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& Juliet, The New Broadway Musical Roars Strong

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Pop-pleasing the crowds with ease, & Juliet strides onto the Broadway stage with buoyant energy and a zest for teenage dream life. Marvellously fun and enthusiastically appealing, this show delivers with a smart smirk inside a ridiculously fun pretence. And it couldn’t be any better if you tried. As directed wisely and swiftly by Luke Sheppard (West End’s In the Heights; The Secret Life of Adrian Mole). & Juliet sings and roars “Larger Than Life“. It shows the “meaning of being lonely” in a heavily silly and ironic manner, most pleasurably, made up of, literally, dozens and dozens of pop songs by the super-producer Max Martin weaved together magically. They swirl out at you, at high volume and speed, with equally high energy by a brilliant cast of highly talented singers and dancers, digging in hard to the restructuring of the end of Shakespeare’s tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. And unpacking the perfect gift.

Lorna Courtney in Broadway’s & Juliet – Photo by Matthew Murphy.

The fun is all there, live and electric, probably due in a great way to the slick storytelling of “Schitt’s Creek” writer, David West Read (The Performers) coupled with the memorable pop choreography by Jennifer Weber (Public’s Teenage Dick) that just never stops giving and giving. “Oh baby, baby, [they’ve] got me feeling so right” and that couldn’t be more true in this jukebox musical. Presenting a moment when William Shakespeare, played wry and charmingly by Stark Sands (Broadway’s To Kill a Mockingbird; Kinky Boots), is living his best life, very proud of the play he has written, when he runs headfirst into his disgruntled rebellious wife, Anne Hathaway, lovingly portrayed with spark and style by the understudy Tiernan Tunnicliffe (NY City Center’s Bat Out of Hell), who truly believes he has gotten it all wrong. Sadly I missed out on seeing the wonderful Betsy Wolfe (Broadway’s Falsettos) in the role that I hear she excels in, but boy, did Tunnicliffe do justice to the part, living it large and magnificently with every fiber of her being. I have no complaints. The dynamo pairing is stupendously silly, but once you give in to these actors, and you really do have no choice, these two certainly know how to “Show Me Love… and what it’s all about.

Anne believes that Juliet, wonderfully embodied by the fantastically talented Lorna Courtney (Broadway’s West Side Story), should be allowed to survive her moment in the crypt, and live out her newly empowered life singing pop songs on a Paris road trip for love with her posse of pals. Courtney is an absolute triumph, breathing strong life into the part that she originated in the Toronto pre-Broadway run of this production. It’s a hoot of an adventure, and we are game to join in with the ride, even if it borders a bit on the superficially silly.

Naturally, dancing along to the immensely fun soundtrack of Tudor-nodding arrangements, thanks to music supervisor, orchestrator, and arranger Bill Sherman (Broadway’s In The Heights) and the musical director, Dominic Fallacaro (2016’s “Shortwave“), the journey is totally adorable, albeit wacky and fun, especially when Shakespeare resurrects the deliciously appealing Romeo, wonderfully portrayed by Ben Jackson Walker (Paramount +’s “Honor Society“) to mess up and get in the way of Juliet’s desire for true love. “It’s super dope!” he says as he late arrives at almost of end of Act One, and we can’t dispute with that (side note: I am told by one of my supreme theatre junkie buddies that Romeo’s understudy, Brandon Antonio, who plays Richard normally, rocks undeniably strong in the part when needed- and also has the best legs on that stage). Walker starts out strong, and just gets better and better as he develops into something more than just a mere member of the fan favorite, “De Boi’s Band“. Being an adorably honest edge to the young man. And those boi’s are back, alright, to screams of excitement from “Everybody“.

Ben Jackson Walker, Lorna Courtney, Betsy Wolfe, Melanie La Barrie in Broadway’s & Juliet. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Also on hand is the poignant and touching rendition of “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman” by a character that “feels like I’m caught in the middle“ Played touchingly by the tender and talented Justin David Sullivan, the non-binary best friend of Juliet, May, sings this song to François, played lovingly by Philippe Arroyo. (York Theatre’s Penelope), as they equally struggle with their gender and sexual identity in the most touching kind of ways. It really is a revelation, having a non-binary character revelling in a romantic plot-line that isn’t drenched in tragedy, but one of love and engagement. The musical, overall, is wonderfully and undeniably queer, racially and body diverse, with a cast and some plot-lines that celebrate non-conformity and acceptance. & Juliet gives the experience plenty of unpacking, opening up a space for all to see and maybe understand gender outside of the binary, honourably gifting us with a lead character beautifully portrayed by a strong genderqueer actor who fully embraces the role on all levels.

