Musical Theater

The history of African Americans involvement in musical theater began in the late 1919.

In the 1890s, the official entrance of African Americans into musical theatricals without them being minstrels began.

People to Know in Musical Theater

Louisa Melvin Delos Mars

fShe is the first African American woman to have opera produced. The opera was entitled "Leoni, the Gypsy Queen(1889)", in
Providence, Rhode Island red
actress in a musical.

Juanita Hall

She became the first African-American to receive a Tony Award, while also becoming the first person to ever receive the award for best featured actress in a musical.

Charles Gilpin

He is the first black man to star in a Broadway play. Making his debut in
Ten Nights in a Barroom,
he paved the way for
future black actors to be accepted in the Broadway community.He played in
critical debuts in New York City: the 1919 premier of John Drinkwater’s Abraham Lincoln.

Gregory Haney

He made history by playing
La Cienega in Bring It On. This character is the first transgendered teenager on Broadway.

A Few African American Musicals

"Shuffle Along"

The first major Broadway show featuring an all-black cast, Shuffle Along, opened in 1921 and had a 504 performance run.It is a musical with music and lyrics by Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake, and a style connecting plot about a mayoral race, written by Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles.

"It Ain't Nothin But the Blues"

" Traces the sounds and the stories
of the blues, from African chants
and spirituals through "Let
the Good Times Roll" with stops
along the way for Delta and
Chicago blues, "Strange Fruit,"
and many others."

"In Dahomey"

"In Dahomey: A Negro Musical Comedy" was a landmark American musical comedy, "the first full-length musical written and played by blacks to be performed at a major Broadway house." It featured music by Will Marion Cook, book by Jesse A. Shipp , and lyrics by poet Paul Laurence Dunbar.

"The Color Purple"

The story is about the 40-years in the life of a family in rural Georgia. At its center is fourteen-year-old Celie. When Celie is forced by her abusive father to marry a cruel farmer, called “Mister,” she is separated from all that she loves.

"The Wiz"

When Harlem schoolteacher Dorothy (Diana Ross) tries to save her dog from a storm, she's miraculously whisked away to an urban fantasy land called Oz. After accidentally killing the Wicked Witch of the East upon her arrival, Dorothy is told about the Wiz (Richard Pryor), a wizard who can help her get back to Manhattan. As Dorothy goes in search of the Wiz, she's joined by the Scarecrow (Michael Jackson), the Tin Man (Nipsey Russell) and the Cowardly Lion (Ted Ross).


A musical based on the show
business aspirations and
successes of acts such as
The Supremes, The Shirelles,
James Brown, etc.

'Ain't Misbehavin' "

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This musical is a jukebox musical
that premiered on Broadway in
April 2013. The musical is based on Berry Gordy's autobiography To
Be Loved: The Music, the Magic,
the Memories of Motown (1994),
and on the history of his founding
and running of the Motown
record label, and his personal
and professional relationships with Motown artists such as Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, and Michael Jackson.

Popular Musical Numbers

Copyright © 2017 Nyadirah Stephens

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