Variety has announced the Broadway to Watch for 2020.
Though Broadway is currently closed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the list is made up of those who are set to make an impact in the coming year. The honorees will each be profiled in the Sept. 23 issue of Variety and participate in a virtual roundtable discussion as part of this year’s virtual Variety event dedicated to the theater: “Legit! The Road Back to Broadway,” scheduled for Sept. 24. The event will be presented by City National Bank.
“Despite the current state of Broadway, there’s no doubt that the Great White Way will soon be back on its feet and entertaining audiences from all over the world,” said Steven Gaydos, Variety’s executive vice president of global content and executive editor. “Variety is pleased to celebrate and recognize the artists on stage and behind the scenes that have made a mark and are going to be part of so many new and exciting shows.”
Below are this year’s Broadway to watch:
Broadway Advocacy Coalition – Launched in 2016 by a group of young, Black theater leaders (including “Tina” star Adrienne Warren) to bring together the arts and social justice, BAC is now a multi-disciplinary organization that has partnered in programs (such as Theater of Change) with the Center for Popular Democracy, the Alliance for Quality Education and Columbia Law School’s Center for Institutional and Social Change. BAC leapt into action in the wake of the George Floyd uprisings, hosting a series of digital forums and amplifying the work of fellow Black theater activist programs including Black Theatre United and We See You, White American Theater.
Jocelyn Bioh – The writer-actor’s play “School Girls, or The African Mean Girls Play” was one of the most-produced plays of 2019, and she has been tapped to write the “Once On This Island” movie adaptation for Disney Plus. Upcoming stage works include the play “Nollywood Dreams” (set for MCC Theater) and the new musical “Goddess,” premiering at Berkeley Rep ahead of a potential Broadway run. She was also a writer on Lupita Nyong’o’s upcoming “Americanah” series on HBO Max.
Camille A. Brown – With work including Broadway shows “Once on This Island” and “Choir Boy,” the Tony nominated choreographer has been a rising theater star for a couple of seasons now. She choreographed a well-reviewed Off Broadway revival of “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf,” and she’s onboard a brewing Broadway production of the title which could potentially make Brown the first Black female director-choreographer of a musical in Broadway history.
Michael R. Jackson – The writer-composer won a slew of awards – including the Pulitzer and the New York Drama Critics Award — for his Off-Broadway musical “A Strange Loop.” The show’s upcoming Broadway transfer, following a planned stop at DC’s Woolly Mammoth, is one of the most highly anticipated offerings aiming for New York post-COVID.
Brian Moreland – Moreland recently joined the Broadway League’s Board of Governors and has two big stage projects waiting for theaters to reopen: “Thoughts of a Colored Man,” angling for Broadway after a successful run in Baltimore, and “Blue,” a play with music that would have starred Leslie Uggams and Lynn Whitfield, in a production directed by Phylicia Rashad, this spring at the Apollo.
Kate Navin – A former legit agent, Navin is the Artistic Producer of Audible Theater, which has become a player in the theater industry as a producer of Off-Broadway and Broadway shows that are then recorded and offered on Audible. In addition, she oversees Audible’s Emerging Playwrights Fund, and recently made an innovative deal with the Williamstown Theatre Festival to record the shows planned for WTF’s 2020 season as audio dramas and make them available through Audible.
Cody Renard Richard – One of the few Black stage managers on Broadway (“Dear Evan Hansen,” “Hamilton” and “Freestyle Love Supreme”), Richard made waves in June when he posted moving testimonies of the racism he’s experienced while working in theater. He’s since become an important voice in the movement for Broadway equity, not only onstage, but off stage as well. As an educator, he has taught or is slated to teach at Fordham University, New York University and Columbia University.
Ephraim Sykes – A Tony nominee for “Ain’t Too Proud,” Sykes also appeared in NBC’s “Hairspray Live” and can currently be seen on Disney Plus as part of the original cast of “Hamilton.” But it’s his upcoming role that’s a real thriller: He’s playing Michael Jackson in “MJ,” the much anticipated new musical that was ringing in robust pre-sales before the pandemic postponed its 2020 opening. Its rescheduled launch in spring 2021 stands poised to become one of the post-COVID Broadway’s most talked-about events.
Shaina Taub – The award-winning songwriter and performer has been tapped to team with Elton John on the score to “The Devil Wears Prada,” and her new musical “Suffragist,” about the rivalry between two leaders of the fight for womens’ right to vote, is poised to be the big show of the upcoming season at the Public Theater, with one of the lead producers of “Hamilton” attached.
Schele Williams – This director is at the helm of one of Disney Theatrical’s biggest upcoming projects: the national touring revival of “Aida.” Alongside her directing work, she is a partner at the NYU Center of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging, and is Chairperson of the Board of Broadway Inspirational Voices. She is also one of the founding members of the newly launched Black Theatre United.