Entertainment Weekly announced yesterday that Whoopi Goldberg, in conjunction with DreamTeam Entertainment, will produce the first-ever Broadway revival of Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf. Legendary choreographer Hinton Battle has signed on, as well as Shirley Jo Finney, who’s slated to direct.
Though no theatre has been announced for the run, the production is scheduled to begin previews in mid-July, with opening night to fall in mid-August.
Oh, and did we mention that India.Arie has already been cast as one of the seven women featured in the play?
Since there are six others to be cast, feel free to weigh in with your votes below.
But before you do, let’s talk Black Broadway actresses for a second, shall we? In the past decade, a few Tony-winning power players have emerged on the Great White Way: Audra McDonald, Anika Noni Rose, Tonya Pinkins, Phylicia Rashad, if you need a matriarch or elder stateswoman… but, now that it’s become “the thing” to infuse these esteemed theatrical productions with pop stars and film luminaries to bring in bigger receipts, we wonder if truly great, classically trained unknowns still stand a chance at breaking onto Broadway.
Things aren’t what they used to be for the Juilliard alums and Yale drama grads who dream of starry-eyed debuts in A Chorus Line (not when they’re squandering roles on the likes of Mario Lopez). Stories about apple-faced youths living on ramen for years at a stretch so they can spend all their extra waitressing tips on vocal and dance training, while living in a closet on the Lower East Side just aren’t ending happily as often. You hear less about some lucky unknown scoring a starring role in Chicago after nailing an open casting call and more about Nicole Ritchie being considered for Roxie Hart. Nicole Ritchie, who has never shown any acting nor singing nor dancing ability to speak of.
And if it’s like that for the white kids, who are having to return to Winnetka and Kenosha and all their other landlocked cities of origin to hang-headedly tell their sad tales of having lost role after role to Jennifer Garner, Claire Danes, or Christina Aguilera, how much more is it gonna be like that for the black kids, who don’t get nearly as many opportunities to even audition for productions—unless some “progressive director” or Oprah decides to put on an “all-Black” production of a formerly all-white show or, even less often, precariously secures financial backing for the revival of an old Black classic, or less often still, miraculously manages to get a brand-new Black show off the ground?
If it’s hard out here for a stage-player, it’s even harder out here for a Black playwright.
This new Whoopi Goldberg production marks the first time in over thirty years For Colored Girls has seen a Broadway stage (It opened a two-year run back in 1976). That means that if you’re a Black drama student, hoping that the existence of great Black plays will eventually lead to great Black stage roles, you could conceivably be waiting for decades before there’s something meaningful, worthwhile, and intended for a Black actor. By all accounts, critics agreed that the Raisin remake wouldn’t have gotten the greenlight without Diddy. So if you’re a Black playwright, you might be waiting even longer than that drama student to see one of your projects hit Broadway.
And if Black male theatre majors are losing roles to Diddy and Usher, who finished a stint as lawyer Billy Flynn in a 2006 Chicago production, think about how scarce great parts are for Black women. Let’s not forget that Rashad “made history” just four years ago by snagging the first-ever Best Actress Tony for an African American for this revival of A Raisin in the Sun I juuust can’t seem to get away from having to talk about.
So… India.Arie, huh? She could be great. And you can count on at least one of those aforementioned Tony winners to join her in this show. Since Anika Noni Rose will likely be too busy with her Disney film, the two other films she has in the works, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof to squeeze this in, our money’s on Audra to sign on next. But you know every pop singer worth her salt’s gonna show up to try out for this, right? You know we’re gonna wind up with, like, Alicia Keys, Beyonce (after she finishes playing Etta James in yet another egregious bout of miscasting), Jada Pinkett Smith, and Jennifer Hudson rounding out this cast, with one other real Broadway actress thrown in to legitimize the proceedings.
We could be wrong. If we’re lucky, they’ll get Taraji P. Henson to take over the role one of the above abandons once she realizes it conflicts with her South African concert tour.