(Roger Friedman’s article appeared in Showbiz 411, 6/23.)
Big news and a surprise. SHUFFLE ALONG is closing on July 24. This is huge because it’s the latest blow. See my previous item about the closings of Fun Home and An American in Paris.
Shuffle Along has been doing decent business. But they were facing the exit of their star Audra McDonald from the start. The plan for what to do next was ill conceived, which producer Scott Rudin has grudgingly conceded.
Of course, Mc Donald was leaving from the get go. Originally she was set to depart for the UK on June 10, and perform her “Lady Day at the Emerson Grill” for three months. The producers of “Shuffle Along” knew this but proceeded to sell tickets as if the beloved six time Tony winner was really part of their show. She was not.
Then, as luck would have it, McDonald discovered she was pregnant. London was cancelled. But that still meant leaving “Shuffle Along.” And it explained her many absences during previews, which were ascribed to a “cold.”
Producers then came up with a plan to put the choreographer Savion Glover into the show even though there was no part written for him– and it might be hard to explain. They also hired a dynamite roots singer, Rhiannon Giddens, who has no theater experience per se.