Sunday, May 13, 2018

Thank You 3x Tony/Drama Desk Nominee, Joshua Henry, For Answering My Question

I was excited to ask one question that has been on my mind about the 11x Tony Award Nominated Revival Musical, Rodgers and Hammerstein's CAROUSEL.  The iconic lead role of the criminal, domestic abusing, Billy Bigelow, being played by the 3x Tony/Drama Desk Nominee, Joshua Henry, is a dichotomous case for Color-Blind Casting.  On one hand, for Joshua Henry to sing the lead male vocals for the lush music of a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, is a crowning achievement for ANY actor.  However on the other hand, when I simply follow the optical nature of what is presented on the stage, it is sometimes a hard thing to watch, as an African American man of a certain age, living in this current racial and political climate, especially with a phone call to the police, and not take note that for simplicity sake, a black man is abusing a white woman onstage. Now before everyone blows a gasket, yes, I  know in spite of the irony of this conversation, that Audra McDonald did win her first Tony Award in the 1994 revival as a non-traditional Carrie Pepperidge.  Currently, Lindsay Mendez is in that role and also nominated for this year's Tony Award.  It might be presumptuous, but it might be safe to assume that the original creators of this musical never foresaw these type of cast changes.

                                                                                                  Not to take anything away from what I am sure is a brilliant performance (at the time of this piece, I have yet to see it), but if you ignore the time period upon which this Billy Bigelow is moving through life, doing the things that he is doing in his clearly interracial household, and still being alive,  is a TON of belief suspension.  There is a scene in which Billy has a run in with a police officer.  Because of the dialogue, there is an interesting choice to cast another man of color in that role.  Is it because of the implication of the optics in our current environment?  Well if it is, I wonder how they initially justified choosing Mr. Henry to play this controversial character?  Again, please note that I am not saying Joshua Henry does not deserve to be on that stage in this role, because of him doing a lead role in a Rodgers and Hammerstein show, he has kicked down another door for someone else of color to play this and any other iconic R&H roles.  Just like Taye Diggs stepping into the title role of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, it opens another door of perception and allows the next young black actor a new possibility.
                                                                     Taye Diggs as Hedwig on Broadway

I will note that Mr. Henry was also in Kander and Ebb's THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS, which for some reason drew more ire and protests from the "black community" in retelling that story and showing the injustices that befell that unfortunate group of young black men, than the image of an ex-con, wife abusing, Black, Billy Bigelow.  I will say that I did get to see THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS, and I can say that Black people did themselves a disservice by not at least giving it a chance.  Not that I am expecting nor wanting anyone to protest this show, but I do find it odd in this culturally sensitive time, no one wanted to ask the question.  Perhaps, if there were more people of color talking about theater in general, then maybe more people would be brave enough to have the discussion. I am hoping and praying for a long run of CAROUSEL.  I want Mr. Henry to have a brilliant run with that cast. I hope there is a chance that I'll get to see the show before this year's Tony Awards. In the meantime,  I did get to ask Mr. Henry about him being in this show, and he answered me brilliantly.  Click on the hyperlink for more information about Rodgers and Hammerstein's CAROUSEL.  Checkout my moment with Joshua Henry in the video. 
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