Diversity Takes Center Stage on and Off-Broadway in 2013

By Karu F. Daniels
31 Dec 2013

Condola Rashad and Orlando Bloom
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Broadway also saw a much-anticipated revival of Romeo and Juliet, which bowed at the Richard Rodgers Theatre starring international box-office star Orlando Bloom and two-time Tony Award nominee Condola Rashad in the leading roles. David Leveaux breathed a new life into this ancient tragic love story with Harley Davidson motorcycles and a modern scenic aesthetic, while Shakespeare's text was enlighted with warring families of different racial backgrounds. According to Rashad, the interracial romance aspect of the new version of the great bard's play was not initially on the agenda: "That wasn't [David's] intention of how it happened. He basically wanted to work with me and he wanted to work with Orlando as well, and it just happened organically."

Jekyll & Hyde, starring Tony-nominated "American Idol" alum Constantine Maroulis and R&B chart-topper Deborah Cox also had a look and feel of interracial romance dynamics; while Off-Broadway the National Asian American Theater's new production of Clifford Odets beloved 1930's classic Awake and Sing! was staged with an all-Asian cast at Walkerspace at Soho Rep. Classic Stage Company's Off-Broadway revival of Romeo and Juliet also brought diversity to the bard, with a cast that featured  Elizabeth Olsen and Julian Cihi as the doomed lovers. 

It wasn't a classic but it was fresh and new, and was a celebration of Asian culture, per se: Here Lies Love by Talking Heads mastermind and Rock & Roll Hall Of Famer David Byrne and Fatboy Slim. The theatrical tribute to disgraced Filipina First Lady Imelda Marcos originated as a 2010 concept album. The show, which played at The Public Theater, became the sleeper hit of the summer. With a pulsating dance club atmosphere, the inventive theatrical experience defied what we all know as traditional stage fare. It wasn't a biography, nor a typical book musical. And clearly not a play. It had full audience participation incorporated into the production by making the show happen around the audience.

David Jamal Williams, who was an associate producer of Romeo and Juliet, said he was "encouraged by the progress" when asked about diversity on Broadway but also noted: "... there is still more work that can be done to attract diverse audiences and ensure there is equity and parity on stage as well as behind the scenes."