Philippe Arroyo and Justin David Sullivan in Broadway’s & Juliet – Photo by Matthew Murphy.

With a flick of that feather pen, & Juliet, which opened on November 17, 2022 at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, delivers the pop fantastic goods with abundance, easily being the best jukebox musical in a long long time. The show opened to critical acclaim in London’s West End in 2019, and was subsequently nominated for nine Laurence Olivier Awards in 2020, including Best New Musical, with three of its performers (Miriam-Teak Lee, Cassidy Janson, and David Bedella) winning Oliviers for their performances. I enjoyed it, when I saw it there, but I had no idea that I would be so excitedly saying “hit me baby one more time” when it finally made its way to Broadway. The show has only gotten tighter and smarter with the transfer, finding an emotional heart and connection that I didn’t quite feel at that West End theatre. Who knows. Maybe I was feeling off after just seeing the new West End revival of Cabaretat the Kit Kat Club, aka the completely redesigned Playhouse Theatre, starring Eddie Redmayne and the impossibly good Jessie Buckley (NT’s Romeo and Juliet). A pretty impossible act to follow.

Paulo Szot and Melanie La Barrie in Broadway’s & Juliet – Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Yet, Broadway’s & Juliet truly is a whole heap of fun and pleasure, unpacking a feminist perspective that tries its best to be both sweet and sincere. It showcased female and queer characters that are well-meaning and hilarious. We are reminded that Romeo and Juliet only knew each other for four days, and she was only 13 years old at the time. Crazy when pointed out this way in this modern context, but it shows a wise realignment that registers. And thankfully Anne fixes one of those problems quickly, by rewriting her age up to the early 20s. A solidly good edit. The show also contains a bevy of Shakespearean jokes, phrases, and historical references that add some knowledgable weight to the festivities, and although I first arrived at the doors of this show having a somewhat hard time taking it in as a seriously sharp piece of musical theatre writing and producing, the musical, like Six, truly rises up into the stars with so much good grace, energy, talent, and cleverness. The show never comes close to failing in the entertainment department, especially every time the cast is given the chance to fly high with the music and dance portions. It’s comes pretty close to being “Fuckin’ Perfect“, the most fun in a Broadway theater right now, and by far the best jukebox musical Broadway has seen in a while.  “And that’s the way it is.”

The cast of Broadway’s & Juliet – Photo by Matthew Murphy.
For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

Broadway

Tony Predictions: What Will Win, What Should Win and What Should Have Been Nominated

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Stereophonic, Illinoise, Sarah Paulson in Appropriate, and Jessica Lange in Mother Play, Julieta Cervantes; Matthew Murphy; Belasco Theatre; 2ndStage

There were 36 productions that included musicals, plays, and revivals, opening on Broadway this season. On Sunday the coveted statues will be given out at the 77th annual Tony Awards. Here is T2C’s predictions of what and who will win, what should win and what whould have been nominated.

BEST MUSICAL

What will win: Suffs, because Hillary Clinton is a producer and New York is a fan.

What Should Win: Hell’s Kitchen. This show shows New York in a fabulous light, unlike New York, New York of last year. Also Alicia Keys music will bring in a younger audience which will help Broadway survive.

What Should Have Been Nominated: Heart of Rock and Roll. This heartfelt musical was ignored by the critics, but is beloved by those who see it.

BEST MUSICAL REVIVAL

What will win, what should win: Merrily We Roll Along Hands down this is the chosen piece.

BEST ACTRESS (MUSICAL)

What will win, what should win: Maleah Joi Moon, They are going to want to honor Hell’s Kitchen and this is how they will do it.

BEST ACTOR (MUSICAL)
Who will win: Jonathan Groff, Merrily We Roll Along. Merrily is going to take every award it is nominated for.

Who Should Win: Brian d’Arcy James, Days of Wine and Roses. Brian has deserved this honor and his performance was layered and heartbreaking.

BEST FEATURED ACTRESS (MUSICAL)

Who will win: Lindsay Mendez, Merrily We Roll Along. Merrily is going to take every award it is nominated for.

Who Should Win: Bebe Neuwirth, Cabaret. It is a spectacular performance and Bebe has given a great deal to theatre.

BEST FEATURED ACTOR (MUSICAL)

Who will win: Daniel Radcliffe, Merrily We Roll Along. Merrily is going to take every award it is nominated for.

