Season to feature ‘Broadway in Black,’ ‘Ruby,’ ‘Pipeline,’ and ‘Smokey Joe’s Café,’ plus holiday offering, ‘Black Nativity’

SARASOTA, FL – Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (WBTT) has announced its 21st anniversary 2020-2021 season. In addition to four regular-season shows, the schedule includes a special holiday show, available outside of the subscription. Running from October 7, 2020 through June 6, 2021, the regular season shows are “Broadway in Black,” “Ruby,” “Pipeline” and “Smokey Joe’s Café.” The holiday show is “Black Nativity.”

“We are excited to showcase the journeys of African-American artists, producers and directors to Broadway, the recognized pinnacle of professional theater productions,” said WBTT Founder and Artistic Director Nate Jacobs. “Originally shut out of 'The Great White Way,' black performers and artists surprised audiences and producers when they created popular and financially successful Broadway productions, often without support of traditional producers. Once integrated audiences were allowed, these productions also helped create more diverse audiences for Broadway – just as we endeavor to do here locally!”

WBTT opens the subscription season with “Broadway in Black.” Broadway musicals have charmed the world for decades. WBTT salutes that genre with an original revue by Nate Jacobs – who will direct – first presented in the summer of 2017. Sing along with your favorite songs from award-winning shows and breakthrough roles that helped launch the careers of such African-American artists as Melba Moore in “Purlie,” Ben Vereen in “Pippin,” Jennifer Holliday in “Dreamgirls,” and Nell Carter in “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” It’s Broadway, WBTT style! Jacobs will direct. Show runs October 7 – November 22, 2020.

Next up in the regular season lineup is “Ruby,” a world-premiere new musical. It tells the story of the 1952 murder in Florida of a white doctor by a black woman, guaranteeing a conviction for the woman bold enough to commit such a shocking crime and bringing celebrated writer Zora Neale Hurston to town to cover the story for a northern newspaper. This powerful and haunting musical, written by Jacobs – who will also direct – with collaborators Michael Jacobs and composer/lyricist Darin Atwater, explores the secrets just beneath the surface of the idyllic, genteel exterior of a quaint Florida town, evoking the themes of today’s #MeToo movement. (This production was originally scheduled for the 2019-2020 season but the show was canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak.) Runs January 6 – February 21, 2021.

The season continues with “Pipeline,” by Dominique Morriseau. Nya, a dedicated inner-city public high school teacher, is desperate to give her only son, Omari, opportunities her students will never have. When a controversial incident at his private school threatens to get him expelled, Nya must confront his rage and her own choices as a parent. Pipeline is an unforgettable story of a mother’s fight to give her son a future – without turning her back on their community. Runs March 3 – April 11, 2021.

“Smokey Joe’s Cafe: The Songs of Leiber and Stoller,” the Grammy Award-winning and Tony Award-nominated smash, celebrates the music of the legendary songwriting duo who penned hit after hit for icons like Elvis Presley, Ben E. King, the Coasters and the Drifters. The show’s 40 show-stopping classics include “On Broadway,” “Stand by Me,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Hound Dog,” “Love Potion No. 9,” “Spanish Harlem,” “Yakety Yak” and “Charlie Brown.” Jacobs will direct. Runs April 21 – June 6, 2021.

During the holiday season—back by popular demand—WBTT presents Langston Hughes’ “Black Nativity.” This production is a celebration of the Nativity story with gospel, blues, spiritual, and Christmas music, paired with the poetry of Langston Hughes and the creativity of WBTT. Children and adults alike will be enthralled by this high-energy, inspiring show. “Black Nativity” is not included in the subscription series. Jacobs will direct. Show runs December 2-27, 2020.

“Our mission is to promote and celebrate the African-American experience and, as the only professional African-American theater in the region, we take our responsibilities very seriously,” said WBTT Executive Director Julie Leach. “We hope this season will help to facilitate a greater awareness of African-American contributions to the catalog of American theater as well as an understanding of the challenging journey for inclusion, recognition and financial support.”

Renewal forms will be mailed to current subscribers in June 2020. New subscribers and individual ticket sales begin in September. Subscriptions will be processed in the order that they are received; best seats available will be assigned for the dates requested, and priority will be given to season sponsors who contribute $2,500 or more.