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Jigs and Juba reunited in NYC +

A new African-Irish musical based on immigrants in New York could rival Hamilton’s Broadway success, writes Julian Brouwer

by Julian Brouwer
July 18, 2021

This week saw the Broadway musical Hamilton muscle its way up the Emmys list, scooping 12 nominations for the live-streamed version of the stage performance. The show has grossed over $612m to date and also won 11 gongs at the 70th Tony Awards. The musical, it seems, is back with a bang and the hunt is on for the next extravaganza.

Step up Paradise Square, which will be one of the most anticipated stage musicals to make it to Broadway since the pandemic began.

The new musical tells the story of how Irish immigrants fled the horrors of the Famine and settled in New York in the mid-1800s, living side by side with Black Americans in a racial powder keg, a slum called Five Points. The same area in downtown Manhattan was immortalised in Martin Scorsese’s 2002 film Gangs of New York.

Set mainly in a dance hall, the show traces the mix of African and Irish traditions that contributed to the development of tap as a dance form. According to the producers, it depicts a multiracial community “bound together by misery and music.”

Through their shared cultures, expressed in dance contests at local dance halls, tap dancing – a combination of Juba dance and Irish step dancing – evolved.

The action takes place in 1863 when the communities living in Five Points were disrupted by class, race, and economic tensions associated with the Civil War, and which eventually led to the New York City draft riots.

The idea for the show originated with Wexford-born musician Larry Kirwan, who was for 25 years the lead singer with Irish-American band Black 47.

He says he drew inspiration from stories his Irish grandfather told him about Five Points and its thriving dance halls.

Kirwan, who lives in New York, says: “Paradise Square is about two brutalised peoples, Irish and African American, one fleeing famine, and one fleeing slavery, who meet in the Five Points.

“They bond with each other through dance music. [After the African Americans first settled in Five Points], you got this big swarm of Irish immigrants who joined them in 1845 because of the Great Hunger.

“There are definitely parallels with Hamilton. Both deal with race and immigration, which are huge topics in America. Both are historical and musical. In Paradise Square, two groups of people get together and created a new society and it can happen again.

“At that time the Irish were actually lower on the social ladder than the African Americans. Many of the African Americans and the Irish intermarried and became what was known then as Amalgamationists.

“I used to read old books about the era. I would see pictures of Irish fiddlers playing Irish jigs, while the African Americans played with them. They were coming up with a new music. I began to look at pictures of the dancers – it was always the same – a Black man and an Irish woman. The look of joy in their faces beamed across the years. There was something special between them. The harmony between Irish and Blacks would only last 18 years until the Draft Riots claimed the lives of a dozen black people, who were lynched.

“Some of them stayed in New York but gradually it wasn’t cool any more to be an Amalgamationist,” says Kirwan. “It was dangerous to be one. The movement, such as it was, faded away.”

The writing team on the production includes Kirwan and veteran playwrights Christina Anderson, Marcus Gardley and Craig Lucas.

They are working on rearranged and re-lyricised songs of 19th-century composer Stephen Foster, who spent the final months of his life in Five Points. Direction is by Moisés Kaufman, who is also directing Seven Deadly Sins this summer.

The production will star Tony nominee Joaquina Kalukango – who is best known for another Broadway show The Color Purple – as lead character Nelly Freeman, and Chilina Kennedy.

The show also represents a comeback bid by the controversial producer Garth Drabinsky, who won three Tony Awards in the 1990s, including for Kiss of the Spider Woman.

“The public will tell me whether this is a comeback – I can’t predict anything – but I am certainly exhilarated,” he said. “I’m just thrilled to be back where I always longed to be, and doing what I always longed to do, which is to creatively produce theatre.

“Listening to this music I know is 150 years old and sounds like it was recorded yesterday, I got really excited about it.”

Kaufman said the show is particularly timely, as America grapples with its attitudes toward immigration and race.

“I’m fascinated by how we can discover the ideologies which we live under, so this was perfect for me,” he said.

“Five Points seemed like a really interesting social experiment. It wasn’t an ideological utopia – they were there because they could only afford to be there – and yet they were doing this thing that we all say we’re interested in doing, and it interests me to think about why it blew up.”

‘Paradise Square’ will open at Broadway’s Barrymore Theatre next February, after a test run at Chicago’s James M Nederlander Theatre

Ceol na nGael: Interview with Larry Kirwan +

Ceol na nGael
June 13, 2021

Patrick Breen: We just found out some very exciting news about your musical Paradise Square, which is set to open on Broadway next winter. So, could you tell us a little bit about this new show?

Larry Kirwan: Well, it began as a musical called Hard Times, and it ran at the cell theater on Twenty Third Street back in 2012 and 2013. It got a great review in The New York Times. A person who has become a friend later, Peter LeDonne, who is a theater producer, came to see it and he put me in touch with a famous producer called Garth Drabinsky in Toronto. And I went up and worked on it for Garth for quite a while and we brought in a lot of other people to work on it: Bill T. Jones, the choreographer; Moisés Kaufman, the director; Jason Howland, the musical writer and arranger; and Nathan Tysen, who is a lyricist. So we all got in and raised our sleeves up and worked on it for years and did a lot of workshops of it up in Toronto. And then we changed the name of it to Paradise Square, because that was a part of the Five Points.

The story is basically about the Irish people who came over fleeing the Great Hunger between 1845 and 1850. And they landed in a place called the Five Points, which was a free African American area down around where the courthouses are below Chinatown right now. And the young women, especially young Irish women, because the social order had broken down in Ireland during the famine...when they arrived here, they started to go to the African American dance halls and they became friendly with young African American men and many of them married because there was a shortage of Irish men, and a shortage of African American women. And they had families and they were called amalgamationists. And I became fascinated with that group and wanted to write the story of a Black woman, Nellie, who runs a dance hall down there and how she deals with this whole new society. She has an Irish husband, and everything was going fine, until during the Civil War, the Draft Riots broke out on July 13, 1863. And there were riots and African Americans were hung. And the amalgamationists, basically many of them melted back into the Black communities. And so, their story disappeared. But I had heard of it from my grandfather, who I grew up with in Wexford. He was an old man and he raised me, and he had friends who went to the Five Points, and he told me about the beginnings of it.

And then one day in the Strand Bookstore, I came across a book of the dancers in an African American dance hall, and it was Irish women, Black men, and the look of joy on their faces just transported me across the years. And I decided to write a play about a dance hall and how the amalgamationists hung out there. And the one piece of music that I felt that both the Irish and the African Americans would know at that point were the songs of Stephen Foster. And I was already familiar with many of those. And so, we adapted a lot of Stephen Foster songs and then wrote new songs to try flesh out the action. And now it's called Paradise Square. It opens again in Chicago in November and then moves to Broadway in February, and that's the story.

Patrick Breen: Well, that sounds so exciting. You mentioned the dance hall and the various dancing that inspired you to write this story. Maggie and I are both Irish dancers, and I know we're both fascinated, and we talk about it on the show all the time about ceilidhs, and the importance of that in our families. I'm sure many in your family, Maggie, met through ceilidhs. I know that my mom and dad met through a ceilidh. So what kind of research went into that and how did the dance aspect of it inspire you to write this story?

Larry Kirwan: Well, odd that you mentioned ceilidh, because when I was about 15, I went to a place called Baylon Guiora in County Cork, and every night there was a ceilidh. And I learned ceilidh dancing for the first time in Wexford, which was kind of a rock and roll town. But I learned to love the ceilidh dancing - I wasn't that much good at it, but the Walls of Limerick and those simple dances. And so, I had a familiarity with it. But I also researched where tap dancing came from and it was a mixture of Irish step dancing and African sway. And Master Juba was the great dancer of his day. I can't remember the name of the Irish champion, except his name is Irish Mike. And they had great battles and people would bet money on each of them. But they became friends and they realized they were the only ones not making money. So they began to throw the dances. They would bet on the one that they said was going to win that day. So right from the start, there was trickery going on. But how the whole thing came around was the Irish guy would come out first, say he would be chosen to flip a coin and he would do all these great steps. And then the African American guy would come out. And what he was allowed to do was imitate the Irish guy with his steps, but then show how better his steps were. And then the Irish guy was allowed to come back out and do the same thing. So gradually, by imitating each other, they were coming up with step dancing or with tap dancing all the time. And that's a big part of it. And you probably know the group Hammerstep.

Patrick Breen: I do, yep.

Larry Kirwan: Those guys are doing the choreography of the Irish step dancing and they're working hand in hand with Bill T. Jones, who's always my favorite choreographer and dancer. And then I'm married to a choreographer myself, so I had it in the background.

Maggie Peknic: All my cousins are Irish dancers too, so we would love to do dance battles. I'm not sure if they were as good, though, as the ones you just mentioned. My cousins, we all love Broadway. We go all the time. But I know given the pandemic, it had to be put on hold. So what type of impact did Covid-19 and the pandemic specifically have on Paradise Square?

Larry Kirwan: Well, we had a big hit with it at Berkeley Rep in 2018-2019 and it ran for ten weeks out there. It got extended twice. But we had to stop because there was another show coming in. And then we were planning on bringing it to Broadway soon after that but everything froze at that point. And, you know, it's just one of those things you've got to swing with. The dancing was ferocious in Paradise Square. Those Hammerstep guys, when they get going and then Bill T. Jones is a monster, you know what he was getting the people to do and pushing them. So, I think in many ways it didn't hurt for everyone to take a bit of a break. It was fiery because the action takes place in dance battles between Irish and African Americans. And then so rather than having violence in there all the time, it takes place through dance steps. It's great seeing Irish dance being taken to the fullest limit and going up against some of this amazing Broadway dancing that's out there at this point that many of the African Americans were well versed in, but also what Bill T. Jones and his researchers did by going back and finding out how that music and how to dance came from Africa and how the Irish dance came from Ireland, and oddly enough, it wasn't the stiff, hands down by the side style. It was the Sean Nos Irish dancing where they were actually moving. At first, we were doing the stiff type thing. But then I happened upon Sean Nos by accident one day and took it in and said, hey, you know, the Irish were moving their arms too, at this point. And from that point on, the dancing got wilder.

Patrick Breen: Well, it's a bit like West Side Story, those sort of dance battles and fighting through dance. And this is really piquing my interest now. Boy, I can't wait to see this.

