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Broadway’s Best Shows Closing in Winter 2024

While some Broadway shows are lucky enough to run for decades with no signs of slowing, others set out only to play for a finite time in a limited engagement, or, unfortunately close earlier than they had hoped, due to the unpredictable nature of the industry. 

Here’s a recap of what you need to see in the next month before they disappear from the Broadway boards for good:

Photo by Matthew Murphy

Gutenberg! The Musical! – January 28

Bud & Doug, as played by Josh Gad & Andrew Rannells, are soon to hang their hats (of the yellow baseball variety) as they end their limited Broadway engagement at the James Earl Jones Theatre on January 28. With this metatheatrical musical directed by Alex Timbers, the duo reunited on Broadway for the first time since originating the lead roles in The Book of Mormon together back in 2011.

Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch – February 4

Leslie Odom, Jr. returned to the stage for the first time since Hamilton in September 2023 when he opened the first-ever revival of Ossie Davis’s Purlie Victorious in the titular role. Starring alongside Kara Young in this “outrageous comedy,” as director Kenny Leon put it, Odom, Jr. has put this 1961 play back on the map and you only have a couple weeks left to experience it. Final performance Sunday, February 4.

Photo by Julieta Cervantes

Harmony – February 4

With music by Barry Manilow and a book & score by his longtime collaborator Bruce Sussman, Harmony came to Broadway in the fall to retell the true story of the Comedian Harmonists. This moving musical darkly dramatizes the rise of Naziism across Europe as it collides with the hopes and dreams of this part-Jewish group of traveling singers. The histori-musical ends its Broadway run on February 4.

Photo by Curtis Brown

How to Dance in Ohio – February 11

Based on the HBO documentary of the same title, this peppy new musical recounts the highs and lows of a group of young adults on the Autism spectrum, as they learn all the skills and behaviors needed ahead of their group therapy program’s spring dance. The show introduces audiences to seven of these young adults, all played by actors who are also on the spectrum. Featuring standout performances from Liam Pearce and Caesar Samoya, endearing storytelling helmed by Sammi Cannold, and authentic representation across the board(s), don’t miss your chance to dance along with this inspiring company until February 11.

Photo by Joan Marcus

Appropriate – March 3

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ family drama made its Broadway debut in late 2023, ten years after it was initially performed in Washington, D.C. Sarah Paulson, Elle Fanning, and Corey Stoll lead the cast as the Lafayette family comes to terms with its dark ancestral past. The play is running in a limited engagement at Second Stage’s Helen Hayes Theater through March 3.

Prayer for the French Republic – March 3

Joshua Harmon’s epic exploration of Jewish identity and perseverance over generations of persecution and hate landed on Broadway as the first new show of 2024. Following its smashing success Off-Broadway, Manhattan Theatre Club has transferred the David Cromer-directed three-act to the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, where its short run is scheduled through March 3.

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Long Form

“Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch” Is A Great Ossie Davis Legacy—Fresh, New and Relevant On Broadway!

By Linda Armstrong

“Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch” has withstood the test of time and stands as evidence of the genius of the late great Ossie Davis, but it is also so much more than that. When I heard that this play was returning to Broadway after 62 years I was absolutely thrilled! It began performances on Thursday, September 7, 2023, and officially opened on Wednesday, September 27, 2023, at the Music Box Theatre. The production was later extended through February 4, 2024! Talk about a legacy and a play with a timeless message. 

Leslie Odom, Jr. stars as Purlie Victorious Judson. Photo by Marc J. Franklin.

Ossie Davis is regarded as an incredible person who left a great legacy as an actor, playwright, and activist. His play contains a timeless message about Black love, pride, identity and the Black person’s indomitable spirit that allows them to fight for their rights. “Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch” shares the story of Purlie Victorious Judson, a Black Preacher fighting segregation and trying to save his church. When Davis first debuted this play at the Cort Theatre—now the James Earl Jones Theatre—on September 28, 1961, the Civil Rights Movement was in full swing. Blacks had few opportunities to be on stage, let alone Broadway stages and Black roles on stage were not something that promoted Black pride. With this play Davis offered an incredible solution to so many issues of the time. He used this play to not only tell an African American story that fought against segregation, but to encourage Black people to love themselves—take pride in their physical appearance—and he created this play to give Black actors much needed jobs and establish their names in the industry. 

Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee in “Purlie Victorious.” Photo by Friedman-Abeles.

He starred in the play as Purlie Victorious Judson and he created the role of Lutiebelle Gussie Mae Jenkins for his wife Ruby Dee. Other prominent actors were Godfrey Cambridge–who received  a nomination for the 1962 Tony Award for best performance by an actor in a featured role in a play for the role of Gitlow Judson, and a young Alan Alda appeared as Charley Cotchipee before becoming known for his role in the long-running television series M*A*S*H. The company also included Sorrell Booke who played Ol’ Cap’n Cotchipee, Helen Martin who played Missy Judson, Beah Richards who played Idella Landy, Ci Herzog as The Sheriff and Roger C. Carmel as The Deputy. The original work was directed by Howard Da Silva. Sadly, the racism that existed when this play first ran continues to be a part of our society’s fabric. Black people are still fighting racist hatred, being treated poorly and having a hard time feeling proud of who they are. And consequently, this play is as relevant today as it was 62 years ago.

