical as well as that of New York City. Lighting designers: Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer [30], Sheet music for "Love Will Find a Way", a song from the show, Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, "Shuffle Along: The Musical at the Center of the Harlem Renaissance", "Shuffling Roles: Alterations and Audiences in Shuffle Along", "History of The Musical Stage, 1920s Part III: Black Musicals", "Black History Month – Innovative Musical Contributions: Eubie Blake", "Little Known Black History Fact: Shuffle Along", "The Verdict: Critics Review Broadway's 'Shuffle Along'", "Audra McDonald to Star in New Broadway Musical With Savion Glover", "Brian Stokes Mitchell and Audra McDonald Will Reunite on Broadway in, "See Full List of 2016 Tony Award Nominations", "Broadway’s ‘Shuffle Along’ To Close in July, When Audra McDonald Exits", https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Shuffle_Along&oldid=972864924, Articles with unsourced statements from January 2013, Articles with unsourced statements from February 2019, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, "I'm Simply Full of Jazz" - Ruth Little and Syncopation Steppers, "Love Will Find a Way" - Jessie Williams and Harry Walton, "Sing Me to Sleep, Dear Mammy" - Harry Walton and Board of Aldermen, "(In) Honeysuckle Time (When Emmaline Said She'd Be Mine)" - Tom Sharper, "Gypsy Blues" - Jessie Williams, Ruth Little and Harry Walton, "Shuffle Along" - Jimtown Pedestrians and Traffic Cop, "Good Night Angeline" - Board of Aldermen, "If You Haven't Been Vamped by a Brownskin, You Haven't Been Vamped at All" - Steve Jenkins, Sam Peck and Jimtown Vamps, "Uncle Tom and Old Black Joe" - Uncle Tom and Old Black Joe, "Everything Reminds Me of You" - Jessie Williams and Harry Walton, "Oriental Blues" - Tom Sharper and Oriental Girls, "I Am Craving for That Kind of Love"/ "Daddy (Won't You Please Come Home)" - Ruth Little, "Baltimore Buzz" - Tom Sharper and Jimtown's Jazz Steppers, "African Dip" - Steve Jenkins and Sam Peck, This page was last edited on 14 August 2020, at 05:28. The musical launched or boosted the careers of Josephine Baker, Paul Robeson, Florence Mills, Fredi Washington and Adelaide Hall. [24], During World War II, Sissle and Blake adapted and performed Shuffle Along for USO shows, with an ensemble that included pianist and vibraphonist Sylvester Lewis.[25]. There's interesting evidence of cultural appropriation (George Gershwin allegedly stole the signature bars of "I Got Rhythm" from Shuffle Along pit musician William Grant Still), and poignancy in the discovery that many of the show's strutting stars had to return to civilian jobs after their time in the spotlight. [29] The production closed on July 24, 2016. For the past few months Wolfe has been racing to finish his own Broadway musical–titled, not so simply, Shuffle Along, or The Making of the Musical … And nobody does vintage showbiz lighting like Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer. That said, Shuffle Along is a most enjoyable, invigorating new look at a savory and worth thinking about slice of musical history. Despite two subsequent revivals, however, it was largely forgotten, eclipsed by more sophisticated black musicals that followed. Terms of Use | Sadly, George C. Wolfe, book writer and director of “Shuffle Along or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed,” doesn’t seem to have figured that out. Scene after scene dazzles in one of the most electrifying entertainments on Broadway. The cast included Lottie Gee as Jessie Williams, Adelaide Hall as Jazz Jasmine, Gertrude Saunders as Ruth Little, Roger Matthews as Harry Walton, and Noble Sissle as Tom Sharper. [8] In the end, however, the show earned $9 million from its original Broadway production and three touring companies, an unusual sum in its time. The result of this critical stranglehold on the black musical was that ... black authors and composers prepared shows within extremely narrow constraints. A new musical based on the making of Shuffle Along – entitled Shuffle Along, Or, The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed – is scheduled to officially open on April 21, 2016 at Broadway's Music Box Theatre. And the rich vocal arrangements and orchestrations of Daryl Waters make the musical numbers sizzle. Shuffle Along, or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed NYT Critic's Pick Broadway, Musical Open Run Music Box Theater, 239 W. 45th St. 212-239-6200 The show premiered on Broadway at the Daly's 63rd Street Theatre on May 23, 1921, and closed on July 15, 1922, after 504 performances. And if the resulting historical reappraisal is more successful at charting the creative high than the deflating hangover that came after, the performances alone make it unmissable. [2][10] The production opened on Broadway in April 2016 at the Music Box Theatre,[26] directed by Wolfe, and choreographed by Savion Glover. This production was unsuccessful and closed after 17 performances. [28] The adaptation received ten 2016 Tony Award nominations but won none. But while a production number is fashioned around that forecast, too much of the concluding information is imparted documentary-style, resulting in a limp ending. "[5] According to the Harlem chronicler James Weldon Johnson, Shuffle Along marked a breakthrough for the African-American musical performer and "legitimized the African-American musical, proving to producers and managers that audiences would pay to see African-American talent on Broadway. That beautifully played romance wants to be the heart of the show, even if Wolfe's overstuffed shambles of a book too seldom lets it. Wolfe has always been one of the theater's boldest cultural archeologists, sifting through the past in adventurous projects like The Colored Museum, The Wild Party and Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk, his last collaboration with Glover, 20 years ago. Kinky Boots (Apr 04, 2013 - Apr 07, 2019) Starring: Billy Porter. This is a show that spreads its focus among five principal characters, leaving it without a strong protagonist or a unifying point of view. If either one wins, he agrees to appoint the other his chief of police. "[21] Nevertheless, scholar James Haskins stated that Shuffle Along "started a whole new era for blacks on Broadway, as well as a whole new era for blacks in all creative fields. As they fight, their opponent for the mayoral position, virtuous Harry Walton, vows to end their corrupt regime ("I'm Just Wild about Harry"). Miller (Brian Stokes Mitchell) and Aubrey Lyles (Billy Porter) wrote the play about a mayoral race on which it was based, and Noble Sissle (Joshua Henry) and Eubie Blake (Brandon Victor Dixon) contributed music and lyrics. Shuffle Along is a musical with music and lyrics by Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake, and a thin revue-style connecting plot about a mayoral race, written by Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles. The show focuses on the challenges of mounting the 1921 Broadway production of Shuffle Along, its success and aftermath, including its effect on Broadway and race relations. AdChoices Her coquettish spin on "Daddy (Won't You Please Come Home)" is such a saucy treat it ought to be outlawed. 5:00 PM PDT 4/28/2016 "Shuffle Along was one of the first shows to provide the right mixture of primitivism and satire, enticement and respectability, blackface humor and romance, to satisfy its customers". [6] None of the four had ever written a musical, or even appeared on Broadway. "[5] Nevertheless, the African-American community embraced the show, and performers recognized the importance of the show's success to their careers. In May 1921, the new musical Shuffle Along became the unlikeliest of hits, significantly altering the face of the Broadway musical, as well as that of New York City. TWITTER © 2020 The Hollywood Reporter, LLC. By the time Shuffle Along stumbled into town after a back-breaking pre-Broadway tour, it was deeply in debt and set to open at a remote Broadway house on West 63rd Street. [6][10] According to Time magazine, Shuffle Along was the first Broadway musical that prominently featured syncopated jazz music and the first to feature a chorus of professional female dancers. Gertrude Saunders was replaced by Florence Mills. 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