Broadway's Shuffle Along has announced that it will cut its run short, playing its final performance on July 24 at the Music Box Theatre after 38 previews and 100 regular performances. The show will close in conjunction with Audra McDonald's previously announced maternity leave, which was scheduled to begin July 24. During her hiatus, Grammy winner Rhiannon Giddens was set to take on the role of Lottie Gee.
Producer Scott Rudin issued the following statement: "Audra McDonald is the biggest star on Broadway, and audiences have been clamoring to see her in this role since the first preview of Shuffle Along in March of this year. She is absolutely extraordinary in the show, and I am filled with gratitude for both her exemplary partnership on Shuffle Along and also for her remarkable resilience and fortitude in doing everything possible to play as many shows as she can, despite the circumstance of her pregnancy. We are thrilled that she and her husband, Will Swenson, are experiencing the opportunity to expand their family — and we wish them all good things as they approach the birth of their child this fall. It has, however, become clear that the need for Audra to take a prolonged and unexpected hiatus from the show has determined the unfortunate inevitability of our running at a loss for significantly longer than the show can responsibly absorb, and we have decided to close the show when she leaves on July 24. On behalf of myself and George C. Wolfe, I want to say how deeply grateful we are to her for everything she gave and continues to give the show. There is simply nobody like her."
McDonald responded to news of the premature closing with the following: "I am overjoyed to be expecting a new addition to my family yet completely heartbroken that our tremendously talented cast and company — my 'Shuffle Family" — won't be able to continue telling this incredible story. We are all so fortunate to have worked with — and learned from — the genius that is George C. Wolfe and played a part in bringing this vital and illuminating work to life. I am eternally thankful for the support and compassion the production, especially Scott Rudin, has shown me. While a complete surprise to Will and me, this baby is one of the greatest gifts of our lives."
The new musical, which earned 10 Tony nominations this past season and won Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Choreography and Outstanding Musical, presents the landmark 1921 African-American musical Shuffle Along alongside the story of the behind-the-scenes saga that led the songwriting team of Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake and librettists F.E. Miller and Aubrey Lyles to create this groundbreaking work. George C. Wolfe directs and writes a new book for the production, which features choreography by Savion Glover.
The cast is led by Tony winners Audra McDonald (Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill), Brian Stokes Mitchell (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown), and Billy Porter (Kinky Boots), as well as Tony nominees Brandon Victor Dixon (Motown the Musical), and Joshua Henry (Violet).
The production features music supervision, arrangements, and orchestrations by Daryl Waters, scenic design by Santo Loquasto, costume design by Ann Roth, lighting design by Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer, and sound design by Scott Lehrer. Shelton Becton is musical director.