Who Should Have Been Nominated:George Abud in Lempika and Paul Alexander Nolan Water for Elephants. Mr Nolan’s performance was my favorite of the season.

BEST DIRECTOR (MUSICAL)

Who will win: Maria Friedman, Merrily We Roll Along. Merrily is going to take every award it is nominated for.

Who Should Win: Jessica Stone, Water for Elephants. Her direction was like looking at slides from a view master.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

What will win: Shaina Taub for Suffs. She is the darling of Broadway.

Who Should Win and should have been nominated: Music by Matt Gould, lyrics by Carson Kreitzer, for Lempicka. This was an exciting score and had songs that will last.

Who Should Have Been Nominated: Music by Barry Manilow and lyrics by Bruce Sussman for Harmony. This score is a classic and was ripped off.

BEST MUSICAL SCORE ( see my answers above)

What will win: Suffs

Who Should Win: Lempicka

Who Should Have Been Nominated: Harmony

BEST ORCHESTRATIONS

What will win: Jonathan Tunick, Merrily We Roll Along

Who Should Have Been Nominated: Music orchestrated by Cian McCarthy; Music arranged by Remy Kurs for Lempicka

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY

What will win: Justin Peck, IIinoise. This is a dance show so they will honor it.

Who should win: Rick and Jeff Kuperman, The Outsiders. The Kuperman’s have their cast flying and soaring and it is spectacular.

Who should have been nominated: Lorin Latarro  Heart Of Rock and Roll. Dancing on bubble wrap and cardboard is inventive and should have been reconized.

SCENIC DESIGN (MUSICAL)

What will win: M.L. Dogg and Cody Spencer, Here Lies Love 

Who Should Have Been Nominated: Paul Tate dePoo III, The Great Gatsby 

COSTUME DESIGN (MUSICAL)

Who will and should win: Linda Cho, The Great Gatsby 

LIGHTING DESIGN (MUSICAL)

What will win: Bradley King and David Bengali, Water for Elephants

SOUND DESIGN (MUSICAL)

What will win: Kai Harada, Merrily We Roll Along 

PLAYS

BEST PLAY

What will win: Stereophonic. It is the darling of the critics.

Who Should Win: Prayer for the French Republic. This play was so brilliantly done, but with the Pro-Palestinian conflict this show is being dismissed by the voters.

BEST PLAY REVIVAL
What will win: Appropriate 

BEST ACTRESS (PLAY)
Who will win: Sarah Paulson, Appropriate and Jessica Lange, Mother Play. This should be a tie, but if they give the award to one person it will go to Sarah Paulson

BEST ACTOR (PLAY)
Who Will Win: Leslie Odom Jr., Purlie Victorious

Who Should Win: Michael Stuhlbarg, Patriots

BEST FEATURED ACTRESS (PLAY)

Who will win: Kara Young, Purlie Victorious

Who Should Win: Celia Keenan-Bolger, Mother Play

BEST FEATURED ACTOR (PLAY)

Who will win: Corey Stoll, Appropriate

Who Should Win: Will Brill, Stereophonic, but the nominees will cancel each other out. This was one of the best performances of the year.

BEST DIRECTOR (PLAY)

Who will win: Daniel Aukin, Stereophonic

BEST SCENIC DESIGN (PLAY)

What will win: dots, Appropriate 

BEST COSTUME DESIGN (PLAY)

What will win: Dede Ayite, Jaja’s African Hair Braiding 

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN (PLAY)

What will win: Jiyoun Chang, Stereophonic 

BEST SOUND DESIGN (PLAY)

Who will win: Ryan Rumery, Stereophonic

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The  78th Annual Theatre World Awards And You Are There

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The historic 78th Annual Theatre World Awards Ceremony was held on Monday evening, June 10, 2024 at the Marquis Theatre.

The event was hosted by well-known theater journalist, Peter Filichia.

Ali Louis Bourzgui

Winners of the 2024 Theatre World Awards were honored The Who’s Tommy‘s Ali Louis Bourzgui

 Oh, Mary!‘s Cole Escola

 The Outsiders‘ Brody Grant was given his award by Daphne Rubin Vega

Michael Imperioli and wife

 An Enemy of the People‘s Michael Imperioli

Phillip Johnson Richardson

The Wiz‘s Phillip Johnson Richardson

Nichelle Lewis

Nichelle Lewis, Phillip Johnson Richardson

and Nichelle Lewis

 Patriots‘ Will Keen

 Mary Jane‘s Rachel McAdams

Hell’s Kitchen‘s Maleah Joi Moon was given his award by Kristin Chenoweth

Casey Likes

Tom Pecinka

and Stereophonic‘s Tom Pecinka

Sarah Pidgeon

Sarah Pidgeon

Chris Stack.

and Chris Stack.

