Shuffle Along

From Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shuffle_Along
Shuffle Along
Shuffle Along - Love Will Find a Way.jpg
Sheet music for "Love Will Find a Way", a song from the show
Music Eubie Blake
Lyrics Noble Sissle
Book F. E. Miller
Aubrey Lyles
Productions1921 Broadway
1933 Broadway revival
1952 Broadway revival
2016 Broadway adaptation

Shuffle Along is a musical with music and lyrics by Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake, and a thin revue-style connecting plot about a mayoral race, written by Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles. [1] [2] The first all-Black hit Broadway show, it is credited with inspiring the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s–'30s. [3]

It premiered on Broadway in 1921, running for 504 performances [4]–an unusually long run during that decade. It launched the careers of Josephine Baker, Adelaide Hall, [5] Florence Mills, Fredi Washington and Paul Robeson, and was so popular it caused "curtain time traffic jams" on West 63rd Street. [6] It had brief revivals in 1933 and 1952. The 1952 revival had additional music by Joseph Meyer.

Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed is a musical adaptation based on the book of the 1921 musical, focusing on the challenges of mounting the original production and its effects on Broadway and race relations.

Background

The show's four writers were African-American Vaudeville veterans who first met in 1920 at a NAACP benefit held at the newly opened Dunbar Theatre in Philadelphia. [7] None ofthem had ever written a musical, or even appeared on Broadway. [8] Promoters were skeptical that a black-written and produced show would appeal to Broadway audiences. After finding a small source of funding, Shuffle Along toured New Jersey and Pennsylvania. However, with its limited budget, it was difficult to meet travel and production expenses. Cast members were rarely paid, and were "trapped out of town when the box-office receipts could not cover train fare". [9] The budget was so low that cast members had to wear damaged and worn leftover costumes from other shows. For some time, the entire set could fit in one taxicab, and was transported between theaters by that means (Krasner 244). When the show returned to New York about a year later, during the Depression of 1920–21, the production owed $18,000 and faced strong competition on Broadway in a season that included Florenz Ziegfeld's Sally and a new edition of George White's Scandals. It was able to book only a remote theater on West 63rd Street with no orchestra pit. [10] In the end, however, the show earned $9 million from its original Broadway production and three touring companies, an unusual sum in its time. [11]

Miller and Lyles wrote thin, jokey dialogue scenes to connect the songs: "The plot of ... Shuffle Along was mainly to allow an excuse for the singing and dancing." [2] Miller and Lyles also wore blackface in Shuffle Along. In the 21st century, this may seem unfathomable and offensive; however, the “audiences understood” the “makeup” only “suggested a portrayal of broad comedic characters”. [12] The use of blackface was simply a starting point, not the finish line. Miller and Lyles used the context they were given to captivate and appeal to audiences; however, they maintained their voices rather than resorting to typically exaggerated blackface characterizations. For instance, “rather than entirely embrace the lingering vestiges of minstrelsy” the duo “found ways to alter the formula”. [13] Their act initially appeared to imitate traditional minstrelsy; however, the characters they created were clever, complex, and defied traditional stereotypes.

The plot of Shuffle Along was based on Millers' and Lyles's previous play, "The Mayor of Dixie." (Bordman 624), and in Shuffle Along, they incorporated “their well-beloved characters that they had been playing for years on vaudeville”. [14] Breaking with minstrel tradition, the principal characters wore tuxedos, conveying their dignity. In minstrel shows, characters in tuxedos and blackface typically played the “Zip Coon” type, a stock character which mocked black people who were free from slavery (Harold 75). Shuffle Along rejected this image by presenting its characters as community-oriented men seeking to run for mayor of their city. Furthermore, “Miller” believed “that the only way to put Negro performers into white theatres with any kind of dignity was through musical comedy”. [15]

