Time Travel Theatre: Watch PURLIE from 1970 – and a Bonus!

Melba Moore and Cleavon Little in the Broadway production of PURLIE, 1970

Its time to travel back to 1970 to enjoy one of the hits of that year. PURLIE is a musical version of Ossie Davis’ play PURLIE VICTORIOUS which was written and produced in 1961 (and later made into the 1963 film GONE ARE THE DAYS!). This musical version debuted in 1970, and although Davis had no hand in writing the musical, the co-authors felt that he must have credit, so much of the plot was taken from the original.

Opening at the Broadway Theatre on March 15th, PURLIE subsequently transferred to the Winter Garden and then to the ANTA Playhouse before concluding its run of 688 performances. The book is by Ossie Davis, Philip Rose, and Peter Udell, with lyrics by Udell and music by Gary Geld (someone about whom very little is known about, it appears).

Set in America’s Deep South, when Jim Crow laws still were in effect in the American South, PURLIE centres on the dynamic traveling preacher Purlie Victorious Judson, who returns to his small Georgia town hoping to save the community’s church, entitled Big Bethel, as well as to free the cotton pickers who work on oppressive Ol’ Cap’n Cotchipee’s plantation. With the assistance of Lutiebelle Gussie Mae Jenkins, Purlie hopes to pry loose from Cotchipee an inheritance due his long-lost cousin and use the money to achieve his goals. Also playing a part in Purlie’s scheme is Cotchipee’s son Charlie, who ultimately proves to be far more fair-minded than his Simon Legree–like father and who saves the church from destruction with an act of defiance that has dire consequences for the tyrannical Cap’n.

The show was very well-received by critics and audiences, as well as the awards panels. Directed by Philip Rose and choreographed by Louis Johnson, they both were Tony Award nominated. Cleavon Little (playing the title character) won both the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical. Melba Moore made hers a triple, winning the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of Lutiebelle, also winning the Drama Desk Award as well as the Theatre World Award.

Interestingly, a (possibly over-speedy?) revival at the end of 1972 failed after just a handful of performances.

The (below) recorded version we can enjoy here was produced in 1981 and lasts approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes. Produced for Showtime, it stars several of the Broadway cast including Robert Guillaume (who took over from lead Cleavon Little during the original Broadway run) and Melba Moore.

Thanks to YouTube poster David Weisberg for posting this.


Here is an excerpt from the 1970 Tony award ceremony with two numbers from the original production of PURLIE and the Tony winners from the show, Cleavon Little (yes, he of later BLAZING SADDLES fame) and Melba Moore (yes, she of later international recording successes fame).

Revealed at last – 2020 Tony Awards nominations

In a highly-disrupted year on Broadway as elsewhere, it is good to finally discover the nominations for the 2020 Tony Awards.

Musicals-wise, the Alanis Morissette musical JAGGED LITTLE PILL earned 15 nominations, with at least one nomination in every eligible category (including six for the show’s principal performers). MOULIN ROUGE! followed, earning 14 nominations. TINA;THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL rounds out the nominees in this year’s Best Musical category.

Play-wise, Matthew Lopez’s THE INHERITANCE and Jeremy O. Harris’ SLAVE PLAY earned 11 and 12 nominations, respectively. Also nominated are Bess Wohl’s GRAND HORIZONS, Adam Rapp’s THE SOUND INSIDE, and SEA WALL / A LIFE by Simon Stephens and Nick Payne.

Currently the date for the virtual awards presentation has not been decided, but when it is I shall let you know.

You can find a complete list of the 2020 Tony Award nominations here

Time Travel Theatre: Enjoy the great Fats Waller musical AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ – and a Bonus!

Here’s a great opportunity to enjoy an Emmy-winning recording of the original production (and original cast) of the hit Fats Waller musical AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’

Originating as a cabaret piece at Manhattan Theatre Club in February 1978, it was an instant hit, therefore the material was rapidly worked up into a full show which opened on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre on May 9, 1978, later transferring to the Plymouth Theatre and then to the Belasco Theatre, finally closing on February 21, 1982 after 1604 performances and fourteen previews. The show was directed by Richard Maltby Jr (who co-wrote the show with Murray Horwitz), with musical staging and choreography by Arthur Faria.

Programme from the earliest incarnation of the show in February 1978. By the time it got to Broadway, Charlayne Woodard had replaced Irene Cara.

The original cast featured Nell Carter, André DeShields, Armelia McQueen, Ken Page, and Charlayne Woodard. Luther Henderson adapted Waller’s music for the revue and served as the production’s original pianist. Cast replacements later in the run included Debbie Allen, Yvette Freeman, Adriane Lenox, and Alan Weeks.

The show won three 1978 Tony Awards (Best Musical, Best Direction and Best Performance (Carter)), three Drama Desk Awards (Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Actor (Page) and Outstanding Actress (Carter)), as well as two Theatre World Awards (for Carter and McQueen).

On June 12, 1982, NBC broadcast the revue with the original Broadway cast (you can see this broadcast recording below). This production received eight Primetime Emmy Award nominations, winning two perfromance awards (for DeShields and Carter)

UK readers may remember that the show also came to London, opening at Her Majesty’s Theatre in March 1979 with DeShields and Woodard from the original Broadway cast, where it also enjoyed a substantial, successful run.

So, below, please enjoy a great musical which pays full tribute to the musical genius of Fats Waller

With special thanks to YouTube poster Jackie M

EXTRA BONUS! For those of you who would like to see the 1978 Tony Awards, with performances from shows including Ain’t Misbehavin’, Dancin’, On the Twentieth Century, Runaways and The Act, and to see the stars of AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ win their Tony awards, just click on the link below

With special thanks to YouTube poster MIssPoochSmooch

Time Travel Theatre: Celebrating Noel Coward’s 120th anniversary- and you’re invited to his 70th birthday!

In celebration of the 120th anniversary of his birthday, let’s remind ourselves of the author, actor and leading light of the English twentieth century stage, Sir Noel Coward (1899-1973).

The above footage was filmed on the occasion of his 70th birthday in 1969, exactly 50 years ago today. Anyone who was anyone in the theatre world paid homage to “The Master” at a gala reception at London’s Savoy Hotel. Sadly the footage has no sound as it was shot for British Pathé News who put a voice-over commentary over the sequences, as was their practice at the time.

So grab some canapes, crack open a bottle of bubbly/prosecco/Vimto/fizzy water, and let’s all celebrate Sir Noel Coward!


Here’s a clip of Noel Coward a few months later at the 1970 Tony Awards in New York being presented with an honorary Tony Award by the equally legendary Cary Grant.

With thanks to the original YouTube posters, British Pathé and MrPoochsmooch