Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe Announces Its 2023-24 Season

The troupe's 24th season will kick off with Once On This Island on Oct. 11.

By Staff March 9, 2023

Back by popular demand, WBTT will present Joyful! Joyful! as the holiday show this year.

Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe’s 24th season will be a celebration of all things that are “Simply the Best!” During its 2023-2024 season, WBTT will offer old favorites as well as new pieces that its leaders hope will become new favorites. 

Running from October 11 through May 26, 2024, WBTT's regular-season shows are Once On This Island, A Soldier’s PlayRuby and Marvin Gaye: Prince of Soul. This year's holiday show is Joyful! Joyful!

“As the only African American theatre on Florida’s west coast, we are proud to offer a unique and special cultural experience to our community," says WBTT artistic director Nate Jacobs. "We rejoice in the opportunity to present plays and musicals this season that fall into our distinctive niche as well as shows with universal appeal.”

WBTT Founder and Artistic Director Nate Jacobs.

Opening the season is Once On This Island. Set on a Caribbean island, this Tony Award-winning musical tells the coming-of-age story of a little girl who is magically rescued from a disastrous storm. Based on the novel My Love, My Love by Rosa Guy, this sweeping production showcases Caribbean rhythms and instruments, with music and lyrics by the Tony Award-winning musical team behind Ragtime. The musical promises to move and exhilarate audiences through the story of a peasant girl searching for love and her place in the world, which unfolds within complicated social issues of race, class and affairs of the heart. WBTT’s education director/artistic associate Jim Weaver will direct the show, which runs from Oct. 11 through Nov. 19 later this year.

During the holiday season, WBTT presents a Christmas card to the community, with the high-spirited musical revue Joyful! Joyful! With a blend of new takes on traditional holiday tunes, gospel-infused classics and pop songs, the show will include a twist on the carol “Joy to the World,” a version of “Carol of the Bells”—a homage to the O’Jays—and a lively gospel rendition of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus,” to name a few. Jacobs will direct this show, which runs from Nov. 29 through Dec. 30. (Heads up: Joyful! Joyful! is not included in WBTT's subscription series.)

Next up is the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama A Soldier’s Play. On a Louisiana Army base amid the segregation-era South of 1944, two shots ring out. A Black sergeant is murdered. A series of interrogations triggers a gripping barrage of questions about sacrifice, service and identity in America. One persistent investigator must race against his white supervisors to unravel the crime before they unravel him. Broadway World calls the show “a fascinating ‘whodunit’ mystery [...] scorching and soul-searching.” Director Chuck Smith returns to Sarasota to direct this show, which runs from Jan. 18 through Feb. 18, 2024. 

Finally, after two postponements due to the Covid-19 pandemic, WBTT will bring the world premiere of the musical Ruby to the stage. The book is by Nate Jacobs and Michael Jacobs, with lyrics by Michael Jacobs and music by Nate Jacobs, Nehemiah Luckett, Brennan Stylez and Antonio Wimberly. The premise: on Aug. 3, 1952, the unthinkable happened—a Black woman murdered a white doctor in Live Oak, FL. The act guaranteed a conviction for a woman bold enough to commit such a shocking crime, and celebrated writer Zora Neale Hurston arrived in town to cover the story for a northern newspaper. The musical explores the secrets just beneath the surface of the idyllic, genteel exterior of a quaint Florida town. Nate Jacobs will also direct the show, which runs from Feb. 28 through April 7, 2024.

Fan favorite Sheldon Rhoden will reprise his role as Marvin Gaye this season in Marvin Gaye: Prince of Soul.

Finally, closing the season is WBTT’s most-requested show, Marvin Gaye: Prince of Soul. Sheldon Rhoden will reprise the title role for the fourth time. This original show begins in the 1950s, at the start of Gaye’s career with Motown, and follows its twists and turns until his untimely death in the mid-1980s. A gifted, innovative and enduring talent, Gaye blazed the trail for the continued evolution of popular Black music, from powerful R&B and sophisticated soul to an intensely political and personal form of artistic self-expression. The show reveals why Rolling Stone declared Gaye one of America’s greatest entertainers. Nate Jacobs will direct the show, which runs from April 17 through to May 26, 2024.

Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. from Tuesday through Saturday; matinees are at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. All performances take place in WBTT’s Donelly Theatre. Subscriptions and individual tickets will become available over the summer. For more information, go to

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