Joshua Henry opened his solo concert at the Triad Theater on February 20 singing the words “I’m livin’ my life like it’s golden.” The chorus to Jill Scott’s hit certainly describes Henry’s glowing career on Broadway, as he’s currently starring in the smash revival of Porgy and Bess after coming off a Tony nomination for last season’s The Scottsboro Boys. Even with a featured role in American Idiot in which he had to strip down to his skivvies, Henry is living the high life, which he proved by playing to an adoring crowd who sang along with his set list of soul (and simply soul-touching) songs in an evening titled “Soul Weakness.”
Scott’s good-willed “Golden” kicked off Henry’s jam session, followed by “Actions Speak Louder Than Words.” Clearly striking a nerve with the audience, Henry played “What Would I Do If I Could Feel” from The Wiz to giant cheers. James Brown’s “Get Up Offa That Thing” gave Henry the chance to strut his confident, yet silly, personality on stage, which was received with delighted squeals.
Perhaps the most anticipated moment of the evening was when Henry inevitably performed “Go Back Home” from Scottsboro Boys. His delicate, moving performance earned him his first Tony nomination and to see him perform the number again, after the show ran so briefly on Broadway, was a rare treat. However, in the spirit of tailoring the concert to his liking, Henry performed the John Kander and Fred Ebb song in a mashup with Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.”
VIDEO: Watch Joshua Henry sing “Go Back Home” and “A Change Is Gonna Come”
- Scottsboro Boys producer Catherine Schreiber discusses the show’s 12 Tony Award nominations and what she thinks the show can win on the big night
- The Broadway softball league kicks off with tons of stars; Aaron Tveit sings “The Star-Spangled Banner”
- Free ticket giveaway to new off-Broadway musical Lucky Guy
- Broadway grosses
What do you think, Rushers? Do you think Catherine Schreiber is on to something, or is she being too optimistic about Scottsboro‘s chances at the Tonys? Who had to wipe the drool from their mouth when they saw Aaron Tveit in a baseball uniform? For your viewing pleasure, watch Aaron’s full performance of the National Anthem below. Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
It takes courage to write about your own life for a play; it takes even more courage to play a character in it. That is what Catherine Schreiber is doing in Desperate Writers, a play she co-wrote with Joshua Grenrock, about the writing duo’s adventures of getting a script produced in Hollywood. The comedy begins previews May 16 at the Union Square Theater and will open June 6. Schreiber is a producer of The Scottsboro Boys, as well as the upcoming Broadway production of The King’s Speech, based on the Oscar-winning film. Maddie Corman (previously seen on Broadway in Next Fall) plays the role of Ashley, modeled after Schreiber. The actress and playwright sat down with Stage Rush to discuss the rehearsal process, the struggles of making it in the entertainment industry, and their other high-profile projects: Smash—a pilot for NBC, and King’s Speech.
How did the basis for this play come to you?
Catherine Schreiber: Joshua Grenrock and I met as actors years ago and then we started writing together. We had always wanted to write a script about our struggles. Everyone said don’t do it, but it was one of those scripts that we had to write. Everything in it is based on truth.
How much of the play is you?
CS: A lot of the play is me. Josh and I, we really wrote it for ourselves as Ashley and David. We couldn’t play those parts because by the time we did it, we would have been too old and it wouldn’t have been a comedy anymore, it would have been more of a tragedy. We played the producers instead. But a lot of my friends who hear the lines will recognize me.
Maddie, you play…
Maddie Corman: Catherine. [Laughs] I play Ashley.
What’s your character up to?
MC: When the play opens, it’s the day of the big [script] meeting and it’s finally supposed to happen. The company loves it; they can make this couple’s dream come true. I think the one thing that may not be autobiographical for Catherine—just because I want to save your marriage—in the play, the cowriters are also in love. Ashley is ready to get married and have a baby. Herboyfriend won’t take that next step until he gets his ducks in a row. I think a lot of people can relate to that feeling of, ‘Come on, it’s my time. I’m not asking for a favor. I’m ready to work hard and do what I was born to you.’ I can’t tell you how much I relate to the script. In rehearsal, I have shared my horror stories about jobs I have done where they’ve said, ‘OK, this pilot is going to series and you’re going to be in this.’ Read more
The Scottsboro Boys may be in its final week on Broadway due to disappointing ticket sales, but theatergoers packed the Lyceum Theatre for Thursday night’s performance. Following a sold-out show, in which composer John Kander and director Susan Stroman were in attendance, producer Catherine Shreiber introduced a panel of historians that lead a post-performance discussion of the historical importance of the Scottsboro episode.
