Manhattan Theatre Club’s critically acclaimed Broadway debut of August Wilson’s Jitney, which was named the 2017 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play in June, has landed on several Best Theater of 2017 lists.
Helmed by Tony winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson, the cast featured Harvy Blanks as “Shealy;” Tony Award nominee Anthony Chisholm as “Fielding,” Obie and Theatre World Award winner Brandon Dirden as “Booster;” André Holland as “Youngblood;” Carra Patterson as “Rena,” Michael Potts as “Turnbo,” Ray Anthony Thomas as “Philmore;” Keith Randolph Smith, as “Doub” and Tony Award nominee and Drama Desk Award winner John Douglas Thompson as “Becker.”
(1) New York Times: The Best Theater of 2017- Ben Brantley
‘JITNEY’ The first Broadway production of one of August Wilson’s earliest plays, this group portrait of workers at a gypsy cab company in a beleaguered African-American neighborhood in Pittsburgh, directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, served up the most vibrant — and fine-tuned — ensemble work of the year.
(2) The Hollywood Reporter -David Rooney: The Best New York Theater of 2017
“Every major production of an August Wilson work is a stinging reminder of the loss of one of American drama’s most uniquely resonant voices. But this belated Broadway debut of the play that launched his magnificent 10-part chronicle of African-American experience in the 20th century — directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson with penetrating emotional depth and irrepressible humor — was something extraordinary. Gritty and lyrical, joyful and sorrowful, the play examines black struggle through the prism of a Pittsburgh gypsy-cab company in 1977, its denizens portrayed here by a peerless ensemble that found music in every note.”
(3) Variety: Marilyn Stasio’s 10 Best New York Theater Productions of 2017
This was a pitch-perfect revival of August Wilson’s first play, an ensemble piece about gypsy cab drivers in Pittsburgh trying to make an honest living during the 1970s depression. “Moonlight” star Andre Holland and the powerful John Douglas Thompson squared off in a memorable battle royal.
(4) Asbury Park Press Best of Broadway and off-Broadway: Here are the top 10 shows of 2017-Bill Canacci
5. August Wilson’s “Jitney”
Set in Pittsburgh in 1977, “Jitney” tells the story of cab drivers trying to get by during tough economic times and the threat of gentrification. The business is run by Becker (John Douglas Thompson), a good man who is proud of what he has created and the service he provides to the community. This brilliant play takes a turn when Becker’s 39-year-old son Booster (Brandon J. Dirden) walks in after spending 20 years in jail for murder.
Director Ruben Santiago-Hudson treats Wilson’s work with care and respect, which should not be surprising. He won a Tony in 1996 for Wilson’s “Seven Guitars,” and brilliantly directed the 2012 off-Broadway production of Wilson’s “The Piano Lesson.” He also directed a production of “Jitney” at Red Bank’s Two River Theater.
“Jitney,” which concluded its limited run on March 12, won the 2017 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play.
(5) The Wrap: 11 Best Theater Productions of 2017, From Oscar Isaac to ‘A Doll’s House Part 2’-Robert Hofler
6. “Jitney,” by August Wilson (Broadway) Wilson’s early play finally made it to Broadway in a near-definitive production directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson.
(6) Forbes.com: The Best Theater Of 2017: Broadway And Beyond
Simply the best acting ensemble on a Broadway stage all year. It was, unfortunately, last season’s token non-white show, but it made the most of that position, building a brilliant platform for August Wilson’s unique voice. If nothing else, it was a potent reminder that Time And The Conways and its ilk aren’t the only choice for revivals – a reminder Broadway producers will hopefully take to heart.
In her acceptance speech for the Tony Award, MTC’s Artistic Director Lynne Meadow said, “Thank you so much! The actors, my partner, Barry Grove and I are so thrilled, and on behalf of all of us at Manhattan Theatre Club, and our co-producing partners. We want to tell you, it was a complete privilege and an honor to produce this show. Thank you to a fantastic acting company and an amazing company of designers; they’re great. And special thanks to our director, the great Ruben Santiago. Ruben was determined that Jitney would make its Broadway bow, and he was an inspiration to all of us. He brought out the best in all of us, and we are so grateful to him. August Wilson wrote ten plays, one for every decade in the 20th century that chronicled African American life and culture. Jitney is a shining example of his brilliance, his poetry, his deep insight into the human heart, and his belief in the importance of coming together in community, to overcome adversity, and to celebrate our humanity, our shared humanity. Thank you so much!”
After the Tony Awards ceremony at Radio City Musical Hall, director Ruben Santiago-Hudson was the first to arrive at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, followed by Constanza Romero and Jitney cast members Harvy Blanks, Anthony Chisholm, Brandon J. Dirden and Carra Patterson. Lynne Meadow and Barry Grove brought up the rear with the Tony Award in tow.
Ruben Santiago-Hudson said, “We got the big one. It was not possible without everyone here that works at MTC from the front of the house, backstage, security, everybody – you all made us feel like family and we can never forget that. And hopefully, as we move forward, we bring you all – the memory and the love that you have instilled in us. More than anything I’m grateful to Lynne and Barry, Eric Falkenstein and all the people that continue to fight for Jitney to continue living. John Legend, we thank you, wherever John is. Like Bill Sims Jr. said, “We ain’t done yet y’all!. So Party on!”
Jitney began previews on December 28th and opened on January 19th at MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.
Set in the early 1970s, this richly textured piece follows a group of men trying to eke out a living by driving unlicensed cabs, or Jitneys. When the city threatens to board up the business and the boss’ son returns from prison, tempers flare, potent secrets are revealed and the fragile threads binding these people together may come undone at last.
Jitney was also nominated in the categories of Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play (John Douglas Thompson), Best Scenic Design of a Play (David Gallo), Best Costume Design of a Play (Toni-Leslie James) Best Lighting Design of a Play (Jane Cox) and Best Director of a Play (Ruben Santiago-Hudson).
Jitney scooped up three Drama Desk Awards out of six nominations in the categories of Outstanding Play Revival, Outstanding Director for Ruben Santiago-Hudson and Outstanding Music for Bill Sims Jr. Other awards include a special citation from the New York Drama Critics’ Circle for director Ruben Santiago-Hudson and the ensemble cast; the 2017 Drama League Award for Outstanding Revival, the 2017 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Revival and the 2017 Drama League Award for Outstanding Revival of a Play.
August Wilson’s JITNEY Starring Harvy Blanks, Anthony Chisholm, Brandon Dirden, Andre Holland, Carra Patterson, Michael Potts, Keith Randolph Smith, Ray Anthony Thomas and John Douglas Thompson, Ends Run on Broadway
Meet the Cast of MTC’s Broadway Debut of August Wilson’s JITNEY, Directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Featuring Harvy Blanks, Anthony Chisholm, Brandon Dirden, André Holland, Carra Patterson, Michael Potts, Keith Randolph Smith, Ray Anthony Thomas, John Douglas Thompson
Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.