The musical drew repeat audiences due to its jazzy music styles, a modern, edgy contrast to the mainstream song-and-dance styles audiences had seen on Broadway for two decades. The show's dancing and 16-girl chorus line were more reasons why the show was so successful. [7] [16] According to Time magazine, Shuffle Along was the first Broadway musical that prominently featured syncopated jazz music, and the first to feature a chorus of professional female dancers. [10] It introduced musical hits such as " I'm Just Wild about Harry"; "Love Will Find a Way", the first African American romantic musical duet on a Broadway stage; and "In Honeysuckle Time". It launched or boosted the careers of Josephine Baker, Paul Robeson, Florence Mills, Fredi Washington and Adelaide Hall, [2] and contributed to the desegregation of theaters in the 1920s, giving many black actors their first chances to appear on Broadway. Once it left New York, the show toured for three years and was, according to Barbara Glass, the first black musical to play in white theaters across the United States. [7] [16] Its appeal to audiences of all races, and to celebrities such as George Gershwin, Fanny Brice, Al Jolson, Langston Hughes and critic George Jean Nathan, helped unite the white Broadway and black jazz communities and improve race relations in America. [7] [8] [17]

Composer and lyricist duo Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake created the revolutionary music of Shuffle Along. They incorporated music and visual spectacle with the preexisting narrative to create a unique show. Similar to their contemporaries, Sissle and Blake were tasked with working within the parameters they were given. While stereotypes were indeed present, “Sissle and Blake” worked “within a parallel performance form”, replacing “the negative stereotypes…with a vastly more positive image”. [18] The musical score was also used to create an exceptional show. Eubie Blake's “score” was a way to “demonstrate” his “command of every important genre of contemporary commercial” music without “disguise” of “his individuality or race”. [19] His genius used classical musical styles to compliment the uniqueness of African-American music, creating a distinctly novel sound. In addition to presenting refined subject matter, the music of Shuffle Along expressed the African-American masteries of music and performance.

Plot

Two dishonest partners in a grocery store, Sam Peck and Steve Jenkins, both run for mayor in Jimtown, USA. They agree that if either wins, he will appoint the other his chief of police. Sam wins with the help of a crooked campaign manager. he keeps his promise and appoints Steve chief of police, but they begin to disagree on petty matters. They resolve their differences in a long, comic fight. As they fight, their opponent for the mayoral position, virtuous Harry Walton, vows to end their corrupt regime (" I'm Just Wild about Harry"). Harry gets the people behind him and wins the next election, as well as the lovely Jessie, and runs Sam and Steve out of town (Krasner 234). One character remarks that the lighter her skin, the more desirable an African-American woman is.

Songs

Original production

The show premiered on Broadway at the Daly's 63rd Street Theatre on May 23, 1921, and closed on July 15, 1922, after 504 performances. [4] It was directed by Walter Brooks, with Eubie Blake playing the piano. The cast included Lottie Gee as Jessie Williams, Adelaide Hall as Jazz Jasmine, Gertrude Saunders as Ruth Little, Roger Matthews as Harry Walton, and Noble Sissle as Tom Sharper. Gertrude Saunders was replaced by Florence Mills. Josephine Baker, who was deemed too young at the age of 15 to be in the show, joined the touring company in Boston, and then joined the Broadway cast when she turned 16. [20] Bessie Allison's first professional performance was in Shuffle Along. [21] [22] The orchestra included William Grant Still and Hall Johnson. [23] The musical toured successfully throughout the country up to 1924. [2]

The show was made up of an entirely African American cast and creative team and ran for, “504 performances, generated multiple traveling companies, and sparked the careers of several acclaimed performers” such as Florence Mills and Josephine Baker (Das). [24]

Historical effect and response

The show was "the first major production in more than a decade to be produced, written and performed entirely by African Americans." [6] According to the Harlem chronicler James Weldon Johnson, Shuffle Along marked a breakthrough for the African-American musical performer and "legitimized the African-American musical, proving to producers and managers that audiences would pay to see African-American talent on Broadway." [25] Black audiences at Shuffle Along sat in orchestra seats rather than being relegated to the balcony. [26] It was the first Broadway musical to feature a sophisticated African-American love story, rather than a frivolous comic one. [10] [27]