A.J. Shively

Also receiving honors were A.J. Shively, who has won the Dorothy Loudon Award for his work in Irish Rep’s Philadelphia, Here I Come

Len Cariou

Len Cariou, winning the John Willis Award for Lifetime Achievement

Peter Filichia

and arts writer Peter Filichia, this year’s Special Award honoree.

There to honor them were

Maria Friedman

André De Shields

A great night was had by all.

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Drama Desk Awards Backstage In The Press Room

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T2C was backstage at the Drama Desk Awards last night. Here is a look at the action.

First in the room:

Kara Young

Celia Keenan-Bolger

Celia Keenan-Bolger and Jessica Lange

Jessica Lange

Sarah Paulson

The Cast of Stereophonic-Will Brill, Sarah Pidgeon, Juliana Canfield, Andrew R. Butler, Tom Pecinka, Chris Stack and Eli Gelb

Nikiya Mathis

JR Goodman, Ray Wetmore and Camille Labarre

Nikki M. James

Patrick Page

Enver Chakartash

Paul Tazewell

Cole Escola

How to Dance in Ohio cast members that includes-Liz Weber, Jeremy Wein, Ava Xiao-Lin Rigelhaupt, Nicole D’Angelo and Becky Leifman

Paul Tate dePoo

Avran Mlotek, Motl Didner, Dominick Balletta and Zalem Miotek

Jane Cox

Brian MacDevitt

Brian MacDevitt and Jane Cox

Isabella Byrd

Ryan Rumery

Walter Trarbach, Cody Spencer and Kai Harada

David Yazbek

Itamar Moses

Lady Irene Gandy

Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick

Matthew Broderick

Nathan Lane

Will Butler

Marco Paguia

Shaina Taub

Justin Peck

Daniel Aukin

Jessica Stone

Corbin Bleu and Sarah Hyland

Andre Bishop and James Lapine

Keisha Lewis

Maleah Joi Moon, Brian d’Arcy James and Kelli O’Hara

Maleah Joi Moon

Keisha Lewis and Maleah Joi Moon

Kelli O’Hara

Brian d’Arcy James

Peter Nigrini

Carole Rothman and Branden Jacobs-Jenkins

Amy Herzog

David Adjmi

Adam Greenfield, David Adjmi

Sarah Hyland and Debra Messing

 

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The 2024 Winner’s Of The Drama Desk Awards The Red Carpet

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The 2024 Annual Drama Desk Awards were announced last night at NYU Skirball Center. Tony Award Winners Sutton Foster and Aaron Tveit hosted the ceremony.

Sutton Foster and Aaron Tveit

Aaron Tveit

Sutton Foster

T2C was on the red carpet.

Andrew Durand

Rick Kuperman and Jeff Kuperman 

William Jackson Harper

Shaina Taub

Peter Nigrini

Kecia Lewis

Celia Keenan-Bolger

Jocelyn Bioh

Laura Benanti

Jesse Robb and Shana Carroll

Jessica Lange

Camille Labarre, Ray Wetmore and JR Goodman

Michael Starobin, Andrea Grody and Shaina Taub

Will Brill

Sarah Paulson

Richard Ridge

Sarah Hyland

Maleah Joi Moon

Patrick Paige

Brooke Shields

Brooke Shields, Maleah Joi Moon

Brian D’Arcy James

Will Keen

Michael Stuhlbarg, Will Keen

Mary Louise Burke

Isabella Byrd

Justin Peck

Kara Young

Marco Paguia

Miss New York Rachelle diStasio

Josh Breckenridge

Lorin Latarro

Ricky Ubeda

Glauco Araujo

Dorian Harewood and Nancy Harewood

Mark Williams

Brody Grant

The Cast of Stereophonic-Andrew R. Butler, Will Brill, Tom Pecinka, Juliana Canfield, Eli Gelb, Chris Stack and Sarah Pidgeon

Paige Davis and Patrick Page

James Monroe Iglehart

Sarah Pidgeon

Nikiya Mathis

Montego Glover

Cole Escola

Tom Pecinka

Chris Stack

Leslie Kritzer

Miriam Silverman

Andrew R. Butler

Pat Swinney Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment with Juliana Canfield

