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Black Thought To Star In Off-Broadway Musical ‘Black No More’
"I feel like this play, we might be able to break it down and use it as an education in the origins and history of Black music," he shared.
BY DEMICIA INMAN
OCTOBER 8, 2021 1:09PM
Black Thought attends the 74th Annual Tony Awards at Winter Garden Theater on Sept. 26, 2021 in New York City. Arturo Holmes/Getty Images
Black Thought is taking his talents to the theater stage. The lead rapper of Hip-Hop group The Roots will make his Off-Broadway debut in the upcoming musical Black No More. According to the New York Times, the musician, legal name Tariq Trotter, will also be writing the music and lyrics for the play.
“The music transcends genre,” the rapper shared with the Times. “But most of it feels like Black music. I feel like this play, we might be able to break it down and use it as an education in the origins and history of Black music.”
He added, “I felt like we were able to tell the story, and make it in very many ways a period piece—without only writing jazz music.”
Black No More is inspired by George S. Schuyler’s 1931 novel of the same name. The play is written by 12 Years A Slave screenwriter John Ridley. It is described as a “satirical story,” from the Harlem Rennaisance era that finds Black Thought’s character Dr. Junius Crookman as he develops a scientific procedure that turns Black skin white.
“I thought it was mind-blowing,” shared the Philadelphia artist. “I couldn’t believe that something of this caliber of science fiction and wit and just dark humor and something with so many layers was written at the time that it was.”
Jennifer Damiano, Tamika Lawrence, Brandon Victor Dixon, Theo Stockman, Tracy Shayne, and Walter Bobbie have also been cast in the play. Black No More is set to be directed by Scott Elliott, choreographed by Bill T. Jones, and have music supervision, orchestrations, and vocal arrangements by Daryl Waters.
“I’m humbled and honored to formally announce what one day could be considered my life’s work. Black No More, a musical. Book by John Ridley, music and lyrics written by #TariqTrotter, choreographed by Bill T. Jones, directed by Scott Elliott @thenewgroupnyc, and music supervision by Daryl Water,” the “You Got Me” rapper wrote on Instagram.
The caption continued, “This has been years in the making and I’m beyond grateful to be part of a dream team telling this story. This is an entree into a new space for me and hopefully a seat at a new table. I’m excited to see how it’s received. Hope to see you in January.”
The musical was originally scheduled to premiere in October 2020 but was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. It will now play a limited engagement, Jan. 11 through Feb. 27, 2022, at the Pershing Square Signature Center, with an opening night scheduled for Feb. 8.
‘Black No More’ to Land Off Broadway This Winter
The musical will feature the theatrical debut of the Roots’ Black Thought, who will be writing the music and lyrics and be in a lead role.
By Laura Zornosa
Published Oct. 6, 2021
Updated Oct. 7, 2021
“Black No More,” a musical with a book by the “12 Years a Slave” screenwriter John Ridley and music and lyrics by the Roots’ Tariq Trotter, a.k.a. Black Thought, will finally get its turn in the spotlight.
The musical, originally scheduled to premiere in October 2020, was delayed by the pandemic. The production, from the New Group, will now begin this winter.
“Black No More,” inspired by George S. Schuyler’s 1931 novel of the same name, will play a limited engagement, Jan. 11 through Feb. 27, 2022, at the Pershing Square Signature Center. Opening night is scheduled for Feb. 8.
“The music transcends genre,” Trotter said in a phone interview. “But most of it feels like Black music. I feel like this play, we might be able to break it down and use it as an education in the origins and history of Black music.”
“I didn’t feel like I was confined; I didn’t feel like I had to stick to music of the day,” he continued. “I felt like we were able to tell the story, and make it in very many ways a period piece — without only writing jazz music.”
Schuyler’s satirical story, a piece of the Harlem Renaissance canon, follows the development of Black-No-More, a scientific procedure for turning Black skin white, created by one Dr. Junius Crookman. (Trotter, in a theatrical debut, will also play Crookman in the show.)
The protagonist, Max Disher (Brandon Victor Dixon), decides to undergo the procedure after being spurned by a white woman for being Black. In the meantime, Black-No-More gains popularity nationwide. The more Black people make the transition, the more obvious the economic importance of racial segregation becomes.
“I thought it was mind blowing,” Trotter said of Schuyler’s book. “I couldn’t believe that something of this caliber of science fiction and wit and just dark humor and something with so many layers was written at the time that it was.”
Apart from Trotter and Dixon (“Hamilton”), the cast also includes Jennifer Damiano (“Next to Normal”), Tamika Lawrence (“Rent”), Theo Stockman (“American Psycho”), Tracy Shayne (“Chicago”) and Walter Bobbie (“Chicago”). Rehearsals begin in November. Additional casting will be announced at a later date.
The show will be coming from a Tony-winning team: It will be directed by the New Group’s founding artistic director, Scott Elliott; choreographed by Bill T. Jones; and have music supervision, orchestrations and vocal arrangements by Daryl Waters.
“There’s a very serious look that we need to take at history and at the story of this nation and the ways in which it has been told and will be told, moving forward,” Trotter said. “It’s my hope that this work and works like this are going to compel people to continue that examination.”
Correction: Oct. 7, 2021
An earlier version of this article described incorrectly the relationship of the musical “Black No More” to the book of the same name. The musical is inspired by the book, not based on the book.
A version of this article appears in print on Oct. 9, 2021, Section C, Page 7 of the New York edition with the headline: ‘Black No More’ Is Set for Winter.