The first entirely new Broadway show since the start of the pandemic will be about 19th century New York +

By Anna Rahmanan
June 9, 2021

While New Yorkers gear up to return to Broadway and catch all the shows that had to suddenly close in response to the COVID-19 pandemic back in March (here are all the ones you can already buy tickets for), an entirely new production is now demanding our attention. Exploring race relations in 19th century New York, Paradise Square is a new musical set to open on the Great White Way next winter, effectively becoming the very first unscheduled show since the pandemic to announce an opening date.

As of now, previews are set to begin on February 22 at the Ethel Barrymore Theater on West 47th Street. The show will then open on March 20.

More details about the plot: Set in 1863, smack-dab in the middle of the Civil War, the musical focuses on Lower Manhattan's Five Points neighborhood, where free Black and Irish immigrants live together. As much an exploration of the history of dance halls as it is about racial relations, the show's epicenter is Paradise Square, a local saloon owned by a Black woman named Nelly Freeman.

"With visceral and nuanced staging and choreography that captures the pulsating energy when Black and Irish cultures meet and set to a contemporary score that reimagines early American song, Paradise Square depicts an overlooked true-life moment when hope and possibility shone bright," reads the show's official description.

Slave Play star and current Tony Award nominee Joaquina Kalukango will play Freeman in a cast that includes Sidney DuPont, Chilina Kennedy and Nathaniel Stampley, among others. Moisés Kaufman will serve as the production's director, Garth Drabinsky will produce and Jason Howland and Nathan Tysen are responsible for the show's score.

Ready or not, Broadway is plotting a huge comeback—and we're giddy with excitement at the mere thought of it.

New Musical About 19th-Century New York Plans Broadway Run +

By Michael Paulson
June 7, 2021

“Paradise Square,” a new musical that explores race relations in 19th-century New York, plans to open on Broadway next winter, making it the first previously unscheduled musical to step forward since the pandemic began.

The show, which has been reworked and in development for a decade, is about a long-gone slum in Lower Manhattan, Five Points, where, during the run-up to the Civil War, free Black residents and Irish immigrants coexisted until the draft riots of 1863.

Not only about the history of New York City, the musical is also about the history of music and dance. It features songs by Stephen Foster, a prominent 19th-century American songwriter who spent time toward the end of his life in Five Points, and it credits the Five Points community with a role in the origins of tap dance. (Tap is an American dance form that is generally understood to have roots in the British Isles and Africa; it has a complex and murky history, but the dancing cellars of the Five Points were an important site of development for the form.)

“Paradise Square” a comeback bid by storied Canadian producer, Garth Drabinsky, is to star Joaquina Kalukango, a Tony nominee for “Slave Play,” as the proprietor of the saloon in which much of the action takes place. Other cast members include Chilina Kennedy (“Beautiful”), John Dossett (a Tony nominee for “Gypsy”), Sidney DuPont (“Beautiful”), A.J. Shively (“Bright Star”), Nathaniel Stampley (“The Color Purple”), Gabrielle McClinton (“Pippin”), Jacob Fishel (“Fiddler on the Roof”) and Kevin Dennis.

The Broadway run is scheduled to begin previews Feb. 22 and to open March 20 at the Ethel Barrymore Theater.

The show has a complex production history and an evolving creative team, led by the director Moisés Kaufman (best known as the creator of “The Laramie Project”) and the choreographer Bill T. Jones (a two-time Tony winner, for “Fela!” and “Spring Awakening”). It is based on a musical called “Hard Times,” which was conceived by Larry Kirwan, the lead singer of Black 47, and staged at the Cell Theater in 2012. Then, as “Paradise Square,” it had a production at Berkeley Repertory Theater in 2019, and this fall, before transferring to Broadway, it is scheduled to have a five-week run at the James M. Nederlander Theater in Chicago.

The book is now credited to four writers: Kirwan and three playwrights, Christina Anderson, Marcus Gardley and Craig Lucas. The score, which includes original songs as well as some attributed to Foster, now has three writers: Jason Howland, Nathan Tysen and Masi Asare.

Kaufman said the interruption of the pandemic provided the creative team “an opportunity to think.”

“At Berkeley we learned that our story is epic, but we needed to continue focusing on our individual characters,” he said. “And that’s the work that’s occurred.”

Garth Drabinsky-Produced ‘Paradise Square’ Announces 2022 Broadway Opening +

By Greg Evans
June 7, 2021

Paradise Square, the original musical from a creative team that includes Moisés Kaufman, Bill T. Jones, Craig Lucas and Black 47 singer Larry Kirwan, will begin Broadway previews at the Shubert Organization’s Barrymore Theatre on February 22, 2022, with an opening night set for Sunday, March 20.

Producer Garth H. Drabinsky announced the dates today, along with the new casting of Joaquina Kalukango, currently Tony-nominated for her performance in Slave Play.

As previously reported, the production will arrive on Broadway directly from a five-week Chicago engagement.

The musical’s creative team includes director Moisés Kaufman and choreographer Bill T. Jones, with a book by Christina Anderson, Marcus Gardley, Craig Lucas and Larry Kirwan. Graciela Daniele will provide musical staging, in collaboration with Kaufman and Jones.

The score of Paradise Square is by Jason Howland and Nathan Tysen, with additional material provided by Masi Asare and Kirwan. The musical features original songs as well as reimaginings of the songs of Stephen Foster.

Set in New York City’s Five Points neighborhood of 1863, Paradise Square chronicles the raucous dance contests between the area’s Irish and Black communities, and a racial equilibrium that came to a brutal end with the deadly NY Draft Riots.

The musical will mark the return to Broadway of the once ubiquitous Canadian theater producer Drabinsky. At his peak in the 1990s, Drabinsky produced such Broadway hits as Kiss of the Spider Woman, Show Boat, Ragtime and Fosse. Drabinsky is teamed on Paradise Square with longtime colleague Peter LeDonne, who co-produces.

Kalukango, best known for her role as Kaneisha in Jeremy O. Harris’ Slave Play, also appeared on Broadway in The Color Purpl, Holler If Ya Hear Me and Godspell. Her film and television credits include Amazon’s “One Night in Miami,” HBO’s “Lovecraft Country” and the Netflix series “When They See Us.”

Paradise Square will also feature Chilina Kennedy, John Dossett, Sidney DuPont, A.J. Shively, Nathaniel Stampley, Gabrielle McClinton, Jacob Fishel and Kevin Dennis.

Paradise Square’ Broadway Musical to Star Joaquina Kalukango +

By Etan Vlessing
June 7, 2021

Tony Award nominee Joaquina Kalukango will lead the cast for the new Broadway musical Paradise Square, to open on March 20, 2022 at the Barrymore Theatre.

Former Livent co-founder Garth Drabinsky will produce the first new musical unveiled for Broadway since the pandemic. Set in 1863 New York City amid the Civil War, Paradise Square portrays Irish immigrants and free-born Black Americans living in co-existence in the unlikeliest of neighborhoods.

The musical is based on Hard Times, conceived by Larry Kirwan, which originally ran off-Broadway in 2012. Kalukango is a 2020 Tony Award nominee for best lead actress for her role as Kaneisha in Slave Play.

She has also starred on Broadway in The Color Purple, Holler If Ya Hear Me and Godspell. Her film and TV credits include the role of Betty X in Amazon’s “One Night in Miami” and star turns in HBO’s “Lovecraft Country” and the Netflix series “When They See Us.”

Paradise Square will also star Chilina Kennedy, John Dossett, Sidney DuPont and A.J. Shively.

The creative team for Paradise Square includes a score by Jason Howland and Nathan Tysen, and direction by Moisés Kaufman and choreography by Bill T. Jones.

Chicago’s Pre-Broadway ‘Paradise Square’ sets cast +

By Chris Jones
June 7, 2021

The Tony nominee Joaquina Kalukango (“Slave Play”) and the Canadian musical-theater star Chilina Kennedy (“Beautiful”) are to star in “Paradise Square,” the Garth Drabinsky musical trying out this fall in Chicago and then headed to Broadway.

The Canadian producer is returning to downtown Chicago’s James M. Nederlander Theatre (formerly the Oriental Theatre), which he restored and where he staged lavish productions of both “Showboat” and “Ragtime.”

“Paradise Square,” which will run between Nov. 2 and Dec. 5 in Chicago before a planned Broadway opening of March 20, tells the story of Manhattan’s Five Points neighborhood in the mid-19th century and posits that the impoverished area supported an integrated community of Black Americans and Irish immigrants.

Other leading performers in the cast include Tony Award nominee John Dossett, Sidney DuPont, A.J. Shively, Nathaniel Stampley, Gabrielle McClinton, Jacob Fishel and Kevin Dennis.

Direction is by Moisés Kaufman (“I Am My Own Wife,”), choreography by Bill T. Jones (”Spring Awakening”), and the multi-author book is from Christina Anderson, Marcus Gardley, Craig Lucas and Larry Kirwan. The longtime Drabinsky collaborator Graciela Daniele (“Ragtime”) will provide musical staging, in collaboration with Kaufman and Jones.

The musical features original songs and musical material by Jason Howland, Nathan Tyson and Masi Asare, as well as using some of the songs of Stephen Foster, who was writing and living in the Five Points during the era of the show.

Chicago cast announced for ‘Paradise Square’ pre-Broadway run +

By Miriam Di Nunzio
June 7, 2021

The cast for the Broadway-bound musical “Paradise Square,” which will receive its pre-Broadway run in Chicago this fall, was announced Monday.

Tony Award nominee Joaquina Kalukango and Chilina Kennedy will lead the cast for the show which will receive a five-week engagement at the James M. Nederlander Theatre (24 W. Randolph) Nov. 2-Dec. 5.

The cast will also feature John Dossett, A.J. Shively, Nathaniel Stampley, Sidney DuPont, Gabrielle McClinton, Kevin Dennis and Jacob Fishel.

Produced by Garth Drabinsky, “Paradise Square” is directed by Tony Award nominee Moisés Kaufman (“I Am My Own Wife”), with choreography by two-time Tony Award winner Bill T. Jones (“Spring Awakening,” “Fela!’), and a book by Christina Anderson Marcus Gardley, Craig Lucas and Larry Kirwan. The production features the “re-imagined” songs of Stephen Foster and original compositions, with a score by Jason Howland (“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical”), Nathan Tysen (“Tuck Everlasting”), Masi Asare (“Monsoon Wedding”) and Kirwan.

The production, which received its world premiere in 2019 at Berkeley Rep, tells the story, set in New York in 1863, about the tenement housing community of Five Points in Lower Manhattan where Irish immigrants and free-born Black Americans who had escaped slavery via the Underground Railroad co-existed and shared their cultures as the tight-knit community until the Civil War’s New York Draft Riots of 1863 violently changed everything.

