Dictionary of the Black Theatre: Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Selected Harlem Theatre

By Allen Woll | Go to book overview

comments of the major critics: " Paul Robeson strides through the many scenes of John Henry . . . and his great voice rolls out in songs which have the authentic cadence of his race. Mr. Robeson is the positive virtue of John Henry. It is he, and not the fabulous hero of the title, who gives it such stature as it has. It is he, rather than Roark Bradford, the author, who is equal to the heroic legend."

Amidst the raves for Robeson, some critics managed to praise Ruby Elzy, as the woman who brings about John Henry's downfall, and Josh White. Despite the glowing notices for Robeson, the downbeat reviews for the play doomed John Henry to a brief run.

JOLLY'S PROGRESS (Longacre, December 5, 1959, 9 p.). Producers: Theatre Guild and Arthur Loew. Author: Lonnie Coleman. Director: Alex Segal.

Cast: Eartha Kitt* (Jolly Rivers), Vinnette Carroll* (Dora), Wendell Corey (David Adams), Charles McClelland (Robie Sellers), James Knight (Warren Holly), Peter Gumeny (Buford Williams), Joseph Boland (Charlie), Drummond Erskine (Lon Keller), Laurie Main (Mr. Scarborough), Nat Burns (Mr. Mendelsohn), Ellis Rabb (Reverend Furze), Anne Revere (Emma Ford), Joanne Barry (Portia Bates), Humphrey Davis (Thompson Bates), Eulabelle Moore (Thelma).

Lonnie Coleman adapted Jollys Progress from his 1953 novel Adams' Way. However, to The New York Times, it seemed a combination of Pygmalion and Pollyanna. David Adams ( Wendell Corey) discovers the poverty-stricken young Jolly Rivers ( Eartha Kitt) in a small Alabama town. He begins to educate her and then realizes she is a genius. By the play's end, she is reciting Coleridge. After a confrontation with the Ku Klux Klan, Adams realizes that he has fallen in love with his student. He then sends her north to Philadelphia to continue her education.

Critics dismissed the play but managed to give Eartha Kitt a few kind words on her return to Broadway. Nevertheless, Jollys Progress lasted only a week.


K

KEEP SHUFFLIN' (Daly's, February 27, 1928, 104 p.). Producer: Con Conrad. Book: Flournoy Miller* and Aubrey Lyles.* Composers: J. C. ("Jimmy") Johnson,* Thomas "Fats" Waller,* and Clarence Todd. Lyrics: Henry Creamer* and Andy Razaf.* Director: Con Conrad.

Cast: Flournoy Miller (Steve Jenkins), Aubrey Lyles (Sam Peck), Jerry Mills (Boss), George Battles (Henry), John Gregg (Brother Jones), John

-94-

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Dictionary of the Black Theatre: Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Selected Harlem Theatre
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Notes xi
  • INTRODUCTION: A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BLACK THEATRE xiii
  • Part 1: THE SHOWS 1
  • A 3
  • B 11
  • B 49
  • E 57
  • F 72
  • G 90
  • H 94
  • H 96
  • H 122
  • H 142
  • H 163
  • H 173
  • H 179
  • H 181
  • Part II: PERSONALITIES AND ORGANIZATIONS 183
  • A 185
  • B 186
  • C 193
  • D 199
  • D 202
  • D 203
  • G 209
  • H 212
  • I 220
  • J 221
  • K 227
  • K 229
  • K 230
  • N 238
  • O 240
  • P 240
  • P 242
  • P 246
  • P 250
  • P 252
  • W 253
  • Appendix I: A CHRONOLOGY OF THE BLACK THEATRE 267
  • Appendix II: A DISCOGRAPHY OF THE BLACK THEATRE 279
  • SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY 281
  • NAME INDEX 289
  • PLAY AND FILM INDEX 326
  • SONG INDEX 338
  • NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS 357
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