‘Holler If Ya Hear Me,’ ‘After Midnight,’ ‘A Raisin In The Sun’: Will This Diversity On Broadway Last?

June 6, 2014  |  

On June 19, Holler If Ya Hear Me, a Broadway show inspired by Tupac Shakur’s music, opens for all theater goers looking for an evening on the Great White Way. For those with children, Disney might be more your speed. So maybe you have a few tickets for Aladdin in hand. Or perhaps you have a love of dance and jazz music. For you, there’s After Midnight. If you’re looking to feed your love of the classics (and Denzel), there’s A Raisin in the Sun.

Of course, there are many more Broadway shows to choose from right now. We didn’t even mention A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder or Hedwig and the Angry Inch in which we hear that one of the most versatile entertainers around right now, Neil Patrick Harris, is giving it with each performance. Both of these shows are up for massive amounts of Tony awards as well.

But what the aforementioned group of shows have in common is that they showcase the talents of African Americans, on stage and behind the scenes.

“Broadway as an art form is one of New York’s great offerings. And it’s very vibrant,” Scott Sanders, producer of The Color Purple and After Midnight told us in a phone call recently. After Midnight is nominated for seven Tony awards this year. The Tonys will broadcast live this Sunday at 8pm ET on CBS.

Saunders notes that besides the shows that are performing on Broadway stages, there are the shows (some prior to appearing on Broadway, some after a Broadway run) that travel to parts far and wide.

“Broadway has become like cable TV — there’s a show for almost every person and their tastes,” Saunders adds.

Still, many of the people in the audiences at Broadway theaters aren’t African American. According to figures Saunders cited, in 2004, 3.8 percent of all ticket buyers were African American. We found this quote from a May 24, 2012 WNYC story: “Last season, 83 percent of Broadway audiences were Caucasians – the highest percentage since the industry began keeping numbers in 1998, according to the Broadway League.”

“I was appalled and, quite frankly, frightened when I saw that,” Saunders says, referring to the 2004 figure. “I don’t believe African Americans sit at home and say, ‘Let me find reasons to not go to Broadway.'” Rather, Saunders says, it’s a question of whether the powers that be are producing shows that deal with subject matter, music and stories that black audiences care about. “And in most cases, the answer is no,” he continued. (You can probably say the same of other groups as well.)

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