“It is here in the Five Points where tap dancing was born, as Irish step dancing joyously competed with Black American Juba,” the show’s official press announcement stated.

New Musical Paradise Square Sets Broadway Dates and Theatre +

By Ryan McPhee
June 7, 2021

Following a previously announced engagement in Chicago, the new musical Paradise Square will open at Broadway’s Ethel Barrymore Theatre March 20, 2022. Previews will begin February 22.

Set in Manhattan’s Five Points neighborhood during the Civil War, the musical follows the inhabitants of a local saloon—including the Black woman who owns it, a conflicted newly arrived Irish immigrant, a runaway slave, and a once-great songwriter.

Joaquina Kalukango, a current Tony nominee for Slave Play, will take on the central role of Nelly Freeman, the saloon proprietor. The principal cast will also include Chilina Kennedy (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical), John Dossett (Gypsy), Sidney DuPont (Beautiful), A.J. Shively (Bright Star), Nathaniel Stampley (Porgy and Bess), Gabrielle McClinton (Pippin), Jacob Fishel (Fiddler on the Roof), and Kevin Dennis (Young Frankenstein in Canada).

Additional company members will include Karen Burthwright, Kennedy Caughell, Dwayne Clark, Garrett Coleman, Colin Cunliffe, Chloe Davis, Bernard Dotson, Jamal Christopher Douglas, Sam Edgerly, Shiloh Goodin, Jacobi Hall, Sean Jenness, Jay McKenzie, Ben Michael, Jason Oremus, Eilis Quinn, Sara Sheperd, Lael van Keuren, Sir Brock Warren, and Hailee Kaleem Wright, with more to be announced later.

Moisés Kaufman directs the staging, having helmed the 2018 world premiere at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Garth Drabinsky will produce, with his longtime collaborator Peter LeDonne co-producing.

Conceived by Larry Kirwan, Paradise Square features a score by Jason Howland and Nathan Tysen, with additional material by Masi Asare and Kirwan. The musical features original songs as well as a reimagining of the songs of Stephen Foster. Christina Anderson, Marcus Gardley, Craig Lucas, and Kirwan penned the book.

Also among the creative team are choreographer Bill T. Jones, musical stager Graciela Daniele, scenic designer Allen Moyer, costume designer Toni-Leslie James, lighting designer Donald Holder, sound designer Jon Weston, projection designer Wendall K. Harrington, special effects designer Gregory Meech, hair and wig designer Matthew B. Armentrout, and dramaturgs Thulani Davis and Sydné Mahone. Casting is by Stewart/Whitley.

The Chicago run will play the James M. Nederlander Theatre November 2–December 5.

Joaquina Kalukango to Lead Paradise Square on Broadway +

By Lindsey Sullivan
June 7, 2021

The new musical Paradise Square, which, as previously reported, will play Chicago's James M. Nederlander Theatre from November 2 through December 5, is officially Broadway-bound. Performances will begin at the Barrymore Theatre on February 22, 2022 with an opening night set for March 20. Director Moisés Kaufman and choreographer Bill T. Jones will return to the show, which was conceived by Larry Kirwan.

Paradise Square will star Slave Play Tony nominee Joaquina Kalukango, Chilina Kennedy, John Dossett, Sidney DuPont, A.J. Shively, Nathaniel Stampley, Gabrielle McClinton, Jacob Fishel and Kevin Dennis.

The production will also feature Karen Burthwright, Kennedy Caughell, Dwayne Clark, Garrett Coleman, Colin Cunliffe, Chloe Davis, Bernard Dotson, Jamal Christopher Douglas, Sam Edgerly, Shiloh Goodin, Jacobi Hall, Sean Jenness, Jay McKenzie, Ben Michael, Jason Oremus, Eilis Quinn, Sara Sheperd, Lael van Keuren, Sir Brock Warren and Hailee Kaleem Wright. Additional casting will be announced later.

Within this galvanizing story of racial harmony undone by a country at war with itself, audiences will meet the denizens of a local saloon called Paradise Square in this show. They include Nelly Freeman (Kalukango), the indomitable Black woman who owns it; Annie O’Brien (Kennedy), her Irish-Catholic sister-in-law and her Black minister husband, Rev. Samuel Jacob Lewis (Stampley); Owen Duignan (Shively), a conflicted newly arrived Irish immigrant; Washington Henry (DuPont), a fearless freedom seeker; Frederic Tiggens (Dossett), an anti-abolitionist political boss, and Milton Moore (Fishel), a penniless songwriter trying to capture it all. They have conflicting notions of what it means to be an American while living through one of the most tumultuous eras in our country’s history.

Paradise Square features a book co-written by Craig Lucas, Marcus Gardley, Christina Anderson and Kirwan. The music is by Jason Howland and Kirwan, with lyrics by Nathan Tysen and additional material by Masi Asare. Graciela Daniele provides the musical staging, in collaboration with Kaufman and Jones.

The creative team includes scenic designer Allen Moyer, costume designer Toni-Leslie James, lighting designer Donald Holder, sound designer Jon Weston, hair and wig designer Matthew B. Armentrout, associate choreographers Talli Jackson and Gelan Lambert and projection designer Wendall K. Harrington with special effects by Gregory Meeh. Irish and Hammerstep choreography is by Garrett Coleman and Jason Oremus.

The world premiere of Paradise Square was produced in January 2019 by Berkeley Repertory Theatre. The musical is based on Hard Times, conceived by Kirwan, which was originally presented off-Broadway in 2012. The musical is being produced on Broadway by Tony winner Garth Drabinsky.

Cast Announced for Paradise Square on Broadway, Marking Return of Producer Garth Drabinsky +

By David Gordon
June 7, 2021

Casting has been announced for the Broadway premiere of the new musical Paradise Square, which will run at the Barrymore Theatre beginning February 22, 2022. It will open on Sunday, March 20, 2022.

The show is produced by Garth H. Drabinsky, the Tony-winning producer behind Kiss of the Spider Woman.

The cast will be headed by Joaquina Kalukango, Chilina Kennedy, John Dossett, Sidney DuPont, A.J. Shively, Nathaniel Stampley, Gabrielle McClinton, Jacob Fishel, and Kevin Dennis. In the ensemble are Karen Burthwright, Kennedy Caughell, Dwayne Clark, Garrett Coleman, Colin Cunliffe, Chloe Davis, Bernard Dotson, Jamal Christopher Douglas, Sam Edgerly, Shiloh Goodin, Jacobi Hall, Sean Jenness, Jay McKenzie, Ben Michael, Jason Oremus, Eilis Quinn, Sara Sheperd, Lael van Keuren, Sir Brock Warren, and Hailee Kaleem Wright. Additional casting will be announced shortly.

Paradise Square is set in the Five Points neighborhood of New York City circa 1863 and is about a community of poor Irish immigrants and free Blacks who survive the war years and Draft Riots with raucous dance contests in neighborhood bars and dance halls. "It is here in the Five Points where tap dancing was born, as Irish step dancing joyously competed with Black American Juba," according to a press statement.

The book is a collaboration by Christina Anderson (Good Goods), Marcus Gardley (The House That Will Not Stand), Craig Lucas (The Light in the Piazza), and Larry Kirwan (lead singer of Black 47). The score of Paradise Square is by composer Jason Howland (who did the arrangements for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical) and lyricist Nathan Tysen (Tuck Everlasting). Additional material is provided by Masi Asare (Monsoon Wedding) and Larry Kirwan. The musical features original songs as well as a reimagining of the songs of Stephen Foster ("Camptown Races"), who was writing and living in the Five Points at the time.

Moisés Kaufman (The Laramie Project) directs, with choreography by two-time Tony Award winner Bill T. Jones (Spring Awakening, Fela!). Ten-time Tony Award nominee Graciela Daniele (Ragtime, Once on This Island) will provide musical staging, in collaboration with Kaufman and Jones. The production will have scenic design by Allen Moyer, costume design by Toni-Leslie James, lighting design by Donald Holder, and sound design by Jon Weston. Dramaturgy is by Thulani Davis and Sydné Mahone. Projection design is by Wendall K. Harrington. Special effects are by Gregory Meeh. Hair and wig design is by Matthew B. Armentrout. Associate choreographers are Talli Jackson and Gelan Lambert. Irish and Hammerstep choreography is by Garrett Coleman and Jason Oremus. Anne Allan is Associate Producer and Senior Resident Director. Zachary Florence is Associate Producer. Jeff Chrzczon is General Manager. Casting is by Stewart/Whitley, CSA.

Chicago's James M. Nederlander Theatre will host the pre-Broadway run, November 2-December 5.

Joaquina Kalukango Will Star in PARADISE SQUARE Opening on Broadway March 20 +

By Stephi Wild
June 7, 2021

Casting and performance dates have been announced for the Broadway run of Paradise Square, which will open on Broadway on Sunday, March 20, 2022 at The Shubert Organization's Barrymore Theatre.

Tony Award nominee Joaquina Kalukango (Slave Play, One Night in Miami), will lead the cast of the new musical. The production will come to Broadway directly following a five-week engagement (November 2-December 5, 2021) at Chicago's James M. Nederlander Theatre (24 West Randolph Street).

The musical arrives with Tony winner Garth H. Drabinsky attached as producer.

Ms. Kalukango is a 2020 Tony Award nominee for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play for her role as Kaneisha in Slave Play. She has also starred on Broadway in The Color Purple, Holler If Ya Hear Me and Godspell. Her film and television credits include the role of Betty X in Amazon's One Night in Miami (SAG Award nomination, Cast in a Motion Picture), HBO's "Lovecraft Country" and the Netflix series, "When They See Us."

Paradise Square will also star Chilina Kennedy (over 1200 performances in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical on Broadway; International tour of The Band's Visit), Tony Award nominee John Dossett (Broadway's Pippin, Newsies, Gypsy, Ragtime), Sidney DuPont (Broadway's Beautiful: The Carole King Musical; National tours of Memphis, A Chorus Line), A.J. Shively (Broadway's La Cage aux Folles, Bright Star), Nathaniel Stampley (Broadway's The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, The Color Purple), Gabrielle McClinton (Broadway's Pippin, Chicago), Jacob Fishel (Broadway's Fiddler on the Roof), and Kevin Dennis (Canadian productions of Young Frankenstein, Assassins).

