OGDEN — “You Bet Your Black Ass, Broadway,” the irreverently named musical revue that debuted at Good Company Theatre a year ago, returns this week with one important change.
More sass. More flash.
“It’s sassier and flashier than ever, because it’s our ‘Divas Only Edition,’” explained Alicia Washington, co-founder of Good Company Theatre and emcee for the evening. “It’s a different cast than last year, because it’s all African American women.”
"You Bet Your Black Ass, Broadway: Divas Only Edition" runs Thursday through Sunday, Feb. 27-March 1, at Good Company Theatre, 2404 Wall Ave. Shows begin at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 4 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $20, available through the theater.
With this divas-only show — which straddles the end of February and beginning of March — Washington says they’re tying in with both Black History Month (February) and Women’s History Month (March).
“Truthfully, I just wanted to highlight black women,” said Washington, who with her sister, Camille, runs Good Company Theatre. “There are marginalized groups we should elevate and talk about, to make theater inclusive. I just wanted to see a group of black women sing songs that are a part of our history and part of Broadway, but also let them wail on some songs — songs typically cast for white actresses — that they want to do.”
This year’s edition will include songs from “Purlie,” “Bring It On: The Musical,” “The Wiz,” “Guys and Dolls,” and more. The program will feature the jazz standard “If I Were a Bell,” as well as a tune from “In Dahomey,” the first full-length musical written and performed by black actors at a major Broadway venue. Modern musicals will also be featured, with songs from as recent as two years ago.
One of the songs being performed, “Random Black Girl,” is “right on the nose” in its portrayal of the only black woman in a musical, according to Washington. She said there’s a difference between equality and equity.
“With equality, we’re talking about having everyone at the dance,” Washington said. “With equity, we’re talking about everyone gets to dance.”
Six vocalists and actresses will be featured at the Broadway revue. Along with Alicia Washington, other performers will include Daisy Allred (“Saturday’s Voyeur,” “Caroline, or Change”) Quesley Ann Bunch (“Aida”), Olivia Lusk (“Ragtime,” “Sister Act”), Mack (“Cinderella,” “Seussical the Musical”) and Sibley Snowden (“Sense and Sensibility,” “Caroline, or Change”).
Backed by a three-piece band, the performers will sing songs both alone and in groups.
“We get to see these performers shine individually and collectively,” Washington said.
The GCT founders challenged themselves to make this year’s program “a full night,” with two 45-minute acts separated by an intermission. Washington says the response to last year’s shows was so overwhelming that they added another performance this year.
Not bad, Washington admits, for a show that they worried about how it would be received in its inaugural year.
“We thought, ‘Oh, will people come to a show that says ‘Black Ass’ in it?’ But we’ve had some really positive feedback,” she said.
Washington says roles for women of color have been quite limited in the theater, although some Broadway musicals have done what she called “color-conscious casting.” One such show that comes to mind is “Waitress,” which has always had a more inclusive cast than other typical Broadway roles, according to Washington. Another is “Beauty and the Beast,” which in 1998 featured Toni Braxton as the first African American to play Belle on Broadway. The song “A Change in Me,” was written exclusively for Braxton in that version of the musical.
Washington said “You Bet Your Black Ass, Broadway” is in line with Good Company Theatre’s mission to present different and diverse works of art. And she believes live theater is especially equipped to tackle such subjects.
“Theater is so powerful when it comes to relaying different subjects in a way that people don’t experience through film, or even literature, sometimes,” she said. “With theater, you have a live performer right in front of you, and they’re taking you along on the story.”
Content-wise, the program includes “a couple of adult words.” It’s recommended for ages 13 and older.
And Washington hopes the slightly scandalous title doesn’t scare anyone off.
“As always, don’t let the name intimidate you,” she said. “It’s a fun, warm night celebrating African American women in Broadway.”