*(New York, NY) — Stephen C. Byrd and Alia Jones-Harvey of Front Row Productions have joined the team of producers for the Broadway revival of Romeo and Juliet, which is set to open at the Richard Rodgers Theatre this fall. The award-winning producers will join Susan Bristow in presenting this star-studded retelling of one of William Shakespeare’s best known and most beloved plays.
International film star Orlando Bloom (The Lord of the Rings) and two-time Tony Award nominee Condola Rashad (Stick Fly, The Trip to Bountiful) will play the star-crossed lovers in this new production of Romeo and Juliet, which will be directed by five-time Tony Award nominee David Leveaux (Arcadia, Cyrano de Bergerac, Nine, The Glass Menagerie, Jumpers). The production also features Tony Award nominees Jayne Houdyshell (Follies, Dead Accounts) as the Nurse and Tony Award winner Chuck Cooper (The Life, Chicago, Finian’s Rainbow) as Lord Capulet. Romeo and Juliet will begin previews August 24, 2013; opening night is September 19, 2013. In keeping with their effort to reach broader audiences for their theater productions, the producers have announced that 100 tickets per performance will be set aside at $20 for purchase by students and educators.
The new production will mark the first time in 36 years that Romeo and Juliet will be produced on Broadway. This version of the classic tale will retain Shakespeare’s original language but have a modern setting that features Romeo and Juliet as an interracial couple at the center of Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy. It has also been conceived with the Capulets as an all-black family and the Montagues as an all-white household.
Reimagining theatrical classics with African Americans or multiracial casts is a specialty for Byrd, Jones-Harvey and Front Row Productions. The company is dedicated to producing quality theatrical productions, and Byrd and Jones-Harvey are bringing shows to Broadway that are meeting with both critical acclaim and financial success. The only African American lead producers on Broadway, Byrd and Jones-Harvey have brought a unique brand of diversity to New York Theater by mounting new productions of beloved classic plays with racially diverse casts. The company also strives to employ a diverse staff for its productions.
“We have had great success in bringing mainstream projects to Broadway with nontraditional casting because it works on so many levels,” says Byrd. “It reinforces the universality of the themes in great theatrical works; it allows actors of color to take on great roles; and it brings new audiences into the theater.”
“We want to breathe new life into classic works and into Broadway itself,” added Jones-Harvey. “Our goal is to mount excellent productions of great plays and musicals in a way that makes them accessible to the broadest possible audience, and it’s working better than we imagined it could.”
Byrd and Jones-Harvey are among the producers of Horton Foote’s The Trip to Bountiful, currently on Broadway and featuring African Americans in the lead roles. They also produced a Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, with African Americans in the lead roles, and they mounted the first African American Broadway production of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
The Trip to Bountiful is currently enjoying a successful run on Broadway, where it has also met with critical acclaim. Directed by Michael Wilson and featuring celebrated actress Cicely Tyson, Oscar winning actor Cuba Gooding Jr., and Tony-nominated actress Vanessa Williams, the production was nominated for four Tony Awards. Tyson took home the award for Best Actress for her soul-stirring performance in the leading role. Tyson also won an Outer Critic’s Circle Award and Drama Desk Award for her performance in the play. The production has extended its run to October 9, 2013.
In 2012, Byrd and Jones-Harvey brought a multiracial production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, A Streetcar Named Desire, to Broadway for another successful run. The play, which received rave reviews and a Tony-nomination, was also successful at attracting large, diverse audiences to its performances. A Streetcar Named Desire featured two-time Golden Globe nominee Blair Underwood in his Broadway debut as Stanley, Nicole Ari Parker (“Soul Food”) as Blanche DuBois, Daphne Rubin-Vega (Rent) as Stella and Wood Harris (“The Wire”) as Mitch. Directed by Emily Mann (Artistic Director of Princeton’s esteemed McCarter Theatre), it featured an original score by five-time Grammy Award winner Terence Blanchard.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof garnered praise from critics and audiences alike, and was the biggest grossing play on Broadway in Spring, 2008. The Broadway production’s all-start cast featured award-winning entertainment industry icon James Earl Jones, Tony Award-winning actress Phylicia Rashad, Academy Award-winning actor Terrence Howard, who made his Broadway debut in the role of Brick, and Tony Award-winning actress Anika Noni Rose, with Debbie Allen as director. The play was transferred to London’s West End in the 2009-2010 season, where Adrian Lester and Sanaa Lathan joined the cast. The West End observed record new audiences for the production, and it received the 2010 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Revival of a Play.
Front Row Productions also has a slate of new major theatrical projects in the works.