Leslie Odom, Jr. and Kara Young as Purlie Victorious Judson and Lutiebelle Gussie Mae Jenkins, respectively. Photo by Marc J. Franklin

When “Purlie Victorious…” debuted in 1961 it played 261 performances and critics happily acknowledged Davis’ writing talent, his acting talent and that of his wife, Ruby Dee. The Daily News wrote, “As a playwright, Davis is well equipped with crackling jokes and jabs…As a comic actor he is very skillful, with a remarkable voice, a most amiable presence…Miss Dee reveals herself as a deft and charming comedienne…”Variety raved, “Purlie Victorious reveals a new playwright of promise, particularly in the race field of broad comedy…Davis and his wife, Ruby Dee, are costarred in this conglomerate mixture of comedy, melodrama, farce, fantasy and tolerance sermon, with a basically serious, if not intense, theme…A novel aspect of the play is its uninhibited use of racial stereotypes (both Negro and white) for comedy. Beneath all the laughs, of course, the author is purposeful, and his points are effectively made.” The New York Times remarked, “Ossie Davis, actor and author, has passed this miracle of uninhibited and jovial speaking out in his new play, Purlie Victorious …While Purlie Victorious keeps you chuckling and guffawing, it unrelentingly forces you to feel how it is to inhabit a dark skin in a hostile or, at best, grudgingly benevolent world.”

Original Broadway production of “Purlie Victorious.” Photo by Friedman-Abeles

While the original production in 1961 launched careers, the 2023 production is being embraced by established, award-winning stage artists. Tony Award winner and Oscar nominee Leslie Odom, Jr. (HamiltonOne Night in Miami) plays the lead role of Purlie Victorious Judson, twice Tony-nominated actress Kara Young (Clyde’sCost of Living) plays Lutiebelle Gussie Mae Jenkins; they are be joined by Billy Eugene Jones (Fat Ham), Vanessa Bell Calloway; Heather Alicia Simms, veteran theater actor Jay O. Sanders,; Noah Robbins, Noah Pyzik and Bill Timoney. The play is directed by Tony Award winner Kenny Leon (A Raisin in the SunFences).

Recently, the three children of Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, Nora Davis Day, Guy Davis, and Hasna Muhammad, talked about what Purlie Victorious meant to their family, and what this play meant back then and means today. Nora recalled that her father worked on this play for 5 years. “He told me what he was doing from beginning to end,” she said, sharing why this work has a special place in her heart. “I remember being a little girl and knowing when it got late at night Dad would be downstairs with a legal pad–that’s how he wrote and he wrote in pencil and he would tape his pinky finger because when he was writing if he wasn’t careful he would get a callus or a blister on his pinky. He used scotch tape which was always interesting. So, when we had the opportunity to bring the play back there was no question that we would respond to Jeffrey [Richards-one of the producers] and others for this opportunity to get Dad’s poetic play back on Broadway.”

Jay O. Sanders, Billy Eugene Jones, Kara Young & Leslie Odom, Jr. Photo by Marc J. Franklin.

Considering the importance of the character of Lutiebelle Gussie Mae Jenkins, Guy realized that his father was an innovator for women. “It was something that was ahead of its time in terms of women getting important roles. But, I think that Dad’s motive was more love than politics…It was a chance for the family to work together.”

Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee taught their children the value of having Black stories and putting Black actors to work. Hasna shared, “Mom and Dad always talked with us about the significance of having African American writers, producers and directors and people behind the scenes, people owning the studios. And the fact that they were in a play where they were working actors was always something to be celebrated and they were glad for it and we felt happy for them, but they never lost sight that there were so many other Black actors who weren’t working. Some of them weren’t working just because they were Black and because there were no roles for Black folk. I think that the fact that Dad was able to write something that both he and Mom were able to perform in, but not only perform in, but perform on Broadway, this was incredible.”

Speaking on the legacy of this beloved play Hasna reflected, “It’s legacy, an African American playwright has had a play on Broadway and a play that is considered a classic… For the character of Purlie Victorious the legacy speaks about manhood, about finding oneself acceptable and beautiful without needing the white gaze and being able to use wit and the constitution to fight segregation, to use humor to fight segregation. It’s another tool in our toolbox for the liberation of our people. There’s all types of art that bring different perspectives on what resistance looks and feels like and what Dad does is he adds to those tools the value of laughter and humor and our ability to resist.”

The foremost First Lady of her time, or perhaps ever, Eleanor Roosevelt said it best: “If you have not seen ‘Purlie Victorious’ I think it is well for you as an American citizen to see it and to ponder our racial problem, not as a question affecting our lives here in the United States but as a question affecting our standing and our real sincerity among the peoples of the world.”

Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee left a great legacy for their children and the world. They raised their children in theater, but also in civil rights and made them a part of any protest they participated in, instilling in them the importance of supporting the Black community. Today they are artists, teachers, photographers and they continue, through their work, the legacy that Davis and Dee started. See a piece of their and our history at the Music Box Theatre.