According to theatre historian John Kenrick, "Judged by contemporary standards, much of Shuffle Along would seem offensive ... most of the comedy relied on old minstrel show stereotypes. Each of the leading male characters was out to swindle the other." [6] Nevertheless, the African-American community embraced the show, and performers recognized the importance of the show's success to their careers. "Shuffle Along was one of the first shows to provide the right mixture of primitivism and satire, enticement and respectability, blackface humor and romance, to satisfy its customers". [28]

After Shuffle Along, nine African-American musicals opened on Broadway between 1921 and 1924.[ citation needed] In 1928, Lew Leslie's Blackbirds of 1928, starring Adelaide Hall and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, became the longest running all-black show on Broadway (up to that point), running for 518 performances. [29] In 1929, Harlem, a drama by Wallace Thurman and William Rapp, introduced the Slow Drag, the first African-American social dance to reach Broadway.[ citation needed] However, the success of the show set limits on the black-themed shows that followed. "Any show that followed the characteristics of Shuffle Along could usually be assured of favorable reviews or at least a modest audience response. Yet, if a show strayed from what had become the standard formula for the black musical, disastrous reviews became almost inevitable. ... The result of this critical stranglehold on the black musical was that ... black authors and composers prepared shows within extremely narrow constraints." [30] Nevertheless, scholar James Haskins stated that Shuffle Along "started a whole new era for blacks on Broadway, as well as a whole new era for blacks in all creative fields." [31] Loften Mitchell, author of Black Drama: The Story of the American Negro in the Theatre, credited Shuffle Along with launching the Harlem Renaissance,[ citation needed] as did Langston Hughes. [2]

President Harry Truman chose the show's song " I'm Just Wild About Harry" for his campaign anthem. [2] [32]

The story in Shuffle Along also presented a romance between two Black characters that was presented as equal to that of a white romance in a Broadway show. “Negroes had never been permitted romance before on the stage” and there was real fear that people would respond harshly (Blake 152). The song “Love Will Find A Way” portrayed the love between these two characters and was well received by audiences despite the initial concerns. This was a huge step in Black entertainment, that “song was really the first of its kind” but was widely accepted (Blake 152). Shuffle Along was able to break away from the normal in certain aspects for Negro written work of that time. [33]

Previous Black drama that was popular in America during the early 1900s had impacts on most African American shows. Many Negro stereotypes had been developed by white directors that had “parodied from carefully selected aspects of real African American Life” (Hay 16). These stereotypes were enjoyed by white audiences and became expected when going to a show with an African American character. This mix of “reality and make-believe was that in each case the latter quality reinforced the former” creating absurdly comedic black characters and situations (Hay 17). Shuffle Along was not immune to these influences. At the end of the show the community apprehends the two corrupt political candidates who were stealing from their own grocery to fund their campaign against each other throughout the story. Unfortunately, “the tomfoolery overshadows the election of a reform candidate” and the audience forgets the “theme of crime does not pay” (Hay 20). [34]

Footnotes, a book that, in part, traces the history and impact of Shuffle Along, is set to be published in 2021. [35]

Subsequent productions

The show was revived at the Mansfield Theatre, New York City, from December 26, 1932, to January 7, 1933, starring Sissle, Blake, Miller, Lyles, Mantan Moreland and Bill Bailey. This production was unsuccessful and closed after 17 performances. [36]

During World War II, Sissle and Blake adapted and performed Shuffle Along for USO shows, with an ensemble that included pianist and vibraphonist Sylvester Lewis. [37]

A 1952 revival, starring Sissle and Blake, Avon Long and Thelma Carpenter and choreographed by Henry LeTang, was also unsuccessful. It opened at the Broadway Theatre on May 8, 1952, and closed after four performances, but was recorded in an abridged form by RCA Victor, combined with selections from Blackbirds of 1928.

