McDonald, who won the 2014 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her performance in Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill, will collaborate on the backstage story about the making of one of the first all-black Broadway musical hits that was also written by African-Americans. The show opened the door for black performers and writers on the stage during the period in the 1920s known as the Harlem Renaissance.
With music by Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle, Shuffle Along premiered in May of 1921 and had a run variously recorded as 484 performances and 504 performances, either one a remarkably long run by the standards of the time. The plot involved two old friends who run against one another for the office of mayor of their town, each promising to hire the other if elected. Once in office, however, the two find themselves at odds. The show was noted for its score and for a comic fight scene in Act II. That score included "In Honeysuckle Time," "Love Will Find a Way," "Bandana Time," "If You Haven't Been Vamped by a Brownskin, You Haven't Been Vamped at All," and its biggest hit, "I'm Just Wild About Harry."
The new musical will use the Blake & Sissle music with an original libretto by Wolfe. McDonald will play 1920s star Lottie Gee. The show will represent the first collaboration between Wolfe and tap master Glover since their Tony-winning Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk in 1996.
Daryl Waters will provide music supervision, arrangements and orchestrations. The production will feature scenic design by Santo Loquasto, costume design by Ann Roth and lighting design by Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer. McDonald's six Tony Awards were given for her performances in Carousel, Master Class, Ragtime, A Raisin in the Sun, The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess and Lady Day.
Wolfe won the Tony Award twice, as director of both a musical and a play: Bring in 'da Noise in 1996 and Angels in America: Millennium Approaches in 1993. He also directed 16 Broadway productions, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Topdog/Underdog, plus Jelly's Last Jam, The Wild Party, Elaine Stritch: At Liberty and Caroline, Or Change.
Glover made his Broadway debut in 1983 at age 10 in The Tap Dance Kid, but has spent most of the last 18 years touring with his own dance troupe.
During its long run the original Shuffle Along employed at various times the future stars Josephine Baker, Florence Mills, Adelaide Hall and Paul Robeson. After its initial run the show had two revivals, in 1933 and 1952. Songs from the score were heard in the 1978 Broadway revue, Eubie! Blake's biggest hit was "I'm Just Wild About Harry."