Juliana Canfield

Enver Chakartash

Robert Pickens and Katie Geil

Will Butler

David Adjmi

Daisy Prince

Debra Messing

Lena Hall

Debra Messing

Nikki M. James

Michael Stuhlbarg

Paul Tazewell

Camille A. Brown

Marin Ireland

How To Dance in Ohio-Liz Weber, Jeremy Wein, Ava Xiao-Lin Rigelhaupt, Nicole D’Angelo and Becky Leifman

Jacob Karr

Dylis Croman and Robert Montano

Eli Gelb

Walter Trarbach

Steven Valentine

Peter Charney and Brendan George

Rebecca Frecknall

Lady Irene Gandy

Timo Andres

 

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Broadway Celebrates Juneteenth

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The Broadway League’s Black to Broadway initiative announces the performers for this year’s Broadway Celebrates Juneteenth concert taking place in Times Square on Wednesday, June 19th from 11:00am – 12:30pm (rain or shine).

Michael James Scott

Michael James Scott will host. Flagstar Bank will be this year’s presenting sponsor.

Phylicia Rashad

The 2024 Juneteenth Legacy Award will be presented to two-time Tony Award winner Phylicia Rashad, a versatile performer, director, educator, and humanitarian who has delighted generations of audiences through her work in beloved roles both in theatre and on screen. As an actress, Ms. Rashad has won two Tony Awards, for A Raisin in the Sun (2004 Best Actress in a Play) and Skeleton Crew (2022 Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play). She was also a 2005 Best Actress in a Play nominee for Gem of the Ocean. As a producer, Ms. Rashad recently received a Best Revival of a Play nomination for Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch.

The fourth annual Broadway Celebrates Juneteenth concert features more than 35 performers from the following 17 Broadway shows: Aladdin; & Juliet; Back to the Future: The Musical; Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club; Chicago; Harry Potter and the Cursed Child; The Heart of Rock and Roll; Hell’s Kitchen; Illinoise; The Lion King; MJ; Moulin Rouge! The Musical;The Notebook; Suffs; Water for Elephants; The Who’s Tommy; The Wiz; and the return of the kids of Young Gifted and Broadway. All performances will be accompanied by live music thanks to The Music Performance Trust Fund and the Film Funds. American Sign Language interpretation will be provided.

The exciting line-up of Broadway stars set to perform includes: Blu Allen, Donovan Louis Bazemore, Jace Bentley, Ronnie S. Bowman Jr., Maya Boyd, Tsilala Brock, Max Chambers, Taylor Colleton, Jay Copeland, Lorna Courtney, Charity Angél Dawson, Mariama Diop, Desmond Sean Ellington, Will Ervin Jr., Jerome Hermann-Hardeman, Dorian Harewood, Jackson Hayes, Najah Hetsberger, Afra Hines, Manny Houston, Jaylen Lyndon Hunter, Bre Jackson, Polanco Jones Jr., John-Michael Lyles, Mehret Marsh, Deja McNair, Alex Newell, Veronica Otim, Cristina Rae, Jelani Remy, William Rhem Jr., Albert Rhodes Jr., Walter Russell III, Antoine L. Smith, Nia Thompson, Lamont Walker II, Rachel Webb, NaTasha Yvette Williams, and Hailee Kaleem Wright.

Joining The Broadway League in partnership for Broadway Celebrates Juneteenth are Black Theatre United (BTU), Black Theatre Coalition (BTC), The New York Times, and the Times Square Alliance. Black Theatre United has curated a selection of Black-owned restaurants to take part in the celebration by selling food and treats to attendees. Kokomo, LaMode BK, and Brooklyn Sweet Spot will be on-site with a selection of delicious options to add to the festivity.

Flagstar Bank is the 2024 presenting sponsor of Broadway Celebrates Juneteenth. Other sponsors include: The Music Performance Trust Fund and Film Funds; the NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment; Audience Rewards; Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS; Broadway.com; M·A·C Cosmetics; TodayTix; Playbill; The Araca Group; and Open Jar Studios.

The creative and production teams of Broadway Celebrates Juneteenth include Director and Writer Steve H. Broadnax III, Music Director Rashad McPherson, Executive Producers Brian Anthony Moreland and Aaliytha Stevens, Stage Manager Monet Thibou, and General Manager Devon Miller of Foresight Theatrical.

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