Adaptations

An excerpt of Shuffle Along, the musical fight between the two leading characters, was made into a short talkie film by Warner Bros in the early 1930s. It, and another similar short featuring Miller and Lyles, were found in the Warner Bros archives in 2010, where they had been misfiled. The titles are "The Mayor of Jimtown" and "Jimtown Cabaret".[ citation needed]

A stage adaptation, titled Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, featured the original music from Shuffle Along and other songs by its creators, with a book written by George C. Wolfe based on the original by Miller and Lyles and historical events. The show focuses on the challenges of mounting the 1921 Broadway production of Shuffle Along, its success and aftermath, including its effect on Broadway and race relations. [2] [16] The production opened on Broadway in April 2016 at the Music Box Theatre, [38] directed by Wolfe, and choreographed by Savion Glover. [39] The cast starred Audra McDonald as Lottie Gee, Brian Stokes Mitchell as Miller, Billy Porter as Lyles, Brandon Victor Dixon as Blake and Joshua Henry as Sissle. [40] The adaptation received ten 2016 Tony Award nominations but won none. [41] The production closed on July 24, 2016. [42]

References

  1. ^ "Shuffle Along (1921)". www.blackpast.org. Retrieved March 18, 2016.; and Tanner, Jo. "Shuffle Along: The Musical at the Center of the Harlem Renaissance", ArtsEdge, The Kennedy Center. Retrieved March 14, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Sullivan, John Jeremiah (March 24, 2016). "'Shuffle Along' and the Lost History of Black Performance in America". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved March 27, 2016.
  3. ^ Franklin, Marc J. (23 February 2021). "Black History on Broadway: Celebrating the Legacy of Shuffle Along". Playbill. Retrieved 2021-06-07.
  4. ^ a b Thompson, David S. (2012-10-21). "Shuffling Roles: Alterations and Audiences in Shuffle Along". Theatre Symposium. 20 (1): 97–108. doi: 10.1353/tsy.2012.0002. ISSN  2166-9937. S2CID  191478707.
  5. ^ Williams, pp. 29–47
  6. ^ a b c Kenrick, John, "History of The Musical Stage, 1920s Part III: Black Musicals", musicals101.com. Retrieved August 22, 2009.
  7. ^ a b c d Glass, pp. 176–179
  8. ^ a b "Stage Tube: Shuffle Along Songwriter Eubie Blake Sings Title Song on Original LP", BroadwayWorld.com, February 7, 2016
  9. ^ Wolfe 667
  10. ^ a b c Zoglin, Richard. "Broadway Shuffle", Time magazine, May 23, 2016, pp. 42–45.
  11. ^ Maloney, Darby. "George C. Wolfe's Shuffle Along and the musical that 'electrified' 1920s New York", The Frame, June 3, 2016.
  12. ^ Blake, Eubie (2018). Shuffle along. Noble Sissle, Flournoy E. Miller, Aubrey L. Lyles, Lyn Schenbeck, Lawrence Schenbeck, American Musicological Society. Middleton, Wisconsin. ISBN  978-1-9872-0028-7. OCLC  1065971871.
  13. ^ Thompson, David S. (2012). "Shuffling Roles: Alterations and Audiences in Shuffle Along". Theatre Symposium. 20 (1): 97–108. doi: 10.1353/tsy.2012.0002. ISSN  2166-9937. S2CID  191478707.
  14. ^ Carlin, Richard (2020). Eubie Blake : rags, rhythm, and race. Ken Bloom. New York, NY. ISBN  978-0-19-063595-4. OCLC  1130330388.
  15. ^ Kimball, Robert (1973). Reminiscing with Sissle and Blake. William Bolcom. New York: Viking Press. ISBN  0-670-59388-5. OCLC  627977.
  16. ^ a b c McBride, Walter. "Up on the Marquee: Shuffle Along", BroadwayWorld, February 4, 2016
  17. ^ Chary, EllaRose. "Black History Month – Innovative Musical Contributions: Eubie Blake", Music Theatre International, February 27, 2012. Retrieved March 22, 2016.
  18. ^ Thompson, David S. (2012). "Shuffling Roles: Alterations and Audiences in Shuffle Along". Theatre Symposium. 20 (1): 97–108. doi: 10.1353/tsy.2012.0002. ISSN  2166-9937. S2CID  191478707.
  19. ^ Blake, Eubie (2018). Shuffle along. Noble Sissle, Flournoy E. Miller, Aubrey L. Lyles, Lyn Schenbeck, Lawrence Schenbeck, American Musicological Society. Middleton, Wisconsin. ISBN  978-1-9872-0028-7. OCLC  1065971871.
  20. ^ Hill, p. 132.
  21. ^ Sutton, Allan (August 29, 2007). "Black Swan's Other Stars". Articles. Wilmington, Delaware: Mainspring Press. Archived from the original on 9 May 2008. Retrieved March 8, 2010.
  22. ^ Smith, vol. 2, pp. 73–75.
  23. ^ Wintz, pp. 7–8.
  24. ^ Das, Dance Research Journal 51.3 (2019): 84–96. Web
  25. ^ Tanner, Jo. "Shuffle Along: The Musical at the Center of the Harlem Renaissance", ArtsEdge, The Kennedy Center. Retrieved May 18, 2016.
  26. ^ Reside, Doug. "Musical of the Month: Shuffle Along", New York Public Library, February 10, 2012.
  27. ^ Taylor, Erica. "Little Known Black History Fact: Shuffle Along", BlackAmericaWeb.com, January 31, 2013. Retrieved May 18, 2016.
  28. ^ Krasner, David. A Beautiful Pageant: African American Theatre, Drama and Performance in the Harlem Renaissance, 1910-1927, Palgrave MacMillan, 2002, pp. 263–67.
  29. ^ Shuffle Along, Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, Cary D. Wintz, Paul Finkelman (eds.)
  30. ^ Woll, Allen. Black Musicals: From Coontown to Dreamgirls (1989), Da Capo Press, p. 78.
  31. ^ Haskins, p. 31.
  32. ^ Wintz, p. 153.
  33. ^ Carlin, Bloom. Eubie Blake: Rags, Rhythm, and Race. New York: Oxford University Press, 2020. Web.
  34. ^ Hay, Samuel. African American Theatre : an Historical and Critical Analysis. Cambridge [U.K.]: Cambridge University Press, 1994. Print.
  35. ^ Gaines, Caseen. Footnotes, Sourcebooks (2021) ISBN  978-1492688815
  36. ^ "Shuffle Along (1933)", Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  37. ^ Sylvester Lewis biography at Allmusic
  38. ^ Viagas, Robert. "The Verdict: Critics Review Broadway's 'Shuffle Along'", Playbill, April 28, 2016.
  39. ^ Ali, Rahim. "Audra McDonald to Star in New Broadway Musical With Savion Glover", bet.com, March 13, 2015. Retrieved June 7, 2015.
  40. ^ Purcell, Carey. "Brian Stokes Mitchell and Audra McDonald Will Reunite on Broadway in Shuffle Along, Billy Porter Joins Them", Playbill, August 9, 2015.
  41. ^ "See Full List of 2016 Tony Award Nominations", Playbill, May 3, 2016.
  42. ^ "Broadway’s ‘Shuffle Along’ To Close in July, When Audra McDonald Exits", Variety, June 23, 2016.