The creative team for Paradise Square features direction by two-time Tony Award nominee Moisés Kaufman (I Am My Own Wife, The Laramie Project), choreography by two-time Tony Award winner Bill T. Jones (Spring Awakening, Fela!), and a book by Christina Anderson (Good Goods, Inked Baby), Marcus Gardley (The House That Will Not Stand), Craig Lucas (The Light in the Piazza) and Larry Kirwan (lead singer of Black 47). Ten-time Tony Award nominee Graciela Daniele (Ragtime, Once on This Island) will provide musical staging, in collaboration with Kaufman and Jones.

The score of Paradise Square is by the team of Grammy and Emmy Award winner Jason Howland (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Little Women - The Musical) and Nathan Tysen (Amélie, Tuck Everlasting), with additional material provided by Masi Asare (Monsoon Wedding, The Family Resemblance) and Mr. Kirwan. The musical features original songs as well as a reimagining of the songs of Stephen Foster, who was writing and living in the Five Points at the time.

Paradise Square is produced by Garth H. Drabinsky (Kiss of the Spider Woman (Tony Award, Best Musical), Show Boat (Tony Award, Best Revival of a Musical), Ragtime, Fosse (Tony Award, Best Musical), Parade). Mr. Drabinsky's longtime colleague, documentary filmmaker Peter LeDonne (the Academy Award-nominated Curtain Call and Sister Rose's Passion) is co-producing.

The production will also feature Karen Burthwright, Kennedy Caughell, Dwayne Clark, Garrett Coleman, Colin Cunliffe, Chloe Davis, Bernard Dotson, Jamal Christopher Douglas, Sam Edgerly, Shiloh Goodin, Jacobi Hall, Sean Jenness, Jay McKenzie, Ben Michael, Jason Oremus, Eilis Quinn, Sara Sheperd, Lael Van Keuren, Sir Brock Warren and Hailee Kaleem Wright. Additional casting will be announced shortly.

The multi-award-winning creative team features scenic design by Allen Moyer, costume design by Toni-Leslie James, lighting design by Donald Holder, and sound design by Jon Weston. Dramaturgy is by Thulani Davis and Sydné Mahone. Projection design is by Wendall K. Harrington. Special effects are by Gregory Meeh. Hair and wig design is by Matthew B. Armentrout. Associate choreographers are Talli Jackson and Gelan Lambert. Irish and Hammerstep choreography is by Garrett Coleman and Jason Oremus. Anne Allan is Associate Producer and Senior Resident Director. Zachary Florence is Associate Producer. Jeff Chrzczon is General Manager. Casting is by Stewart/Whitley, CSA.

New Musical About 19th Century New York Plans Broadway Run +

“Paradise Square,” a new musical that explores race relations in 19th-century New York, plans to open on Broadway next winter ... “Paradise Square” is a comeback bid by storied Canadian producer Garth Drabinsky, who won three Tony Awards in the 1990s ... The musical is to star Joaquina Kalukango ... Chilina Kennedy ... John Dossett ... Sidney DuPont ... A.J. Shively ... Nathaniel Stampley ... and Jacob Fishel ... The Broadway run is scheduled to begin previews Feb. 22 and to open March 20 at the Ethel Barrymore Theater.”

‘Paradise Square,’ produced by Garth Drabinsky, announces Broadway run +

By Caitlin Huston
June 7, 2021

“Paradise Square,” a new musical about race relations in New York during the 1860s, has announced a Broadway run at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre this winter.

The musical, produced by Garth Drabinsky, will star Joaquina Kalukango (“Slave Play”) in a run starting Feb. 22, 2022 and an opening night on March 20. The musical will come to Broadway after a five-week engagement starting this November at Chicago’s James M. Nederlander Theatre.

The story takes place in the Five Points neighborhood of New York in 1863, at which time Irish immigrants, free Black Americans and those who had escaped slavery co-existed together. The production credits the mixture of communities in Five Points with the creation of tap dance.

Additional cast members include Chilina Kennedy (“Beautiful”), John Dossett (“Pippin”), Sidney DuPont (“Beautiful”), A.J. Shively (“Bright Star”), Nathaniel Stampley (“The Color Purple”), Gabrielle McClinton (“Pippin”), Jacob Fishel (“Fiddler on the Roof”) and Kevin Dennis.

“Paradise Square” features songs by composer Stephen Foster, who lived in the Five Points neighborhood of the Lower East Side during the musical’s time period, as well as original songs by musical theater writers Jason Howland, Nathan Tysen, Masi Asare and Larry Kirwan, lead singer of the rock band Black 47. Kirwan’s original musical “Hard Times” provided the basis for “Paradise Square.”

The world premiere of “Paradise Square” was produced at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in January 2019.

The musical is directed by Moisés Kaufman, director of “The Laramie Project,” and features choreography by Bill T. Jones and a book by Christina Anderson, Marcus Gardley, Craig Lucas and Kirwan.

‘Paradise Square’ gets Broadway transfer at Barrymore Theatre +

By Sophie Thomas
June 7, 2021

Following a 2018 world premiere and an upcoming engagement in Chicago, Paradise Square will receive its Broadway premiere in 2022. Paradise Square will begin previews at the Barrymore Theatre on Feb. 22, 2022, ahead of an opening night on Mar. 20, 2022.

Set in 19th-century New York, African Americans and Irish Americans live side by side,, eventually finding harmony with one another. After a brief period of co-existing, communities danced together; Irish step dancing and Black American Juba took to the floor. But when President Lincoln calls the first Federal Draft, will friendships in the Five Points prevail?

Joaquina Kalukango will play Nelly Freeman, currently nominated for a Tony Award for her performance in Slave Play. Casting includes Chilina Kennedy, John Dossett, Sidney DuPont, A.J. Shively, Nathaniel Stampley, Gabrielle McClinton, Jacob Fishel and Kevin Dennis, Karen Burthwright, Kennedy Caughell, Dwayne Clark, Garrett Coleman, Colin Cunliffe, Chloe Davis, Bernard Dotson, Jamal Christopher Douglas, Sam Edgerly, Shiloh Goodin, Jacobi Hall, Sean Jenness, Jay McKenzie, Ben Michael, Jason Oremus, Eilis Quinn, Sara Sheperd, Lael van Keuren, Sir Brock Warren and Hailee Kaleem Wright. Additional casting is to be announced.

Paradise Square features an original book by Christina Anderson, Marcus Gardley, Craig Lucas and Larry Kirwan. Music and lyrics are by Jason Howland and Nathan Tysen, as well as inspiration from Stephen Foster, who lived in Five Points during the 19th century.

Direction is by Moisés Kaufman, who is also directing Seven Deadly Sins this summer. Choreography is by Bill T. Jones with scenic design by Allen Moyer, costume design by Toni-Leslie James, lighting design by Donald Holder, and sound design by Jon Weston.

Paradise Square made its world premiere at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre in January 2019. Later this year, Paradise Square is at Chicago’s James M. Nederlander Theatre for five weeks, ahead of its Broadway run.

Paradise Square is at the Barrymore Theatre from February 22.

PARADISE SQUARE Announces Broadway Opening, Starring Tony Award Nominee Joaquina Kalukango +

By Zack Reiser
June 7, 2021

Tony Award nominee Joaquina Kalukango (Slave Play, One Night in Miami) will lead the cast of the new musical Paradise Square, which will open on Broadway on Sunday, March 20, 2022 at the Barrymore Theatre. Previews will begin on February 22, 2022. The production will come to Broadway directly following a five-week engagement (November 2-December 5, 2021) at Chicago’s James M. Nederlander Theatre.

Ms. Kalukango is a 2020 Tony Award nominee for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play for her role as Kaneisha in Slave Play. She has also starred on Broadway in The Color Purple, Holler If Ya Hear Me and Godspell. Her film and television credits include the role of Betty X in Amazon's One Night in Miami (SAG Award nomination, Cast in a Motion Picture), HBO's "Lovecraft Country" and the Netflix series, "When They See Us."

Paradise Square will also star Chilina Kennedy (over 1200 performances in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical on Broadway; International tour of The Band's Visit), Tony Award nominee John Dossett (Broadway's Pippin, Newsies, Gypsy, Ragtime), Sidney DuPont (Broadway's Beautiful: The Carole King Musical; National tours of Memphis, A Chorus Line), A.J. Shively (Broadway's La Cage aux Folles, Bright Star), Nathaniel Stampley (Broadway's The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, The Color Purple), Gabrielle McClinton (Broadway's Pippin, Chicago), Jacob Fishel (Broadway's Fiddler on the Roof), and Kevin Dennis (Canadian productions of Young Frankenstein, Assassins).

The distinguished creative team for Paradise Square features direction by two-time Tony Award nominee Moisés Kaufman (I Am My Own Wife, The Laramie Project), choreography by two-time Tony Award winner Bill T. Jones (Spring Awakening, Fela!), and a book by Christina Anderson (Good Goods, Inked Baby), Marcus Gardley (The House That Will Not Stand), Craig Lucas (The Light in the Piazza) and Larry Kirwan (lead singer of Black 47). Ten-time Tony Award nominee Graciela Daniele (Ragtime, Once on This Island) will provide musical staging, in collaboration with Kaufman and Jones.

The score of Paradise Square is by the team of Grammy and Emmy Award winner Jason Howland (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Little Women - The Musical) and Nathan Tysen (Amélie, Tuck Everlasting), with additional material provided by Masi Asare (Monsoon Wedding, The Family Resemblance) and Mr. Kirwan. The musical features original songs as well as a reimagining of the songs of Stephen Foster, who was writing and living in the Five Points at the time.

Paradise Square is produced by Garth H. Drabinsky (Kiss of the Spider Woman (Tony Award, Best Musical), Show Boat (Tony Award, Best Revival of a Musical), Ragtime, Fosse (Tony Award, Best Musical), Parade). Mr. Drabinsky’s longtime colleague, documentary filmmaker Peter LeDonne (the Academy Award-nominated Curtain Call and Sister Rose’s Passion) is co-producing.

The production will also feature Karen Burthwright, Kennedy Caughell, Dwayne Clark, Garrett Coleman, Colin Cunliffe, Chloe Davis, Bernard Dotson, Jamal Christopher Douglas, Sam Edgerly, Shiloh Goodin, Jacobi Hall, Sean Jenness, Jay McKenzie, Ben Michael, Jason Oremus, Eilis Quinn, Sara Sheperd, Lael van Keuren, Sir Brock Warren and Hailee Kaleem Wright. Additional casting will be announced shortly.

