Edited by Azizi Powell
This post presents information about the 1921 Broadway musical "Shuffle Along" as well as information about the adaptation of that musical which opened on Broadway at the end of April 2016. Four videos about the 2016 "Shuffle Along" musical are also included in this post.
The content of this post is presented for historical, cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.
All copyrights remain with their owners.
Thanks Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle and all those who were involved in the 1921 musical "Shuffle Along" and all those who are involved in the 2016 adaptation of that musical. Thanks also to all who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publishers of these videos on YouTube.
INFORMATION ABOUT "SHUFFLE ALONG" (1921)
"Shuffle Along is a musical with music and lyrics by Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake, and a thin revue-style connecting plot about a mayoral race, written by Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles.
The piece premiered on Broadway in 1921, running for 504 performances – an unusually long run during that decade. It launched the careers of Josephine Baker, Adelaide Hall, Florence Mills, Fredi Washington and Paul Robeson, and became such a hit that it caused "curtain time traffic jams" on West 63rd Street. It had brief revivals in 1933 and 1952. A 2016 Broadway adaptation, Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, has a book by George C. Wolfe about the challenges of mounting the original production and its effect on Broadway and race relations.
The four writers were African-American Vaudeville veterans who first met in 1920 at a NAACP benefit that was held in Philadelphia. None of the four had ever written a musical, or even appeared on Broadway. Promoters were skeptical that a black-written and produced show would appeal to Broadway audiences. After finding a small source of funding, Shuffle Along toured through New Jersey and Pennsylvania. However, with little funding, it was difficult to meet travel and production expenses, and the cast rarely got paid. When the show came back to New York, about a year later, during the Depression of 1920–21, the production owed $18,000 and faced strong competition on Broadway in a season that included Ziegfeld's Sally and a new edition of George White's Scandals. It was only able to book a remote theater on West 63rd Street. In the end, however, the show turned a substantial profit.
Miller and Lyles wrote thin, jokey dialogue scenes to connect the songs: "The plot of Shuffle Along was mainly to allow an excuse for the singing and dancing." But the musical drew repeat audiences due to its jazzy music styles, which were a modern, edgy contrast to the mainstream song-and-dance styles that audiences had seen on Broadway for two decades. The show's dancing and sixteen-girl chorus line were more reasons why the show was so successful. It introduced musical hits such as "I'm Just Wild about Harry", "Love Will Find a Way", and "In Honeysuckle Time". The musical launched or boosted the careers of Josephine Baker, Paul Robeson, Florence Mills, Fredi Washington and Adelaide Hall. The show also contributed to the desegregation of theaters in the 1920s, giving many black actors their first chance to appear on Broadway. Once the show left New York, it toured for three years and was, according to Barbara Glass, the first black musical to play in white theaters across the United States. Its appeal to audiences of all races and celebrities such as George Gershwin, Fanny Brice, Al Jolson, Langston Hughes and critic George Jean Nathan, helped to unite the white Broadway and black jazz communities and improve race relations in America.
Music Eubie Blake
Lyrics Noble Sissle
Book F. E. Miller, Aubrey Lyles
1933 Broadway revival
1952 Broadway revival
2016 Broadway adaptation"
INFORMATION ABOUT THE 2016 ADAPTATION OF "SHUFFLE ALONG"
"Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed is a musical with a score by Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle and a libretto by George C. Wolfe, based on the original book of the 1921 musical revue Shuffle Along, by Flournoy Miller, and Aubrey Lyles. The story focuses on the challenges of mounting the original production of Shuffle Along and its effect on Broadway and race relations.
The musical began previews on Broadway in March 2016 and stars Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Billy Porter. The initial critical response has been mostly positive, with especial praise from many critics for McDonald's performance.
When Blake, Sissle, Miller and Lyles decided to collaborate on Shuffle Along, they were all Vaudeville veterans, but none of them had ever written a musical or appeared on Broadway. After finding a small source of funding, Shuffle Along toured through New Jersey and Pennsylvania. However, with little funding, it was difficult to meet travel and production expenses, and the cast rarely got paid. The show came back to New York about a year later, during the Depression of 1920–21. The production owed $18,000 and faced strong competition in a Broadway season full of spectacles, such as Sally – a Ziegfeld musical – and another edition of George White's Scandals. It was only able to book a remote theater on West 63rd Street.
Nevertheless, Shuffle Along was a surprise hit, running for 504 performances, turning a substantial profit and spawning tours and spin-offs. The show launched or greatly boosted the career of cast members including Josephine Baker, Paul Robeson, Florence Mills, Fredi Washington and Adelaide Hall, and the song "I'm Just Wild About Harry" became a popular standard. The show's energetic dancing and catchy jazz score drew enthusiastic repeat audiences of all races, and celebrities such as George Gershwin, Fanny Brice, Al Jolson, Langston Hughes and critic George Jean Nathan, helping to unite the white Broadway and black jazz communities and improve race relations in America.
Wolfe's book adds a white character who embodies the comments by white critics and other outsiders on Shuffle Along.”...
These videos are presented in chronological order based on their publishing date on YouTube with the oldest dated video given first.
Video #1: Shuffle Along Broadway commercial
Julie Lui Published on Sep 10, 2015
I recorded this commercial from my TV since as of this moment you can't find it online.
Video #2: American Musical Shuffle Along
Vanessa Painter Published on Sep 21, 2015
from Broadway: The American Musical, this clip is about the musical Shuffle Along. Posted for my American Musical Theatre course at Walsh University.
Selected comments from this video's discussion thread
"Josephine Baker! ninth from the right 1:09"
The Actual Noble Sissle Family
"Where is the background on Sissle in this video? The Sissle and Blake duo was an extraordinary team whose opposite life experiences help to synthesize unique contributions into their musical creations. Ask Bob Kimball who appears in this video. Better yet, get a copy of his book "Reminiscing With Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake" and see what these guys did before and beyond Broadway. This book and Blake's Autobiography "Eubie" is all over eBay and Amazon.
Don't overlook the information about James Reese Europe and Sissle and Blake's association with him before "Shuffle Along" and Europe and Sissle's development of the famous Harlem 369th Hellfighters Regimental Band during World War 1.
You will be hearing a lot about Europe and the 369th as we approach the centennial of The Great War in 2017-2018. YouTube has quite a lot on this subject. Go Audra and welcome to this part of American History!
Alberta Hunter was not in Shuffle Along. Andre De Shields you are dead on with "Love Will Find Away.""
"My copy of Mr. Blake's memoirs are one of my most prized possessions. What an extraordinary man!!!! This memoir is sadly out of print. Will need to contact the publishers in order to fix this."
Video #3: "Broadway babies" join the cast of "Shuffle Along"
CBS Sunday Morning Published on Apr 24, 2016
A re-imagined version of the 1921 musical "Shuffle Along," one of the earliest stage hits starring, written and directed by African-Americans, is about to open on Broadway. Working alongside such Tony-winning Broadway legends as Savion Glover, Audra McDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell are young performers making their debut on the Great White Way. Maurice DuBois gives "Sunday Morning" a peak backstage before the curtain goes up.
Video #4: Remixing ‘Shuffle Along,’ a musical that brought new sounds and moves to Broadway
PBS NewsHour, Published on Apr 29, 2016
Almost everything has been forgotten about "Shuffle Along," the 1921 Broadway musical written, performed and directed by African Americans. But the production was hugely influential, altering the evolution of the art form. Now there's a new "Shuffle Along," a new musical about the original, starring Audra McDonald and choreography by Savion Glover. Jeffrey Brown reports.
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