Sources

  • Bordman, Gerald, and Thomas S. Hischak. The Oxford Companion to American Theatre. Oxford

University Press, 2011.

  • Glass, Barbara S. (2012), African American Dance, an Illustrated History, MacFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, North Carolina, and London. ISBN  978-0-7864-7157-7
  • Haskins, James (2002). Black Stars of the Harlem Renaissance. John Wiley and Sons. ISBN  0-471-21152-4
  • Hill, Errol (1987). The Theater of Black Americans. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN  0-936839-27-9
  • Jessie Carney Smith, ed. (1996). Notable Black American Women. Detroit Michigan: Gale Research Inc. ISBN  0-8103-9177-5.
  • Harold, Claudrena N. New Negro Politics in the Jim Crow South. The University of Georgia

Press, 2018.

  • Krasner, David. A Beautiful Pageant: African American Theater, Drama, and Performance in the

Harlem Renaissance, 1910-1927. Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

  • Williams, Iain Cameron (2003). Underneath a Harlem Moon: The Harlem to Paris Years of Adelaide Hall, Continuum. ISBN  0826458939
  • Wintz, Cary D. ed. (2007). Harlem Speaks: A Living History of the Harlem Renaissance, Naperville: Sourcebooks. ISBN  978-1-4022-0436-4

External links