Opening Date: Oct 25, 2019
Closing Date: Nov 23, 2019
Air date: July 20 - Aug 16, 2020
Where to watch: Transport Group
A Black family grapples with decades of inequality, violence, and suppression in the South. This unique musical, spanning nearly half a century and three generations, asks audiences to contemplate the cycle of violence in this country and how we will find hope and create change against the backdrop of hate that plagues America.
Broadbend, Arkansas is divided into two parts, “Just One Q” set in 1961, and “Ruby” set in 1988. Part I was originally commissioned, developed, and presented by Premieres in NYC under the artistic direction of Paulette Haupt. Part II was commissioned and developed by The Public Theater in NYC under artistic director Oskar Eustis and executive director Patrick Willingham.
Composer Ted Shen’s journey to being a musical theatre composer is an unusual one. Shen studied jazz music in high school, and went on to work in the business sector for 30 years before “retiring” in 1999 to re-dedicate his life to music. In 1994, he formed The Shen Family Foundation “as a vehicle for family charitable giving.” The foundation initially provided funding for arts and educational not-for-profits, before shifting in 2002 to focus specifically on “the works of exceptionally gifted and highly original musical theater composers.” Through the The Ted & Mary Jo Shen Charitable Gift Fund, the foundation has provided funding for 35 works by Stephen Sondheim, and 75 productions of works by a range of contemporary composers including Michael John LaChiusa, Adam Guettel, and Jeanine Tesori. Filmed live musicals supported by the fund include The Light in the Piazza, South Pacific (2008), Company (2011), Sweeney Todd (2014), The King and I (2015), and Falsettos (2016).
Ellen Fitzhugh, lyricist for Part I, was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lyrics and a Tony Award for Best Original Score for her work on the short-lived 1985 Broadway musical Grind. Her other works include Paper Moon, Herringbone, Don Juan de Marco, and Paradise Found. Fitzhugh also contributed lyrics to the 1986 animation The Great Mouse Detective. She is a member and advisor of the BMI Lehmen Engel Theatre Workshop.
Harrison David Rivers, lyricist for Part II, is a prolific and multi-award winning playwright. Other recent works include This Bitter Earth, Five Points, Look Upon Our Lowliness, The Bandaged Place, To Let Go and Fall, and Where Storms are Born.
Directed by Jack Cummings III, Broadbend, Arkansas received a full production through Transport Group at the off-Broadway theater Duke on 42nd Street in November, 2019.
Critics were divided over the effectiveness of the musical. Reviewer David Finkle stated “What distinguishes Broadbend, Arkansas… is its trenchant handling of one of today’s most pressing and most visible headline grabbers: racism.” Meanwhile, Laura Collins-Hughes, writing for The New York Times, described the musical as “ill-conceived” and TheaterMania’s David Gordon felt that Part II was significantly stronger in its story-telling.
Danyel Fulton received universal praise for her compelling performance as single mother Ruby.
Harrison David Rivers was nominated for Broadway Black’s Antonyo Award Best Book of a Musical, and received a Times Square Chronicles citation for Best New Off-Broadway Musical and Outstanding Book of a Musical.
Through their Next Up lab, Minnesotan company Latté Da is slated to further develop Broadbend, Arkansas in 2022 with Harrison David Rivers writing a new third part.
The Transport Group production of Broadbend, Arkansas was filmed live by Suspension Productions under the direction of Joe Locarro on November 21, 2019.
Starting July 20th, and available for 4 weeks, you can stream BROADBEND, ARKANSAS produced in association with @PublicTheaterNY! In lieu of a ticket fee, we encourage you to make a donation to @BlackTheatreNet https://t.co/B44gKgKz3Z pic.twitter.com/x8GszIgMiB— Transport Group (@TransportGrp) July 15, 2020
The filmed live production included an introduction by Tony Award winner Chuck Cooper.
Broadbend, Arkansas was available to view from July 20 - Aug 16, 2020 via the Transport Group.
According to the Transport Group, the stream was able to provide financial support to 30 artists of the original production, and was watched by nearly 3000 people in 45 states, and 21 countries.
Broadbend, Arkansas is not currently available to view.
Theatre: Duke on 42nd Street
Producer: Transport Group (Jack Cummings III, Lori Fineman), Public Theater (Oskar Eustis, Patrick Willingham)
Book and Lyrics: Ellen Fitzhugh (Act I), Harrison David Rivers (Act II)
Music: Ted Shen (and Act II additional lyrics)
Director: Jack Cummings III Film: Joe Locarro
Musical Director: Deborah Abramson
Orchestrations: Michael Starobin
Scenic Consultant: Dane Laffrey
Costume Design: Peiyi Wong
Lighting Design: Jen Schriever
Sound Design: Walter Trarbach
Stage Manager: Jason Hindelang
Video Production: Suspension Productions East
Deborah Abramson (Piano/Conductor)
Sylvia D’Avanzo (Violin)
Randy Landau (Bass)
Steve Lyon (Reed 1)
Tom Murray (Reed 2)
Carolyn Regula (Cello)
- BWW News Desk, “Photo Flash: Transport Group Celebrates Opening Night of BROADBEND, ARKANSAS,” Broadway World (Nov 11, 2019)
- Olivia Clement, “Off-Broadway Staging of Broadbend, Arkansas Streams Online July 20,” Playbill (July 20, 2020)
- Laura Collins-Hughes, “Review: ‘Broadbend, Arkansas,’ Tangled in Its Own Tale,” New York Times (Nov 13, 2019)
- Pamela Espeland, “Latté Da streaming part of new musical, ‘Broadbend, Arkansas’,” MinnPost, July 22, 2020
- David Finkle, “BROADBEND, ARKANSAS: INSPIRED MUSICAL LOOK AT RACISM’S TOLL,” New York Stage Review (Nov 10, 2019)
- Elysa Gardner, “BROADBEND, ARKANSAS: A FAMILY’S AFRICAN-AMERICAN DREAMS, AND STRUGGLES,” New York Stage Review (Nov 10, 2019)
- David Gordon, “A Musical Theater Philanthropist Turns Composer in Wishy-Washy Broadbend, Arkansas,” TheaterMania (Nov 10, 2019)
- Charles Isherwood, “Another Shot at Love (Stop if You’ve Heard This),” New York Times (March 30, 2014)
- Kenneth Jones, “Lapine, Finn and Fitzhugh's Muscle to Be Flexed in Chicago, June 2001,” Playbill (May 25, 2001)
- Ted Shen, “Firsthand: Ted Shen, Author of A Second Chance at The Public Theater,” TheaterMania (March 18, 2014)
- Dramatic Publishing, “Ted Shen,” Accessed via: https://www.dramaticpublishing.com/authors/profile/view/url/ted-shen
- Harrison David Rivers, “About,” Accessed via: http://www.harrisondavidrivers.com/about
- Latté Da, Accessed via: http://www.latteda.org/
- Playbill, “Grind,” Accessed via: https://www.playbill.com/production/grind-mark-hellinger-theatre-vault-0000005778
- The Shen Family Foundation, “About the Foundation,” Accessed via: http://shenfamilyfoundation.org/about.html
- Transport Group, “Broadbend, Arkansas,” Accessed via: http://transportgroup.org/project/broadbend-arkansas/