The multi-award-winning creative team features scenic design by Allen Moyer, costume design by Toni-Leslie James, lighting design by Donald Holder, and sound design by Jon Weston. Dramaturgy is by Thulani Davisand Sydné Mahone. Projection design is by Wendall K. Harrington. Special effects are by Gregory Meeh. Hair and wig design is by Matthew B. Armentrout. Associate choreographers are Talli Jackson and Gelan Lambert. Irish and Hammerstep choreography is by Garrett Coleman and Jason Oremus. Anne Allan is Associate Producer and Senior Resident Director. Zachary Florence is Associate Producer. Jeff Chrzczon is General Manager. Casting is by Stewart/Whitley, CSA.

New York City. 1863. The Civil War raged on. An extraordinary thing occurred amid the dangerous streets and crumbling tenement houses of the Five Points, the notorious 19th-century Lower Manhattan slum. For many years, Irish immigrants escaping the devastation of the Great Famine settled alongside free-born Black Americans and those who escaped slavery, arriving by means of the Underground Railroad. The Irish, relegated at that time to the lowest rung of America’s social status, received a sympathetic welcome from their Black neighbors (who enjoyed only slightly better treatment in the burgeoning industrial-era city). The two communities co-existed, intermarried, raised families, and shared their cultures in this unlikeliest of neighborhoods.

The amalgamation between the communities took its most exuberant form with raucous dance contests on the floors of the neighborhood bars and dance halls. It is here in the Five Points where tap dancing was born, as Irish step dancing joyously competed with Black American Juba.

But this racial equilibrium would come to a sharp and brutal end when President Lincoln’s need to institute the first Federal Draft to support the Union Army would incite the deadly NY Draft Riots of July 1863.

Within this galvanizing story of racial harmony undone by a country at war with itself, we meet the denizens of a local saloon called Paradise Square: Nelly Freeman (Joaquina Kalukango), the indomitable Black woman who owns it; Annie O’Brien (Chilina Kennedy), her Irish-Catholic sister-in-law and her Black minister husband, Rev. Samuel Jacob Lewis (Nathaniel Stampley); Owen Duignan (A.J. Shively), a conflicted newly arrived Irish immigrant; Washington Henry (Sidney DuPont), a fearless freedom seeker; Frederic Tiggens (John Dossett), an anti-abolitionist political boss, and Milton Moore (Jacob Fishel), a penniless songwriter trying to capture it all. They have conflicting notions of what it means to be an American while living through one of the most tumultuous eras in our country’s history.

Paradise Square, A New Musical, announces cast & Broadway premiere +

June 7, 2021

Announced today, Tony Award-nominee Joaquina Kalukango (Slave Play, One Night in Miami), will lead the cast of the new musical, Paradise Square, which will open on Broadway on Sunday, March 20, 2022, at the Shubert Organization’s Barrymore Theatre. Previews will begin on February 22, 2022. The production will come to Broadway directly following a five-week engagement (November 2–December 5, 2021) at Chicago’s James M. Nederlander Theatre.

Ms. Kalukango is a 2020 Tony Award nominee for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play for her role as Kaneisha in Slave Play. She has also starred on Broadway in The Color PurpleHoller If Ya Hear Me, and Godspell. Her film and television credits include the role of Betty X in Amazon’s One Night in Miami (SAG Award nomination, Cast in a Motion Picture), HBO’s Lovecraft Country and the Netflix series, When They See Us.

Paradise Square will also star Chilina Kennedy (over 1200 performances in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical on Broadway; International tour of The Band’s Visit), Tony Award nominee John Dossett (Broadway’s PippinNewsiesGypsyRagtime), Sidney DuPont (Broadway’s Beautiful: The Carole King Musical; National tours of MemphisA Chorus Line), A.J. Shively (Broadway’s La Cage aux FollesBright Star), Nathaniel Stampley (Broadway’s The Gershwins’ Porgy and BessThe Color Purple), Gabrielle McClinton (Broadway’s PippinChicago), Jacob Fishel  (Broadway’s Fiddler on the Roof), and Kevin Dennis (Canadian productions of Young FrankensteinAssassins).

The distinguished creative team for Paradise Square features direction by two-time Tony Award nominee Moisés Kaufman (I Am My Own Wife, The Laramie Project), choreography by two-time Tony Award winner Bill T. Jones (Spring Awakening, Fela!), and a book by Christina Anderson (Good Goods, Inked Baby), Marcus Gardley (The House That Will Not Stand), Craig Lucas (The Light in the Piazza) and Larry Kirwan (lead singer of Black 47). Ten-time Tony Award nominee Graciela Daniele (Ragtime, Once on This Island) will provide musical staging, in collaboration with Kaufman and Jones.

The score of Paradise Square is by the team of Grammy and Emmy Award winner Jason Howland (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Little Women - The Musical) and Nathan Tysen (Amélie, Tuck Everlasting), with additional material provided by Masi Asare (Monsoon Wedding, The Family Resemblance) and Mr. Kirwan. The musical features original songs as well as a reimagining of the songs of Stephen Foster, who was writing and living in the Five Points at the time.

Paradise Square is produced by Garth H. Drabinsky (Kiss of the Spider Woman (Tony Award, Best Musical), Show Boat (Tony Award, Best Revival of a Musical), Ragtime, Fosse (Tony Award, Best Musical), Parade). Mr. Drabinsky’s longtime colleague, documentary filmmaker Peter LeDonne (the Academy Award-nominated Curtain Call and Sister Rose’s Passion) is co-producing.

The production will also feature Karen Burthwright, Kennedy Caughell, Dwayne Clark, Garrett Coleman, Colin Cunliffe, Chloe Davis, Bernard Dotson, Jamal Christopher Douglas, Sam Edgerly, Shiloh Goodin, Jacobi Hall, Sean Jenness, Jay McKenzie, Ben Michael, Jason Oremus, Eilis Quinn, Sara Sheperd, Lael van Keuren, Sir Brock Warren and Hailee Kaleem Wright. Additional casting will be announced shortly.

The multi-award-winning creative team features scenic design by Allen Moyer, costume design by Toni-Leslie James, lighting design by Donald Holder, and sound design by Jon Weston. Dramaturgy is by Thulani Davis and Sydné Mahone. Projection design is by Wendall K. Harrington. Special effects are by Gregory Meeh. Hair and wig design is by Matthew B. Armentrout. Associate choreographers are Talli Jackson and Gelan Lambert. Irish and Hammerstep choreography is by Garrett Coleman and Jason Oremus. Anne Allan is Associate Producer and Senior Resident Director. Zachary Florence is Associate Producer. Jeff Chrzczon is General Manager. Casting is by Stewart/Whitley, CSA.

Paradise Square, A New Musical, sets pre-Broadway run in Chicago +

By Lamont Williams
June 7, 2021

Paradise Square is an original musical from a creative team that includes Moisés Kaufman, Bill T. Jones, Craig Lucas and Black 47 singer Larry Kirwan. It will be the first major pre-Broadway show to open in Chicago after the pandemic shutdown.

The newly announced cast includes Tony Award nominee for Slave Play, Joaquina Kalukango, who stars with Chilina Kennedy (over 1200 performances in Beautiful on Broadway), Tony Award nominee John Dossett (Pippin, Gypsy, Ragtime), Sidney DuPont (Broadway’s Beautiful: The Carole King Musical; National tours of Memphis, A Chorus Line), A.J. Shively (Broadway’s La Cage aux Folles, Bright Star), Nathaniel Stampley (Broadway’s The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, The Color Purple), Gabrielle McClinton (Broadway’s Pippin, Chicago), Jacob Fishel (Broadway’s Fiddler on the Roof), and Kevin Dennis (Canadian productions of Young Frankenstein, Assassins).

New York City. 1863. The Civil War raged on. An extraordinary thing occurred amid the dangerous streets and crumbling tenement houses of the Five Points, the notorious 19th-century Lower Manhattan slum. For many years, Irish immigrants escaping the devastation of the Great Famine settled alongside free-born Black Americans and those who escaped slavery, arriving by means of the Underground Railroad. The Irish, relegated at that time to the lowest rung of America’s social status, received a sympathetic welcome from their Black neighbors (who enjoyed only slightly better treatment in the burgeoning industrial-era city). The two communities co-existed, intermarried, raised families, and shared their cultures in this unlikeliest of neighborhoods.

The amalgamation between the communities took its most exuberant form with raucous dance contests on the floors of the neighborhood bars and dance halls. It is here in the Five Points where tap dancing was born, as Irish step dancing joyously competed with Black American Juba.

But this racial equilibrium would come to a sharp and brutal end when President Lincoln’s need to institute the first Federal Draft to support the Union Army would incite the deadly NY Draft Riots of July 1863.

Within this galvanizing story of racial harmony undone by a country at war with itself, we meet the denizens of a local saloon called Paradise Square: Nelly Freeman (Joaquina Kalukango), the indomitable Black woman who owns it; Annie O’Brien (Chilina Kennedy), her Irish-Catholic sister-in-law and her Black minister husband, Rev. Samuel Jacob Lewis (Nathaniel Stampley); Owen Duignan (A.J. Shively), a conflicted newly arrived Irish immigrant; Washington Henry (Sidney DuPont), a fearless freedom seeker; Frederic Tiggens (John Dossett), an anti-abolitionist political boss, and Milton Moore (Jacob Fishel), a penniless songwriter trying to capture it all. They have conflicting notions of what it means to be an American while living through one of the most tumultuous eras in our country’s history.

The world premiere was produced in January 2019 by Berkeley Repertory Theatre. The musical is based on Hard Times, conceived by Mr. Kirwan, which was originally presented at the intimate Off-Broadway theatre, Nancy Manocherian’s the cell, in 2012.

With visceral and nuanced staging and choreography that captures the pulsating energy when Black and Irish cultures meet, Paradise Square depicts an overlooked true-life moment when hope and possibility shone bright.

The musical is produced by Garth H. Drabinsky, marking a return of the once ubiquitous Canadian theater executive. Drabinsky, whose previous Broadway productions included Kiss of the Spider Woman, Show Boat, Ragtime and Fosse, is teamed on Paradise Square with longtime colleague Peter LeDonne, who co-produces.

The creative team features direction by Kaufman (I Am My Own Wife, The Laramie Project), choreography by Jones (Spring Awakening, Fela!), book by Christina Anderson, Marcus Gardley, Lucas and Kirwan. Graciela Daniele (Ragtime, Once on This Island) will provide the musical staging, in collaboration with Kaufman and Jones.

The score is by the team of Jason Howland (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical) and Nathan Tysen (Tuck Everlasting), with additional material provided by Masi Asare and Kirwan. The musical features original songs as well as a reimagining of the songs of Stephen Foster, who was writing and living in the Five Points at the time.

