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A Look Inside Rehearsal of Merry Wives at the Public Theater

Rehearsals are underway for Jocelyn Bioh’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Public Theater. Helmed by Associate Artistic Director and Resident Director Saheem Ali, the production is scheduled to begin performances July 6 at the Delacorte, marking the return of Shakespeare in the Park following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Set in South Harlem amidst a community of West African immigrants, Merry Wives is billed as “a celebration of Black joy, laughter, and vitality.”

The all-Black production stars Abena as Anne Page, Shola Adewusi as Mama Quickly, Gbenga Akinnagbe as Mister Nduka Ford, Pascale Armand as Madam Ekua Page, MaYaa Boateng as Fenton/Simple, Phillip James Brannon as Pastor Evans, Jacob Ming-Trent as Falstaff, Joshua Echebiri as Slender/Pistol, Julian Rozzell Jr. as Shallow, Kyle Scatliffe as Mister Kwame Page, David Ryan Smith as Doctor Caius, and Susan Kelechi Watson as Madam Nkechi Ford alongside ensemble members Brandon E. Burton, Branden Lindsay, Ebony Marshall-Oliver, Jarvis D. Matthews, and Jennifer Mogbock.

Merry Wives will feature scenic design by Beowulf Boritt, costume design by Dede Ayite, lighting design by Jiyoun Chang, sound design by Kai Harada and Palmer Hefferan, hair, wigs, and makeup design by Cookie Jordan, original music by Michael Thurber, original drum compositions by Farai Malianga, fight direction by Rocío Mendez, choreography by Darrell Grand Moultrie, and sound system design by Jessica Paz. Narda E. Alcorn will serve as production stage manager.

The weekly digital lottery for tickets to the free, outdoor production began June 29. For tickets and more information, visit PublicTheater.org.

Brenda Braxton Guest Hosts Stars in the House June 29

Tony nominee Brenda Braxton (Smokey Joe’s Cafe, Chicago) guest hosts Stars in the House, the daily live streamed concert series created by Playbill correspondent and SiriusXM Broadway host Seth Rudetsky and producer James Wesley, June 29.

Braxton looks back at her favorite moments as a guest and guest host of the series during the pandemic. Watch the stream above beginning at 8 PM ET.

Brenda Braxton Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Stars in the House launched March 16 last year to promote support for The Actors Fund and its services in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. It has also raised funds for the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund in support of the Black Lives Matter movement as well as Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

New shows—streaming Tuesday–Saturday at 8 PM ET—feature performances by stars of stage and screen, in conversation and song with Rudetsky and Wesley. Peter Flynn serves as streaming director.

Click here to watch previous episodes.

To make a tax-deductible donation to The Actors Fund, visit StarsintheHouse.com/Donate.

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Playbill Vault’s Today in Theatre History: June 28

1902 Birthday of Richard Rodgers, one of Broadway’s most prolific and successful composers. His greatest successes came in partnership with lyricists Oscar Hammerstein II (Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, The Sound of Music, etc.) and Lorenz Hart (On Your Toes, Babes in Arms, Pal Joey, A Connecticut Yankee, By Jupiter, etc.).

1926 Birthday of funnyman Mel Brooks, who goes on to write for TV’s Your Show of Shows and Broadway musicals Shinbone Alley and All American before departing for a long career in Hollywood. He returns to Broadway in triumph in 2001 with a musical adaptation of his Broadway satire, The Producers.

1950 Censorship proves to be a problem when Michael Todd’s Peep Show opens at New York’s Winter Garden Theatre. The legendary producer of the title is soon forced to tone down the revue as a result of talks with the city’s Commissioner of Licenses.

1987 Two years after the end of its original Broadway run, Tom Eyen and Henry Krieger‘s Dreamgirls returns to New York. Opening at the Ambassador Theatre, the engagement is the final stop of the musical’s international tour. Director-choreographer Michael Bennett scaled back his original staging for the tour, which first launched in fall 1985. Bennett is sadly not well enough to oversee the new Broadway run, and dies at his home in Arizona from AIDS-related lymphoma four days later.

1990 William Finn follows up his In Trousers and March of the Falsettos with the final piece of his “Marvin Trilogy,” Falsettoland. The all-sung musical starring Michael Rupert, Chip Zien, and Faith Prince throws AIDS into the mix of the already complex issue of sexual identity. The production, which opens at Playwrights Horizons, later transfers to the Lucille Lortel Theatre. March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland are later combined to create the 1992 Broadway musical Falsettos.

1999 27 years after it premiered Off-Broadway at the Truck and Warehouse Theatre, Tennessee WilliamsSmall Craft Warnings sees the New York stage again when Worth Street Theater Company stages the lyrical drama. Based on an earlier Williams one-act, Confessional, the play is set in a bar in a Southern California coastal town.

