103 Years Later, Celebrate the Anniversary of Iconic Early Broadway Musical Shuffle Along | Playbill

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Photo Features 103 Years Later, Celebrate the Anniversary of Iconic Early Broadway Musical Shuffle Along

The groundbreaking musical revue was the first all-Black musical hit on Broadway and helped to usher in the Harlem Renaissance.

Cast of Shuffle Along

May 23 marks the 103rd anniversary of Shuffle Along's premiere on Broadway, which changed the Main Stem forever.

The musical revue broke ground as the first all-Black musical hit on Broadway, and helped to usher in the Harlem Renaissance, kickstarting the careers of a wide range of Black artists.

Following a tour through New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Shuffle Along premiered on Broadway May 23, 1921. Making a home in a multipurpose performance space, the musical played a record 504 performances at the 63rd Street Musical Hall. 

More than just another show on Broadway, Shuffle Along helped to usher in the Harlem Renaissance, showcasing the excellence in Black culture through Black art. Additionally, the production marked the first time the orchestra section of an audience was integrated on Broadway.

Read: How Shuffle Along's Struggles Birthed a Movement

Featuring music by Eubie Blake, lyrics by Noble Sissle, and a book by Aubrey Lyles and Flournoy Miller, the revue tells the story of two corrupt men running for the mayor of Jimtown, though the plot was a loose device to showcase the singing and dancing from the cast. 

While the production featured Black performers in blackface (a racist but common tradition that provided an avenue for Blacks to perform onstage in the 19th century), the musical marked the first time Broadway featured a production entirely written, directed, produced, and starring Black artists, notably providing a launching pad for Josephine Baker, Florence Mills, Paul Robeson, and more.

Look Back at the Original Broadway production of Shuffle Along

Shuffle Along returned to Broadway in 1933, 1952, and most recently in 2016 in a reworked George C. Wolfe-helmed revisal. Featuring a retooled book by Wolfe, the adaptation presented the original 1921 music while detailing the events that played out surrounding the original production. Shuffle Along, Or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed played 38 previews and 100 performances before closing July 24, 2016, earning 10 Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical.

The revival starred Audra McDonald as Lottie Gee, Brian Stokes Mitchell as F.E. Miller, Billy Porter as Aubrey Lyles, Brandon Victor Dixon as Eubie Blake, Joshua Henry as Noble Sissle, Adrienne Warren as Gertrude Saunders/Florence Mills, and Amber Iman as Eva/Mattie Wilkes/Madame-Madame alongside Brooks Ashmanskas, Phillip Attmore, Darius de Haas, Afra Hines, Curtis Holland, Adrienne Howard, Kendrick Jones, Lisa LaTouche, J. C. Montgomery, Erin N. Moore, Janelle Neal, Brittany Parks, Arbender Robinson, Karissa Royster, Christian Dante White, Joseph Wiggan, Pamela Yasutake, and Richard Riaz Yoder.

The production featured scenic design by Santo Loquasto, costume design by Ann Roth, lighting design by Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, and sound design by Scott Lehrer with stage management by Lisa Dawn Cave and J. Jason Daunter.

A Look at Audra McDonald, Billy Porter, and More in Shuffle Along on Broadway

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