The world premiere of Paradise Square was produced in January 2019 by Berkeley Repertory Theatre. The musical is based on Hard Times, originally conceived by Mr. Kirwan, which was originally presented Off Broadway in 2012.

Joaquina Kalukango to star in PARADISE SQUARE, A New Musical +

By Jenny Ell
June 7, 2021

Tony Award nominee Joaquina Kalukango has been confirmed to lead the cast of new musical, Paradise Square, which will open at Broadway’s Barrymore Theatre in March 2022, following a five-week engagement in Chicago later this year.

Kalukango is a 2020 Tony Award nominee for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play for her role as Kaneisha in Slave Play. She has also starred on Broadway in The Color Purple, Holler If Ya Hear Me and Godspell.

Paradise Square will also star Chilina Kennedy (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, The Band's Visit), Tony Award nominee John Dossett (Pippin, Newsies), Sidney DuPont (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Memphis), A.J. Shively (La Cage aux Folles, Bright Star), Nathaniel Stampley (The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, The Color Purple), Gabrielle McClinton (Pippin, Chicago), Jacob Fishel (Fiddler on the Roof), and Kevin Dennis (Young Frankenstein, Assassins).

The production will also feature Karen Burthwright, Kennedy Caughell, Dwayne Clark, Garrett Coleman, Colin Cunliffe, Chloe Davis, Bernard Dotson, Jamal Christopher Douglas, Sam Edgerly, Shiloh Goodin, Jacobi Hall, Sean Jenness, Jay McKenzie, Ben Michael, Jason Oremus, Eilis Quinn, Sara Sheperd, Lael van Keuren, Sir Brock Warren and Hailee Kaleem Wright. Additional casting will be announced shortly.

The creative team includes director and two-time Tony Award nominee Moisés Kaufman, choreographer and two-time Tony Award winner Bill T. Jones, and book writers Christina Anderson, Marcus Gardley, Craig Lucas and Larry Kirwan. Ten-time Tony Award nominee Graciela Daniele will also provide musical staging, in collaboration with Kaufman and Jones.

The score is by the team of Grammy and Emmy Award winner Jason Howland and Nathan Tysen, with additional material provided by Masi Asare and Mr. Kirwan. The musical features original songs as well as a reimagining of the songs of Stephen Foster, who was writing and living in the Five Points at the time.

The multi-award-winning creative team features set design by Allen Moyer, costumes by Toni-Leslie James, lighting by Donald Holder, and sound by Jon Weston.

4 new Broadway openings: Lehman Trilogy, Skeleton Crew, Paradise Square, How I Learned to Drive +

By Jonathan Mandell
June 7, 2021

The opening date of four new Broadway productions were announced this week, bringing the number to 32. See details in my Broadway 2021-2021 Season Preview Guide, organized chronologically by opening date: ... Paradise Square, a musical about the New York draft riots of 1863, starring Joaquina Kalukango (March 20).

Drabinsky Returning to Chicago +

By Chris Jones
May 18, 2021

Garth Drabinsky is coming back to Chicago. The Canadian showbiz mogul who wrestled the pivotal 1998 restoration of the Oriental Theatre, staged epic Chicago productions of “Show Boat” and “Ragtime” and put Donny Osmond in “Joseph” to the delight of audiences here for years — is reigniting high-profile theater in Chicago this fall with a new Broadway-bound musical, “Paradise Square.”

The piece, which uses both original music and the songs of Stephen Foster, focuses on the Lower Manhattan neighborhood of Five Points, positing that its 1863 blend of Irish immigrants and Black Americans, both escapees from slavery and free-born individuals, was a singular fusion wherein two oppressed groups intermingled, intermarried and shared their music, dance and culture.

The show features a book by Christina Anderson, Marcus Gardley, Craig Lucas and Larry Kirwan. Music, including both original songs and Foster adaptations, is by Jason Howland, Nathan Tysen and Masi Asare. The director is Moises Kaufman (“I Am My Own Wife”), choreography is by Bill T. Jones (”Spring Awakening”), and musical staging is by Graciela Daniele, who famously worked with Drabinsky and director Frank Galati on “Ragtime.”

Performances are scheduled to begin Nov. 2 and play through Dec. 5 at the James M. Nederlander Theatre (formerly the Oriental Theatre), 24 W. Randolph St. Individual tickets go on sale June 8.

“I am delighted to back,” Drabinsky said Monday in a telephone interview. “Without the return of the theater, great cities like New York and Chicago are just not the same.”

Drabinsky said that he expects the show to move directly to Broadway, opening early in 2022.

“Paradise Square,” an early version of which was seen in 2018 at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, represents the return of one of North America’s most ebullient producers, a careful studier of audiences and a famously intellectual showman of the old school.

“My life has been dedicated to the entertainment business,” Drabinsky said. “It is something I always have been compelled to do.”

Chicago was a clear beneficiary: Drabinsky’s restoration of the Oriental (with the help of public funds) reignited interest in the Loop theater district, resulting in similar work at the Cadillac Palace Theatre and other downtown venues. Drabinsky’s shows made the case in the 1990s that Chicago could and would support long runs of several months, and sometimes years, buoying the fortunes of downtown restaurants and parking lots.

Coming during the fall recovery, the five weeks of “Paradise Square” represent a bold new bet on the Loop’s live-entertainment fortunes, fully in line with Drabinsky’s past risk-taking efforts. This will be the city’s first pre-Broadway production since the COVID-19 closures, offering a restoration of a crucial Chicago franchise and economic generator.

“When we were derailed by the pandemic, the man never lost his passion or his commitment to the project,” Kaufman said of his producer. “He is trying to do something here both interesting and daring.”

Drabinsky said he was convinced the demographics of Chicago, a city whose culture was formed in no small part by Irish immigrants and Black Americans, would embrace the show and be compelled by the largely unknown story of a neighborhood that promised hope for the future, albeit long deferred.

“The Oriental is incredibly special to me,” he said. “And we could not be coming to a more fitting city.”

‘Paradise Square,’ a Broadway-bound musical, set to open in Chicago in November +

By Darel Jevens
May 18, 2021

Chicago’s job of presenting new musicals on their way to Broadway — halted last year by the pandemic — is set to resume in November with a show about a key moment in the history of Irish Americans and African Americans.

“Paradise Square,” set at a saloon in the Lower Manhattan slum of Five Points in 1863, will run at the James M. Nederlander Theatre Nov. 2-Dec. 5, producers announced Tuesday. It focuses on the shared lives of African Americans — some free born, some fleeing slavery — and freshly arrived Irish immigrants in that New York neighborhood.

The casting and Broadway plans will be announced later.

The musical is directed by two-time Tony nominee Moisés Kaufman (“I Am My Own Wife,” “The Laramie Project”), with choreography by two-time Tony winner Bill T. Jones (“Spring Awakening,” “Fela!”). The writing team includes Larry Kirwan, lead singer of the Celtic rock band Black 47, along with veteran playwrights Christina Anderson, Marcus Gardley and Craig Lucas.

The score, by Grammy winner Jason Howland (“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical”) and Nathan Tysen (with contributions by Kirwan and Masi Asare), is built around the songs of Five Points resident Stephen Foster as well as original works.

Garth Drabinsky, the high-profile Canadian impresario who restored and reopened the Nederlander Theatre (then the Oriental) in 1998, is producing “Paradise Square.” Drabinsky was a major player in Chicago theater in the ‘90s, bringing in long-running productions of “Show Boat,” “Ragtime” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamboat.”

“Paradise Square” first was staged in January 2019 by Berkeley Repertory Theatre in California.

Broadway-bound tuner 'Paradise Square' set to premiere in November in Chicago +

By Barbara Vitello
May 18, 2021

Fourteen months after the pandemic shuttered live theater, the Chicago to Broadway pipeline reopens in November with Paradise Square, a new musical whose impressive pedigree includes director Moisés Kaufman (I Am My Own Wife, The Laramie Project) and Tony Award-winning choreographer Bill T. Jones (Spring Awakening, Fela!).

Performances run Nov. 2 through Dec. 5 at the James M. Nederlander Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St., Chicago. The opening marks Chicago's first pre-Broadway run since the COVID-19 pandemic forced theaters to close.

Set during the Civil War in 1863 New York, Paradise Square tells the story of the people of Five Points, a lower Manhattan slum where freeborn Black Americans and escaped slaves lived and worked with Irish immigrants.

Through their shared cultural heritage, expressed in dance contests at neighborhood dance halls, tap dancing -- a combination of Juba dance and Irish step dancing -- evolved. However, that racial and cultural harmony was shattered by the bloody July 1863 riots sparked by the establishment of a federal draft.

The score is by Jason Howland (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical) and Nathan Tysen (Amelie) with additional material by Masi Asare (Monsoon Wedding), Larry Kirwan, the lead singer for Black 47 as well as songs by Stephen Foster, who lived in Five Points at the time.

Kirwan also contributed to the book co-written by Christina Anderson, Marcus Gardley (The House That Will Not Stand) and Craig Lucas (The Light in the Piazza).

Tickets are available for groups of 10 or more at (312) 977-1710 or by emailing groupsales@broadwayinchicago.com. Paradise Square will be a part of the new Broadway In Chicago subscription launching in August. Individual tickets for Paradise Square go on sale June 8. See broadwayinchicago.com for more information.

Garth Drabinsky-Produced ‘Paradise Square’ Musical Sets Pre-Broadway Run In Chicago +

By Greg Evans
May 18, 2021

Paradise Square, the original musical from a creative team that includes Moisés Kaufman, Bill T. Jones, Craig Lucas and Black 47 singer Larry Kirwan, will begin a limited, month-long pre-Broadway engagement in Chicago on Nov. 2.

Casting and details about a Broadway engagement will be announced shortly.

The musical, set in the notorious Civil War-era Lower Manhattan Five Points slum, is produced by Garth H. Drabinsky, marking a return of the once ubiquitous Canadian theater executive. Drabinsky, whose previous Broadway productions included Kiss of the Spider Woman, Show Boat, Ragtime and Fosse, is teamed on Paradise Square with longtime colleague Peter LeDonne, who co-produces.

Paradise Square will be the first major pre-Broadway show to open in Chicago after the pandemic shutdown. The musical will play from Nov. 2 – Dec. 5 at Broadway In Chicago’s James M. Nederlander Theatre.