2001 Phylicia Rashad opens in Off-Broadway’s Blue at the Gramercy Theatre in a Roundabout Theatre Company production. In the Charles Randolph-Wright play, Rashad stars as Peggy Clark, the matriarch of a well-off African-American family who run a funeral home business in South Carolina and who tracks the career of jazz singer Blue Williams. Directed by Sheldon Epps, the cast also features Michael McElroy, Hill Harper, Howard W. Overshown, Jewell Robinson, Randall Shepperd, Messeret Stroman and Chad Tucker, with music is by Nona Hendryx of LaBelle fame (“Lady Marmalade”) and lyrics by Hendryx and Randolph-Wright. Rashad was set to direct a 2020 revival of Blue at the Apollo Theatre when the COVID-19 pandemic forced theatres across the country to close.

2002 To celebrate what would have been the 100th birthday of composer Richard Rodgers, Broadway stars gathers for a concert at the Gershwin Theatre. Aptly titled Something Good: A Broadway Salute to Richard Rodgers on His 100th Birthday, the concert features performances by Sutton Foster, Hunter Foster, Lea Salonga, Patrick Wilson, Shuler Hensley, Laura Benanti, John Bucchino, Barbara Cook, John Cullum, Erin Dilly, Marin Mazzie (accompanied by Stephen Flaherty), Howard McGillin, Lauren Mitchell, Louise Pitre, Billy Stritch, Mary Testa, and the chorus of Oklahoma!

2007 Roundabout Theatre Company‘s revival of John Van Druten‘s comedy Old Acquaintance opens on Broadway at the American Airlines Theatre. Harriet Harris and Margaret Colin star as two childhood friends who have grown into successful authors.

2010 On the Levee, the Todd Almond-Marcus Gardley play with music that frames the great Mississippi flood of 1927 through the perspective of a white and black family, opens Off-Broadway at the Duke on 42nd Street. Lear deBessonet conceived and directs the project, which stars Tony Award winner Chuck Cooper, Amari Cheatom, Michael Sibbery, Sam Numrich, and Dion Graham.

2011 Brooke Shields gets creepy, kooky, and altogether ooky when she joins The Addams Family as Morticia Addams, replacing original star Bebe Neuwirth.

2017 Lin-Manuel Miranda releases the first official music video from The Hamilton Mixtape. Riz Ahmed (as Riz MC), K’Naan, Residente, and Snow Tha Product perform “Immigrants (We Get the Job Done),” directed by Tomás Whitmore, which explores the unsung impact and hardships of immigrants (“America’s ghost writers,” as Snow Tha Product raps) in American culture.

2018 Melissa Errico opens Off-Broadway tonight in the Irish Repertory Theatre revival of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane’s 1965 musical, about a young woman who goes to a psychiatrist to cure her smoking through hypnosis but instead discovers that she is the reincarnation of a well-born English lady, also starred Stephen Bogardus and John Cudia.

More of Today’s Birthdays: Luigi Pirandello (1867–1936). Max Gordon (1892–1978). A. E. Hotchner (1920–2020). John Tillinger (b. 1938). Gilda Radner (1946–1989). Bruce Davison (b. 1946). Kathy Bates (b. 1948). Jessica Hecht (b. 1965). Mary Stuart Masterson (b. 1966). Danielle Brisebois (b. 1969).

Watch Sierra Boggess and Julian Ovenden perform the songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein with the New York Pops:

Playbill Vault’s Today in Theatre History: June 26

1911 Ziegfeld Follies of 1911 opens at New York’s Jardin de Paris. Irving Berlin contributes songs including “Woodman, Woodman, Spare That Tree” and “You’ve Built a Fire Down in My Heart.”

1975 The first revival of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman opens at Circle in the Square on Broadway, starring George C. Scott as tragic hero Willy Loman. The play, directed by Scott, also features Teresa Wright, Harvey Keitel, and James Farentino as the Loman family.

1991 The most recent revival of George Bernard Shaw‘s Getting Married opens at Broadway at Circle in the Square. Stephen Porter directs a cast that includes Elizabeth Franz, Patrick Tull, Simon Jones, Madeleine Potter, and Walter Bobbie. The production plays 70 performances before closing August 25.

2003 Will Power’s Flow—a co-production of New York Theatre Workshop and the New York City Hip Hop Theater Festival—opens at Performance Space 122. “A tale of seven storytellers,” the show features writer-performer Power portraying many characters using rap, rhyme, and movement. Power is accompanied live by DJ Reborn, with original music created by Power and Will Hammond.

2008 Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy, the family-friendly theatrical, acrobatic, and musical adventure that evokes the exotica of untamed places, opens at the Broadway Theatre for a ten week run.

2013 Tony Award-nominated composer Andrew Lippa stars as late gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk in his new oratorio I Am Harvey Milk, which receives its world with the San Francisco’s Gay Men’s Chorus. Tony Award winner Laura Benanti is also featured.

2014 The Lion, a new autobiographical solo musical written and performed by singer-songwriter Benjamin Scheuer, opens Off-Broadway at Manhattan Theatre Club, directed by Sean Williams.

2019 Halley Feiffer’s Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow, a re-imaginging of Chekhov’s Three Sisters, opens at MCC Theater Off-Broadway.

Today’s Birthdays Kevin Adams (b. 1962). Joyce Ebert (1933–1997). Ariana Grande (b. 1993). Sean Hayes (b. 1970). Sidney Howard (1891–1939). Chris O’Donnell (b. 1970). Gedde Watanabe (b. 1955).