Passing Strange

Broadway musical garners five Tony Awards nominations

in an era of family friendly hits like Wicked. A factor that has already caused CBS to ban a performance of the musical’s song We Just Had Sex from its pre-Tony special scheduled for June 7. But the beat goes on. CBS censorship notwithstanding, the play’s music is phenomenal. And on May 27, the Passing Strange cast album will be released on iTunes, making it the first Broadway album ever to be released via Apple. The cast CD is expected to hit stores in July.

Stew and the cast of Passing Strange are on a high, the all-black hit revival of the Tennessee Williams classic Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is undoubtedly lamenting a complete Tony shutout. The play, directed by Debbie Allen, has an all-star cast in Phylicia Rashad, James Earl Jones, Terrence Howard, and Anika Noni Rose. “People here are shocked about Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. It has wonderful performances,” says Marcia Pendleton, founder and president of Walk Tall Girl Productions, a marketing and group sales firm, which represents theatrical productions including Passing Strange and Cat On a Hot Tin Roof.

New York magazine said of the overlooking of Cat, “This might be the most forehead-slapping snub of them all. The theater community has a chance to reward an all-black production of a beloved Tennessee Williams play–one bringing in enormous crowds of brand-new theatergoers–and what does it do? It snubs the show entirely.”

Nevertheless, in spite of its Tony woes, the producers of Cat have much to be happy about in terms of their coffers: the play is currently the most successful on the “Great White Way.” For the week ending May 11, it earned $682,691, beating 2008 seven-time Tony nominee and Pulitzer Prize-winner, August: Osage County, which earned $390,469 for the same period, bringing Cat a total of $17.2 million. Pendleton attributes the play’s success to the star-studded cast, which has regularly drawn upwards of a 70% black audience on many nights. Thurgood, which opened in April, made $239,366 for the period and has grossed $931,536 to date.

Whoopi Goldberg will host the Tony Awards live from Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 15. For a complete list of Tony nominees, visit. www.tonyawards.com.

George Alexander’s column on the business of entertainment appears weekly at blackenterprise.com. He is the author of “Why We Make Movies” (Random House, $15.95), and “Queens: Portraits of Black Women and their Fabulous Hair” (Random House, $29.95).

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