A Strange Loop. Photo: Marc J. Franklin
When Broadway reopened in 2021 after a long hiatus, —many of them featuring Black directors and leads—were at the forefront. Plays like Skeleton Crew and Thoughts of a Colored Man were among the critically acclaimed works that helped address the overdue .
A year later, Black performers are starring in numerous new or ongoing Broadway productions, including Phantom of the Opera, which cast Emilie Kouatchou as Christine Daaé, the first Black woman in the role in the show’s decades-long run. Some are household names, like Samuel L. Jackson and John David Washington; others are bold new talents making their Broadway debuts.
Read on to find out more about the actors taking center stage in these productions.
Emiie Kouatchou in The Phantom of the Opera. Photo: Matthew Murphy
Emilie Kouatchou (Christine Daaé) in
Through February 18, 2023
Broadway’s longest-running musical, Phantom, is gearing up for its 35th anniversary (January 2023) at the Majestic Theatre—after which, the show is . In this iteration of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s enduring musical, Emilie Kouatchou has made history as the show’s first Black female actor to take on the role of Christine Daaé, at only 25. Kouatchou is the full-time performer for the role—a position she assumed in January of this year, after a few months as an understudy—and you can catch her soaring, operatic vocals eight times a week.
Courtesy, Rowena Husbands / The Piano Lesson.
Samuel L. Jackson (Doaker Charles), Danielle Brooks (Berniece) and John David Washington (Boy Willie) in
September 19, 2022—January 15, 2023
Oscar winner Samuel L. Jackson returns to Broadway for the revival of August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson (Jackson originated the role of Boy Willie in the 1980s and was an understudy when the show debuted on Broadway in 1990). Joining him onstage are Emmy nominee Danielle Brooks (Orange Is the New Black) and Golden Globe nominee John David Washington (Tenet), who happens to be the son of Denzel Washington and is making his Broadway debut. Jackson’s wife, fellow actor LaTanya Richardson Jackson, is the show’s director. The Piano Lesson is part of August Wilson’s litany of searing family dramas set in Pittsburgh; this story centers on a brother-sister debate over how to handle a family heirloom.
Myles Frost in MJ the Musical. Courtesy, MJ the Musical
Myles Frost (Michael Jackson) in
Earlier this year, Myles Frost transfixed Broadway audiences with his portrayal of Michael Jackson in MJ the Musical, and made history as the youngest performer—22 at the time—to take home a Tony for lead actor. Before landing the role, he was basically an unknown, his credits limited to high school musicals and a few TV shows. Mimicking the voice, musical stylings and physical mannerisms of the controversial King of Pop, Frost delivers a memorable performance.
Patina Miller and Montego Glover (both as “The Witch”) in
Through January 8, 2023
Tony winner Patina Miller (Pippin, Power Book III: Raising Kanan) plays the pivotal role of the Witch in the current Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods. Miller’s run as the menacing and complex character, which began during an Off-Broadway stint at New York City Center before transferring to the St. James Theater, has been roundly praised by critics. Miller previously earned a Tony nomination for her performance as Deloris Van Cartier in Sister Act on Broadway, and won the Tony for Best Actress in the 2013 Broadway revival of Pippin.
This month she has begun sharing the role with Montego Glover, a Black actor who starred on Broadway in The Color Purple and Memphis , receiving a Tony nomimation for the latter. Witness their star power before the show closes in January (Glover performs Tuesdays through Thursdays; Miller has the role Fridays through Sundays).
Courtesy, Death of a Salesman.
Wendell Pierce (Willy Loman), Sharon D Clarke (Linda Loman) and André De Shields (Ben Loman) in
September 17, 2022—January 15, 2023
Few shows in the American canon are as highly lauded as Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. The everyman play follows salesman Willy Loman and his relentless pursuit of the American dream, even as that dream costs him everyone he loves. This is the fifth Broadway revival of Miller’s work, and the actors bringing his words to life are unmatched: megastars of stage and screen Wendell Pierce (The Wire), Sharon D. Clarke (Caroline, or Change) and André De Shields (Hadestown) lead the cast. The same production when it ran on the West End in London. It is the first major interpretation of the play that approaches it from an African American viewpoint
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. Photo: Seye Isikalu
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Booth) and Corey Hawkins (Lincoln) in
September 27, 2022–January 15, 2023
Twenty years after its debut, Suzan-Lori Parks’ Topdog/Underdog is being revived for a contemporary audience. The story centers on Lincoln and Booth, two brothers haunted by their past and consumed by their present obsession with a gambling game. Problems with money, exes and race relations fail to improve their dire straits. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II of Watchmen and Candyman fame makes his Broadway debut alongside theater darling Corey Hawkins, who first appeared nearly a decade ago in a Romeo and Juliet revival and later starred in Six Degrees of Separation. Don’t miss these actors as they go mano a mano in a dark comedy that has remained in the hearts of theater lovers for two decades.
Adrianna Hicks (Sugar) and J. Harrison Ghee (Jerry/Daphne) in
Previews begin November 1
Adrianna Hicks and J. Harrison Ghee are slated to bring bright smiles and belly laughs to New York City audiences this fall in the theatrical adaptation of Some Like It Hot. The hysterical film from Hollywood’s golden age follows two men on the run who disguise themselves as women and join an all-female band led by a sultry vocalist, Sugar (famously portrayed by Marilyn Monroe in the 1959 movie). For this stage production, Hicks, known for her performance in Six, takes on that iconic character; Ghee, who performed as Lola in Kinky Boots for multiple engagements, is one of those on the lam, in the role of bass player Jerry/Daphne.
Jacquel Spivey in A Strange Loop. Photo: Marc J. Franklin
Jacquel Spivey (Usher) in
Newcomer Jacquel Spivey, 23, makes his professional acting debut in this Pulitzer Prize winner for Best Drama and Tony Award winner for Best Musical. A Strange Loop, based on writer Michael R. Jackson’s experiences growing up Black and queer, is a play within a play; the story follows Usher as he pens a musical and navigates his identity and self-doubt. Head to the Lyceum Theater to see this bold, comedic fantasia, with pop culture nods to Tyler Perry and Liz Phair.
Lillias White. Courtesy, Hadestown
Lillias White (Missus Hermes) in
Lillias White has made a home out of New York City’s stages for the past several decades, garnering acclaim and awards for roles in The Life, Fela! and Once on This Island. This September, White and her earth-shattering voice head down into the underworld of this award-winning musical as the first woman cast in the role of Hermes (retitled Missus Hermes for her run), the story’s narrator.
James Grimes in Funny Girl. Courtesy, Evan Zimmerman for Murphy Made 2022
Jared Grimes (Eddie Ryan) in
Netflix bingers may be familiar with Jared Grimes from his work as the deceptive preacher, Adrian, in the popular supernatural drama Manifest. Longtime riders of the New York City subways may have spotted him even earlier, as he spent a few years back in the early 2000s dancing for the rush hour crowd. Today those signature moves are firing up onlookers above ground—more specifically, at the August Wilson Theatre, where Grimes stars as Eddie Ryan, the quirky, lovable dance maestro in Funny Girl.
Brandon A. McCall (Simba) in
This October The Lion King, Disney’s longest-running Broadway musical, celebrates 25 years on Broadway. Since that history-making debut back in 1997, the pride lands have welcomed a wide roster of talented performers, including Christopher Jackson (later to be George Washington in Hamilton), Tony and Grammy winner Heather Headley and, part of the current cast, Brandon A. McCall, who plays the rambunctious royal heir, Simba. McCall made his Broadway debut in 2021 just as the Minskoff Theatre reopened to audiences.