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March 18, 2003

BLACK BEAUTIES Celebrates 100 Years of African-American Women on Broadway

Julia Simpson, Barbara Montgomery
and Debra Ann Byrd

Elizabeth Van Dyke, Willie Boston, Julia Simpson, Woodie King, Jr., and Barbara Ann Teer

Gertrude Jeanette

Queen Esther and Melvin Van Peebles

An enthusiastic and appreciative audience greeted the stars of "BLACK BEAUTIES: Celebrating 100 Years of African-American Women on Broadway" to the Lambs Theatre on March 17, 2003. Sponsored by Actors' Equity's Equal Employment Opportunity Committee, BLACK BEAUTIES benefited Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and featured a talented array of performers. The evening was conceived by Willie Boston, and was produced and directed by Woodie King, Jr.

Julia Breanetta Simpson, chair of Equity's EEO Committee, welcomed and thanked the performers and musicians, as well as Equity's Eastern Regional Director, Carol Waaser and Equity Executive Director Alan Eisenberg, who encouraged the committee to "think big." She also acknowledged Equity staff members Willie Boston and David Lotz. "It was Alan (Eisenberg) who contacted our director, Woodie King, Jr, who in turn contacted and cultivated the outstanding array of talent represented on our stage here tonight," said Simpson. "I don't know about you but I would love to see more of the talent represented here on our Broadway stages, talent that is also reflective and representative of an even larger array of an African-American female talent." Novella Nelson performed a monologue from Ntozake Shange's FOR COLORED GIRLS… which was followed by Vinie Burrow's tribute to Rose McClendon. B.J. Crosby sang "Don't Cry Out Loud" in tribute to the dozens of African American performers who broke down barriers for the current performers like herself and Heather Headley, who sang "Home" from THE WIZ.

In a show-stopping performance , Ruby Dee read Claudia McNeil's scene from Lorraine Hansberry's A RAISIN IN THE SUN. The divine Queen Esther sang "Dream Deferred" a jazz piece based on Langston Hughes' poem, from HARLEM SONG; Micki Grant brought joy into the house with "It Takes A Whole Lot of Human Feeling," from DON'T BOTHER ME I CAN'T COPE: Elizabeth Van Dyke did a stunning recitation from James Baldwin's THE AMEN CORNER, which was introduced by one of the original stars, Gertrude Jeanette; Barbara Montgomery paid tribute to Pearl Bailey with "Hello, Dolly!" and Denise Morgan did a stirring selection called "Sad Young Men," recalling Rosetta LeNoire. Stephanie Pope-Caffey honored Florence Mills with her signature song, "I'm A Little Black Bird" and also sang "Life is Just A Bowl of Cherries," from FOSSE. Award-winning singer Vivian Reed brought down the house with "Stormy Weather and "God Bless the Child," while Barbara Ann Teer performed a moving selection from James Baldwin's BLUES FOR MR. CHARLIE. Comic relief was provided by the delightful Clarice Taylor, who evoked Jackie "Moms" Mabley.

Equity's EEO Business Representative, Willie Boston and EEO Committee chair Julia Breanttta Simpson: summed it all up: "BLACK BEAUTIES exceeded even our wildest dreams and served as a much-needed reminder of the great caliber of talent that actors of color have brought and can bring to Broadway."

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