The Dog or Who is Sylvia

Annaleigh Ashford is becoming one of those actresses that you drop everything to go and see. I first saw her in Dogfight, a beautiful little show at 2nd Stage. I then fell in love with her as Lauren in Kinky Boots, obviously a well-known show that gave her great reviews and her first Tony nomination (I wish the cast album did her more justice). She, along with her onstage husband Will Brill, stole the show for me in You Can’t Take it With You, with a stacked ensemble cast brimming with talent. I remember watching the show, knowing that everyone was talking about who in the cast could get nominated, and thinking that she was the standout who deserved the awards love. She not only got a nomination, but deservedly won and gave a great, memorable speech.

It was around this time that it was announced she would star as a the dog Sylvia in Sylvia. Not knowing anything about the play, I bought tickets regardless, because Ashford was, in my opinion, long overdue for a starring role. As someone who is afraid of dogs (and animals in general), I wasn’t entirely sure if I would like the show, but it is one of the funniest plays I have ever seen. It properly shows off Ashford’s great comedic timing, physical comedy, and all around lovable personality.

The show was hilarious, and Ashford made a great Sylvia. She knows how to work the laughs and use her body effectively. Unsure of what to expect, the show had me in stitches for most of the time. And then the ending was surprisingly heartfelt, and even I, a cynical person when it comes to pets, found myself touched by the beautiful sentiment of the dog.

As a four person cast, each cast member was hilarious. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear all four of their names read as nominees come award season. Matthew Broderick in particular seemed perfect for the role of Greg, a lonely empty nester questioning his role and looking for the next chapter in his life. I last saw him in It’s Only a Play, (another great ensemble piece that did not nearly get enough award show love as I thought it would) so I wasn’t sure what to expect from him, but I thought he was perfect and lovable in this role. Julie White as Kate, was also amazing, and Robert Sella was hilarious in all his incarnations.

As the funniest play out there right now, I’m sad that the show is closing early. Go see it while it’s still running. It’s definitely a show I would love to see a second time, and with Ashford as the leading dog, I doubt two performances are ever the same. And hey hey hey hey hey don’t be surprised if you hear her name again when award season comes rolling along.

Pleased on Down the Road

At this year’s Emmy Awards, Viola Davis gave one of the most beautiful, impassioned acceptance speeches I have ever heard. While being poignant, she was able to pointedly call out Hollywood (and the entertainment industry at large) to provide more opportunities for actors of color. Sure, there were some white actresses who complained that good roles needed to be written for all women, but there will always be roles for white actresses. If you continue to have white leads, it’s easy to write a mother/sister/daughter for them, that guess what? Will most likely be white! Even when Hollywood attempts to create multi-racial families like Michael B. Jordan and Kate Mara as adopted siblings in the Fantastic Four, Jordan had to explain how they were siblings in every interview I saw.

This year’s season on Broadway is one of the most diverse seasons in recent memory. With shows like Hamilton, Allegiance, On Your Feet!, and The Color Purple highlighting actors of colors, as well as Spring Awakening bringing deaf actors to the stage, Broadway is representing!

Which is why it’s so nice to see NBC’s annual live theater event to be The Wiz Live!, which featured an all-star cast of black actors who brought it and then some. Despite not casting any of the Broadway stars I had in mind when The Wiz Live! was first announced (here’s looking at you, Joshua Henry, Condola Rashad, and, of course, Audra McDonald), each and every actor brought their A-game and made you wonder why none of them were currently headlining a Broadway musical… yet.

Hollywood take note: Shanice Williams was found during an open call once they decided to cast a newcomer as Dorothy. This is what happens when you decide to cast star power over a big name. You can discover someone special. If only every other show or movie was willing to take a chance on an unknown talent, especially one of color. Here’s hoping this is the first of many occasions where a new actor of color takes the world by storm.

It bothers me when people of color dye their hair blonde, as if black hair isn’t beautiful and to me, it feels like they’re trying to white-wash themselves. So I’m glad they decided to ditch the blonde wig for Uzo Aduba, who slayed and looked absolutely beautiful as Glinda. If only we could all have showstopper moments like her entrance. Her appearance as Glinda was well worth the wait, and yes, I do believe!

I have never seen any live telecast on television get universal love with very little snark. No awards show, sporting event, or previous musical has been met with such love from social media. What white Americans fail to understand is what it’s like to be of color and to not see yourself represented on TV. What you begin to internalize as a child is that your stories don’t matter, and in turn, you don’t matter. The Wiz Live! was an incredible production that not just was executed well, but celebrated the black community. Bravo to all those involved, and a sincere thank you to NBC for choosing a show like The Wiz to broadcast. Out of the hundreds of musicals they could have picked, they produced a show that positively represented all the communities involved. It seems so simple to have a family-friendly program with positive black represention on basic cable television, but it is in fact extraordinary. I know I for one, am very pleased indeed.