As described by the production, the musical is set in 1863 New York City “amid the dangerous streets and crumbling tenement houses of the Five Points, the notorious 19th-century Lower Manhattan slum. Irish immigrants escaping the devastation of the Great Famine settled alongside free-born Black Americans and those who escaped slavery, arriving by means of the Underground Railroad. The Irish, relegated at that time to the lowest rung of America’s social status, received a sympathetic welcome from their Black neighbors (who enjoyed only slightly better treatment in the burgeoning industrial-era city). The two communities co-existed, intermarried, raised families, and shared their cultures in this unlikeliest of neighborhoods.”

The description continues, “The amalgamation between the communities took its most exuberant form with raucous dance contests on the floors of the neighborhood bars and dance halls. It is here in the Five Points where tap dancing was born, as Irish step dancing joyously competed with Black American Juba. But this racial equilibrium would come to a sharp and brutal end when President Lincoln’s need to institute the first Federal Draft to support the Union Army would incite the deadly NY Draft Riots of July 1863.”

The creative team features direction by Kaufman (I Am My Own Wife, The Laramie Project), choreography by Jones (Spring Awakening, Fela!), book by Christina Anderson, Marcus Gardley, Lucas and Kirwan. Graciela Daniele (Ragtime, Once on This Island) will provide the musical staging, in collaboration with Kaufman and Jones.

The score is by the team of Jason Howland (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical) and Nathan Tysen (Tuck Everlasting), with additional material provided by Masi Asare and Kirwan. The musical features original songs as well as a reimagining of the songs of Stephen Foster, who was writing and living in the Five Points at the time.

The world premiere of Paradise Square was produced in January 2019 by Berkeley Repertory Theatre. The musical is based on Hard Times, originally conceived by Mr. Kirwan, which was originally presented Off Broadway in 2012.

WLS-TV, ABC 7, CHICAGO +

May 18, 2021

Transcript: “So many of Chicago's famous theatres have been closed because of the pandemic but now the theater scene is coming back. The Nederlander Theatre will put on Paradise Square on November 2. it will be the first major pre-Broadway show to raise the curtain in Chicago since the theater shut down. The full Broadway in Chicago lineup will be announced June 1st. Performances start in October.” 

WLS-TV, ABC 7, CHICAGO, EYEWITNESS NEWS AT 4 PM +

May 18, 2021

Transcript: “The live theater scene is bouncing back after the pandemic closed curtains. The musical "Paradise Square" is making its debut later this year. Karen Jordan shows why this might be a sign that The Loop is coming back to life. Jordan: The pandemic darkened the theater district but with the city relaxing rules on indoor gatherings, lights will shine again. Broadway in Chicago is making a comeback later this year and one of the first productions is "Paradise Square," a Civil War-era musical set in New York about racial harmony undone by the war. It will have a five-week run before it moves to Broadway. Drabinsky: “Outside of Broadway, there is no more important city in America for live theater than Chicago.” Theaters will be at full capacity and patrons will be required to wear masks.”

WMAQ-TV, NBC 5, CHICAGO +

May 18, 2021

Transcript: “Some exciting news for theatre lovers! Live performances are coming back to the stage in Chicago this fall with a special pre-Broadway premiere. [MUSICAL EXCERPT PLAYS]. I want to keep on hearing this. Isn’t it incredible? The new musical Paradise Square will debut with a limited engagement from November 2 to December 5 at Broadway in Chicago’s James M. Nederlander Theatre. The show is set in in a New York City slum in 1863 during the Civil War. It tells the story of Irish immigrants who settled alongside Black Americans as they shared cultures and raised their families together. I want to see this!”

WGN MORNING NEWS, CHICAGO +

May 18, 2021

Transcript: “Good morning. We've got some big theater news breaking this morning Broadway in Chicago has just announced the first major pre-Broadway show to open since the pandemic shut everything down last year. It’s going to be the new musical Paradise Square. These are some still pictures from their 2019 try out at the Berkeley Repertory Theater. I’m told that this is the story of New York's Five Points neighborhood in 1863, where Irish and African American cultures meet. The show will run November 2 through December 5 at the Nederlander Theatre, formerly the Oriental Theater downtown on Randolph Street.”

WGN-TV, CHICAGO +

May 18, 2021

Transcript: “Paradise Square will have a one-month tryout at the Nederlander Theatre on Randolph Street starting in November. It'll tell the story of Irish immigrants in New York City back in the 1860's. These are pictures from the production's tryout at the Berkeley Repertory Theater back in 2019. It is going to run from November 2 through December 5. Individual tickets will go on sale June 8th CDC state and city covid protocols. will be observed.”

WGN-AM RADIO, CHICAGO +

May 18, 2021

Transcript: Dean Richards: It's a big deal that a pre-Broadway show is coming to the downtown theater district. That right there, that’s a huge deal because we've only heard vaguely what's going to be happening with Broadway in Chicago, so the fact that they're giving us something specific here, that's news. Host: Seriously, I mean for all the people that have been out of work for so long in these big theaters, I know November is a long way away but light at the end of the tunnel is still light. Richards: Exactly. Host: So I'm glad we got some good news there. Richards: Wait a minute. Hold on just a moment. I'm being told I can now give this information. It's going to be the pre-Broadway premiere of a musical that's called Paradise Square. It’s a musical about the merging of Irish and African-American cultures in New York. So that's what this musical about it's going to be at the Nederlander Theatre, formerly known as the Oriental Theatre on Randolph Street in Chicago. But that's going to be the big show.”

Broadway-Aimed Paradise Square Will Play Chicago +

By Dan Meyer
May 18, 2021

The pre-Broadway tryout for Paradise Square will play a limited engagement at James M. Nederlander Theatre in Chicago November 2-December 5. Casting and details about a Main Stem production, including dates and a theatre, will be announced later.

Set in Manhattan’s Five Points neighborhood during the Civil War, the musical follows the denizens of a local saloon, including the Black woman who owns it, a conflicted newly arrived Irish immigrant, a runaway slave, and a once-great songwriter.

Conceived by Larry Kirwan, Paradise Square features a score by Jason Howland and Nathan Tysen, with additional material by Masi Asare and Kirwan. The musical features original songs as well as a reimagining of the songs of Stephen Foster. Christina Anderson, Marcus Gardley, Craig Lucas, and Kirwan wrote the book.

The world premiere of Paradise Square played Berkeley Repertory Theatre in December 2018. Returning to the creative team in Chicago are director Moisés Kaufman and choreographer Bill T. Jones. Graciela Daniele joins to provide musical staging, in collaboration with Kaufman and Jones.

Rounding out the behind-the-scenes team are scenic designer Allen Moyer, costume designer Toni-Leslie James, lighting designer Donald Holder, sound designer Jon Weston, hair and wig designer Matthew B. Armentrout, associate choreographers Talli Jackson and Gelan Lambert, and projection designer Wendall K. Harrington with special effects by Gregory Meeh. Dramaturgy is by Thulani Davis and Sydné Mahone, with Irish and Hammerstep choreography by Garrett Coleman and Jason Oremus, and casting by Stewart/Whitley.

Producers are Garth H. Drabinsky in association with Peter LeDonne and Teatro Proscenium Limited Partnership.

Broadway-Aimed Musical Paradise Square to Play Chicago in November +

By Lindsey Sullivan
May 18, 2021

A new musical eyeing Broadway is headed to Chicago. Following a world premiere at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in 2018-2019, Paradise Square will play Chicago's James M. Nederlander Theatre from November 2 through December 5. Director Moisés Kaufman and choreographer Bill T. Jones will return to the show, which was conceived by Larry Kirwan.

Paradise Square is set in 1863 in a 20-block area of Manhattan known as the Five Points, where Black and Irish Americans live side by side, work together, marry and for a brief period, realize racial harmony. However, the intensifying Civil War soon results in the first-ever federal draft, leading to riots. Will the hard-won bonds of friendship, community and family in the Five Points prevail or be severed forever?

Paradise Square features a book co-written by Pulitzer finalist Craig Lucas, Marcus Gardley, Christina Anderson and Kirwan. Music is composed by Jason Howland and Kirwan, with lyrics by Nathan Tysen and additional material by Masi Asare. Graciela Daniele will provide the musical staging, in collaboration with Kaufman and Jones.

The creative team also includes scenic designer Allen Moyer, costume designer Toni-Leslie James, lighting designer Donald Holder, sound designer Jon Weston, hair and wig designer Matthew B. Armentrout, associate choreographers Talli Jackson and Gelan Lambert and projection designer Wendall K. Harrington with special effects by Gregory Meeh. Irish and Hammerstep choreography is by Garrett Coleman and Jason Oremus.

Casting for the Chicago engagement will be announced later.

Producer Garth Drabinsky Returns With Broadway-Bound Musical Paradise Square +

By Zachary Stewart
May 18, 2021

Chicago's James M. Nederlander Theatre will host the pre-Broadway run of the new musical Paradise Square November 2-December 5.

The show is produced by Garth H. Drabinsky, the Tony-winning producer behind Kiss of the Spider Woman.

Paradise Square is set in the Five Points neighborhood of New York City circa 1863 and is about a community of poor Irish immigrants and free Blacks who survive the war years and Draft Riots with raucous dance contests in neighborhood bars and dance halls. "It is here in the Five Points where tap dancing was born, as Irish step dancing joyously competed with Black American Juba," according to a press statement.

The book is a collaboration by Christina Anderson (Good Goods), Marcus Gardley (The House That Will Not Stand), Craig Lucas (The Light in the Piazza), and Larry Kirwan (lead singer of Black 47). It centers on a mixed-race family in 19th-century New York and the saloon run by that family's indomitable matriarch.

The score of Paradise Square is by composer Jason Howland (who did the arrangements for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical) and lyricist Nathan Tysen (Tuck Everlasting). Additional material is provided by Masi Asare (Monsoon Wedding) and Larry Kirwan. The musical features original songs as well as a reimagining of the songs of Stephen Foster ("Camptown Races"), who was writing and living in the Five Points at the time.

Moisés Kaufman (The Laramie Project) directs, with choreography by two-time Tony Award winner Bill T. Jones (Spring Awakening, Fela!). Ten-time Tony Award nominee Graciela Daniele (Ragtime, Once on This Island) will provide musical staging, in collaboration with Kaufman and Jones.

Paradise Square made its world premiere at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in 2019. Casting and dates for the Broadway run will be announced at a later date.

PARADISE SQUARE, Produced by Garth H. Drabinsky, Will Have Pre-Broadway Engagement in Chicago This November +

By BWW News Desk
May 18, 2021

The Pre-Broadway Premiere of Paradise Square is coming to Chicago! This new musical, which examines a remarkable yet virtually unknown moment in American history, will play a strictly limited engagement from November 2 - December 5, 2021, at Broadway In Chicago's James M. Nederlander Theatre. Paradise Square will be the first major Pre-Broadway show to raise its curtain in Chicago after the prolonged closure of live theatre due to the global pandemic. Casting and Broadway theatre and dates will be announced shortly.

