Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe announced its 2022-23 slate of productions at its annual “Hush! Hush!” party for subscribers on Monday evening at WBTT.
Unveiling the company’s 23rd season, artistic director Nate Jacobs said that he went into his “creative zone” and came up with an “American Dreams” theme for the season, taking off from seeing his own dream of a theater devoted to the Black experience come true in Sarasota. He said the season will “explore the struggles and the triumphs” of others seeking to fulfill their own dreams.
Opening the season, Oct. 5 through Nov. 20, 2022, will be the classic Frank Loesser musical comedy Guys and Dolls, the oft-revived 1950 Tony award winner about gamblers Nathan Detroit and Sky Masterson, Salvation Army missionary Sarah Brown, and nightclub performer Miss Adelaide. Jim Weaver, who will direct this production, spoke Monday about seeing the all-Black production of the show on Broadway years ago with Robert Guillaume starring, and then having the opportunity a few years later to work himself with that show’s director on Bubbling Brown Sugar. “This like a dream to me,” he said of his opportunity to direct Guys and Dolls now. The announcement of that show was followed by a performance of “Luck Be a Lady” from the score, performed by three of WBTT’s actors.
The holiday show Black Nativity, which has alternated with other productions at that time of year for several seasons, returns with a mix of gospel, spiritual and Christmas music paired with the poetry of Langston Hughes, Nov. 30 through Dec 23. (Not included in the subscription series.) Jacobs said that WBTT refreshes the show each time it’s performed, with new performers, songs and choreography in what he describes as WBTT’s “Christmas card to the community.”
Up next is a show originally scheduled for the 2019-20 season, Flyin’ West by Pearl Cleage. It’s inspired by the true story of a group of African-American women in the 1890s who fled the oppressive South to settle in the all-Black town of Nicodemus, Kansas. Chuck Smith, who serves as resident director at WBTT and at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, will return to Sarasota to direct this show, which runs Jan. 4-Feb. 12, 2023. Actress Tarra Conner jones delivered a scene from the show in a filmed appearance that entertained the audience.
The musical Dreamgirls, which WBTT once performed years ago at the Historic Asolo Theater, will take the stage at WBTT’s own theater now, Feb. 22-April 9, 2023. Jacobs says the show, which follows a Motown trio of female singers on its way to superstardom, “explores themes of ambition, hope and betrayal,” all while delivering breakout hits like “One Night Only” and “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.” Jacobs will direct this production. Cast members of the current WBTT production Broadway in Black presented two numbers from Dreamgirls that are used in that show as well.
Closing the season will be a new musical created by Jacobs, Big Sexy: The Fats Waller Revue. You can expect to hear some familiar Waller tunes like “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and “The Joint Is Jumpin’” with this one, onstage April 19-May 28, 2023. Three Waller songs (again performed in the Broadway in Black show) rounded out the evening Monday before sponsors at the event decided which productions they would back.
Season subscriptions will be sold, according to executive director Julie Leach, while WBTT will remain adaptable if conditions affect the schedule, as they did with Covid-19 the past two seasons. Those will be available to current patrons on June 6 and to the general public on July 6. Individual ticket sales are set to begin Aug. 1. For more information, visits westcoastblacktheatre.org or call (941) 366