CBS News’ chief legal correspondent Jan Crawford took the stage, visibly moved by the performance, and announced that she was throwing out her prepared introduction. “I had prepared a little speech about how this [talkback] would illuminate the issues of law and injustice, because that’s what I cover, but I’m throwing all that out,” Crawford said. “This was a play frayed with humor, but I didn’t really laugh. For me growing up in the south, Bull Connor turning fire houses on peaceful protesters [feels like] just the other day. Sunday school girls getting killed in a bombing of the 16th St. Baptist Church [feels like] just the other day.” Crawford went on to comment how the nature of the Scottsboro incident shares parallels to today’s headlines. Read more
- Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark plays its first, much talked about, preview
- Stage Rush favorites The Scottsboro Boys and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson post closing notices
- American Idiot trying to hold on, announces Billie Joe Armstrong returning for 50 performances
- Broadway grosses
What do you think, Rushers? How did Spider-Man sound to you after all the coverage from the first preview? Are you as crushed as I am that Scottsboro and Bloody Bloody are closing so prematurely? Do you think Billie Joe’s return to American Idiot will keep the show afloat? Take solace with other concerned Rushers in the comments below. Let’s all have a group hug!
- Revisiting James T. Lane, currently a Scottsboro Boy
- Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown suffers the A-list cast curse
- Broadway grosses
Well Rushers, what do you think of James’ Kander and Ebb switcheroo? Have you seen him in Scottsboro Boys? Do you feel the same way I do about Women on the Verge? Leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments below! And don’t forget to follow Stage Rush on Facebook and Twitter for on-the-go news updates.
Late last September, it would probably have been difficult to find a Broadway actor who was more engulfed in the music of John Kander and Fred Ebb than James T. Lane. The Philadelphia native was concluding his commitment to the Kander and Ebb classic Chicago and rehearsing for the famous duo’s final show, The Scottsboro Boys. Last April, Lane kicked off Stage Rush’s Ensemble Watch series while he was part of Chicago’s company. He now plays the key, dual role of Ozie (one of the Scottsboro Boys) and Ruby, a white woman (yes, white woman) who falsely accuses the nine black men of raping her and her friend. Lane sat down with Stage Rush to discuss his Scottsboro transition, his new spotlight, and ladies hats.
The last time we spoke, it was April and you were in Chicago. How did The Scottsboro Boys come about?
I had done a reading of The Scottsboro Boys in June 2009. But before then, I auditioned at the end of 2008 for a reading of the show and I didn’t get it. I had a horrible audition, actually. I accidentally made cuts in the song, so obviously the accompanist and I didn’t gel. So when it came around again, I was like, “I’m doing the whole song!” I sang “Steppin’ Out With My Baby,” and then they asked me a funny question: “Do you think you could sing it as a girl?” I said, “Do you mean in my falsetto?” and they said, “No, as a female.” So I did it 1920s, flapper style, very cutesy with shoulders and knees. I didn’t know what they were getting at! I got the reading.
You weren’t involved in the production at the Vineyard Theatre last February. How did the Broadway opportunity come your way?
When they announced that Scottsboro was going to go to the Vineyard, I had obligations with Chicago and some concert work that I had already agreed to. So the Vineyard happened and then they announced it was going to Broadway and I felt, ugh, like I really missed my opportunity. My chance came around again midway through the tryouts in Minneapolis at the Guthrie Theater over the summer. September 20 was when I started rehearsals, and our first preview was October 7. So much had changed since that reading I did.
What is the process of switching shows like?
I did double duty on Chicago and Scottsboro Boys for about a week and a half from September 20 to sometime in October. I was doing rehearsals for Scottsboro during the day and performing Chicago at night. Luckily, both shows have the same producers. I had to put my four-weeks notice in, but they knew what I was doing and were lenient.
Video: James T. Lane talks spotting Kristin Chenoweth at Scottsboro‘s opening night
The creators of The Scottsboro Boys are out to make audiences squirm in their seats with discomfort. This new musical by John Kander and Fred Ebb tells the true story of nine black men who were wrongfully accused of raping two white women in Alabama in 1931 and put through hell in jail before being released years later. What puts audiences of Scottsboro into such discomfort are the grim historical facts and the jolting manner in which the story is told—a painfully wide-grinned minstrel show. This daring method of storytelling should be no surprise, as Kander and Ebb famously highlighted American judicial failure in the musical classic Chicago with tongue-in-cheeked razzle dazzle.
Along with book writer David Thompson, Kander and Ebb (the latter died in 2004) use the creepy, controversial minstrel method to juxtapose the injustice that is done to the nine innocent men and highlight the atrocious crimes of racism. Broadway legend John Cullum plays the minstrel staple of Interlocutor, who orders up the cast to tell a story. Coleman Domingo and Forrest McClendon play Mr. Bones and Mr. Tambo, two other minstrel fixtures that rotate tirelessly through numerous roles. Domingo, as deranged as ever, is chilling as he brutalizes and tortures the Scottsboro Boys with insane evil as a sheriff, lawyer, and prison guard.
It’s a wonder that Domingo is able to sustain his heightened level of cartoon maniac throughout the show, yet the same can be said for the rest of the cast and the heavy subject matter. In the bluntly-titled number “Electric Chair,” Guard Bones and Guard Tambo terrify the youngest member of the Scottsboro Boys—Eugene, a little boy—with the possible fate of electrocution. The guards perform the number with sadistic pleasure, and it’s jolting to think that Jeremy Gumbs, the young actor who plays Eugene, is involved with such a dark show at his young age. Read more