Audra McDonald to Headline 'Shuffle Along' on Broadway

Autumn de Wilde
Audra McDonald

The project reunites writer-director George C. Wolfe and choreographer Savion Glover, the team behind 'Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk.'

Broadway favorite Audra McDonald will return to the theater next spring in the backstage historical tribute Shuffle Along, Or, The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed.

Produced by Scott Rudin, the jazz musical will be written and directed by George C. Wolfe and choreographed by tap virtuoso Savion Glover, marking that team’s first collaboration since the 1996 smash, Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk. McDonald will play 1920s star Lottie Gee, with other cast to be announced.

The new production traces the path to unexpected success and the creative legacy of the 1921 African-American revue Shuffle Along, which was conceived by Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles and featured music by Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle, four celebrated vaudeville performers who had met at a 1920 NAACP benefit.

The show arrived in Depression-era New York mired in debt from a pre-Broadway tour, but immediately caught on with its jazzy score and exuberant song-and-dance styles. It ran for 504 performances, helping to launch the careers of such artists as Josephine Baker, Adelaide Hall, Florence Mills, Fredi Washington and Paul Robeson.

George Gershwin, Fanny Brice, Al Jolson and Langston Hughes were among fans flocking to see the show.

Read more Tony Awards: Audra McDonald Sets Record

McDonald made Tony Awards history in 2014 with her sixth win, becoming the first performer to have taken home Broadway's highest honor in all four acting categories in which she is eligible.

She has won twice as featured actress in a musical, for Carousel in 1994 and Ragtime in 1998; twice for featured actress in a play, in Master Class in 1996 and A Raisin in the Sun in 2004; and for lead actress in a musical in 2012 for The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess. McDonald completed the grand slam last year, winning for lead actress in a play with her transformative portrayal of Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill.

Wolfe and Glover both won Tonys for their work on Bring in 'da Noise, and Wolfe had previously won directing honors for the two-part Angels in America.

Previews for Shuffle Along begin on March 14, 2016, at the Music Box Theatre, with official opening set for April 21.

The production has assembled a deluxe team, including music supervision, arrangements and orchestrations by Daryl Waters (Bring in 'da Noise, After Midnight), sets by Santo Loquasto, costumes by Ann Roth and lighting by Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer.

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