The musical arrives with Tony winner Garth H. Drabinsky attached as producer.

"I am delighted to back," Drabinsky told the Chicago Tribune. "Without the return of the theater, great cities like New York and Chicago are just not the same." He also revealed that he hopes to bring the show to Broadway in early 2022.

New York City. 1863. The Civil War raged on. An extraordinary thing occurred amid the dangerous streets and crumbling tenement houses of the Five Points, the notorious 19th-century Lower Manhattan slum. Irish immigrants escaping the devastation of the Great Famine settled alongside free-born Black Americans and those who escaped slavery, arriving by means of the Underground Railroad. The Irish, relegated at that time to the lowest rung of America's social status, received a sympathetic welcome from their Black neighbors (who enjoyed only slightly better treatment in the burgeoning industrial-era city). The two communities co-existed, intermarried, raised families, and shared their cultures in this unlikeliest of neighborhoods.

The amalgamation between the communities took its most exuberant form with raucous dance contests on the floors of the neighborhood bars and dance halls. It is here in the Five Points where tap dancing was born, as Irish step dancing joyously competed with Black American Juba.

But this racial equilibrium would come to a sharp and brutal end when President Lincoln's need to institute the first Federal Draft to support the Union Army would incite the deadly NY Draft Riots of July 1863.

Within this galvanizing story of racial harmony undone by a country at war with itself, we meet the denizens of a local saloon called Paradise Square: the indomitable Black woman who owns it; her Irish-Catholic sister-in-law and her Black minister husband; a conflicted newly arrived Irish immigrant; a fearless freedom seeker; an anti-abolitionist political boss, and a penniless songwriter trying to capture it all. They have conflicting notions of what it means to be an American while living through one of the most tumultuous eras in our country's history.

The creative team for Paradise Square features direction by two-time Tony Award nominee Moisés Kaufman (I Am My Own Wife, The Laramie Project), choreography by two-time Tony Award winner Bill T. Jones (Spring Awakening, Fela!), and a book by Christina Anderson (Good Goods, Inked Baby), Marcus Gardley (The House That Will Not Stand), Craig Lucas (The Light in the Piazza) and Larry Kirwan (lead singer of Black 47). Ten-time Tony Award nominee Graciela Daniele (Ragtime, Once on This Island) will provide musical staging, in collaboration with Kaufman and Jones.

The score of Paradise Square is by the team of Grammy and Emmy Award winner Jason Howland (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Little Women - The Musical) and Nathan Tysen (Amélie, Tuck Everlasting), with additional material provided by Masi Asare (Monsoon Wedding, The Family Resemblance) and Mr. Kirwan. The musical features original songs as well as a reimagining of the songs of Stephen Foster, who was writing and living in the Five Points at the time.

The multi-award-winning creative team features scenic design by Allen Moyer, costume design by Toni-Leslie James, lighting design by Donald Holder, sound design by Jon Weston, projection design by Wendall K. Harrington, special effects by Gregory Meeh, and hair and wig design by Matthew B. Armentrout. Dramaturgy is by Thulani Davis and Sydné Mahone. Associate choreographers are Talli Jackson and Gelan Lambert. Irish and Hammerstep choreography is by Garrett Coleman and Jason Oremus. Casting is by Stewart/Whitley, CSA.

Tickets are available now for groups of 10 or more by calling Broadway In Chicago Group Sales at (312) 977-1710 or emailing GroupSales@BroadwayInChicago.com. Paradise Square will be a part of the new BIC subscription which launches in August. Individual tickets for Paradise Square will go on sale on June 8. For more information, visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com.

Graciela Daniele to Receive Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre +

By Andrew Gans
July 29, 2021

Tony-nominated director and choreographer Graciela Daniele will receive a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre at the 74th annual ceremony.

A 10-time Tony nominee, Danielle's Broadway credits as director/choreographer include Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life, Annie Get Your Gun, Marie Christine, Once on This Island, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, and Dangerous Game. She has musical staged/choreographed The Visit, Pal Joey, The Pirate Queen, Ragtime, The Goodbye Girl, Zorba, The Rink, The Most Happy Fella, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and the forthcoming new musical Paradise Square.

She also choreographed the New York Shakespeare Festival production of The Pirates of Penzance on Broadway, Los Angeles, and in London, and directed and choreographed A New Brain, Hello Again, Little Fish, Bernarda Alba, and William Finn’s Elegies: A Song Cycle. The Argentina-born artist began her Broadway career as a performer in What Makes Sammy Run?, Here's Where I Belong, Promises, Promises, Coco, Follies, and Chicago.

“We are thrilled to recognize Graciela with the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre,” said Heather Hitchens, president of the American Theatre Wing, and Charlotte St. Martin, president of The Broadway League. “Her impact on the Broadway community and on our culture as a whole has been immeasurable.”

The Tony Awards, presented by the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing, will host a multi-platform celebration September 26, starting with the presentation of the American Theatre Wing’s 74th Annual Tony Awards at 7 PM ET on Paramount+, followed by The Tony Awards Present: Broadway’s Back! on CBS.

Graciela Daniele to Receive Lifetime Achievement Tony Award +

By David Gordon
July 29, 2021

Director and choreographer Graciela Daniele will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2020 Tony Awards in September.

Daniele is a 10-time Tony nominee, whose work includes the original productions of Ragtime, The Goodbye Girl, Once on This Island, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and The Rink, as well as acclaimed revivals of Annie Get Your Gun and The Pirates of Penzance, among other shows. As a performer, she danced in the original productions of Promises, Promises, Coco, Follies, and Chicago. Her work will next be seen in the musical Paradise Square, opening on Broadway in 2022.

The 2020 Tony Awards will be presented in a hybrid event on September 26 that will take place on Paramount Plus and the CBS Television Network. The ceremony was originally scheduled for June 2020 before the global health pandemic forced delays.

Graciela Daniele to Receive 2020 Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre +

By Zack Reiser
July 29, 2021

The Tony Awards Administration Committee announced today that Tony Award nominated director and choreographer Graciela Daniele will be the 2020 recipient of the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre.

Graciela Daniele has directed on Broadway, at Lincoln Center and the Public Theater, and at regional theaters and has earned ten Tony Award nominations and six Drama Desk nominations. Her Broadway Director/Choreographic credits include Chita Rivera, The Dancer’s Life, Annie Get Your Gun, Marie Christine, Once on This Island, Chronicle of a Death Foretold and Dangerous Game. She has Musical Staged/Choreographed such shows as Ragtime (Astaire, Ovation [L.A.], NAACP, and Callaway Award), The Goodbye Girl, Zorba with Anthony Quinn, The Rink starring Liza Minnelli and Chita Rivera, and The Mystery of Edwin Drood. She choreographed the New York Shakespeare Festival production of The Pirates of Penzance on Broadway, Los Angeles and London, the motion picture of Pirates, and three Woody Allen films including Mighty Aphrodite, for which she won the 1996 Fosse Award, and Everyone Say I Love You, for which she won the 1997 Fosse Award. Ms. Daniele directed and choreographed A New Brain, which enjoyed an extended run in the summer of 1998 at Lincoln Center Theatre. She is recipient of the 1998 “Mr. Abbot” Award for Outstanding Achievement by a Director/Choreographer. Ms. Daniele directed and choreographed Michael John LaChuisa’s Hello Again (Lincoln Center) and Little Fish (Second Stage) and Bernarda Alba (Lincoln Center Theatre) along with the Lincoln Center Theatre production of William Finn’s Elegies, A Song Cycle. Most recently, she has choreographed The Visit on Broadway and will provide musical staging for the Broadway-bound Paradise Square.

“We are thrilled to recognize Graciela with the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre,” said Heather Hitchens, President of the American Theatre Wing and Charlotte St. Martin, President of The Broadway League. “Her impact on the Broadway community and on our culture as a whole has been immeasurable.”

The Tony Awards, presented by the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing, will host a multi-platform celebration on Sunday, September 26th, starting with the presentation of the American Theatre Wing’s 74th Annual Tony Awards LIVE at 7:00pm ET on Paramount+, followed by “The Tony Awards Present: Broadway’s Back!” on CBS.

Broadway Director & Choreographer Graciela Daniele To Receive Tony Award Lifetime Achievement Honor +

By Greg Evans
July 29, 2021

Graciela Daniele, the Broadway director and choreographer whose many credits include Annie Get Your Gun, Once on This Island, Ragtime and The Goodbye Girl, will be the 2020 recipient of the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre.

Daniele also is providing the musical staging for the planned Broadway production of Paradise Square.

The Tony Awards Administration Committee announced the award today.

In a statement, Heather Hitchens, President of the American Theatre Wing and Charlotte St. Martin, President of The Broadway League, noted that Daniele’s “impact on the Broadway community and on our culture as a whole has been immeasurable.”

The 2020 Tony Awards, delayed for a year by the Covid pandemic, is set for Sunday, September 26.

The Real Story of the ‘Draft Riots’ +

By Elizabeth Mitchell
February 18, 2021

A mob murdered 23-year-old Abraham Franklin at 27th Street and Seventh Avenue in New York City. He had hurried to visit his mother to pray by her side for her protection when the rioters began raging from Downtown to Uptown. Just as he finished his prayers, they crashed through the door, beat him and hanged him as his mother looked on. Then they mutilated his body in front of her.

During the riots in July 1863, the mob also came upon Peter Heuston, a 63-year-old widowed war veteran and a member of the Mohawk tribe, whom they took to be Black. They brutally attacked him on Roosevelt and Oak Streets near the East River. He died of his injuries, leaving his 8-year-old daughter an orphan.

Another victim, William Jones, was so disfigured, whether from the mob’s mutilation or the decay his body endured waiting for observers to gain courage to investigate his identity, that he could be identified only by the loaf of bread under his arm. He had gone out to fetch the staple for his wife and never returned. One woman testified that the mob broke through the doors of her son’s house on East 28th Street in Manhattan, where she was visiting, using pickaxes to break through. The thugs threw a baby out the window to its death. They chopped through the water pipes so the people hiding in the basement of the building would be drowned. They struck her son over the head with a crowbar, and he died in the hospital two days later. Some 400 white people attacked the Black orphanage on Fifth Avenue near 43rd Street. They cut the trees with axes, uprooted the shrubs in what had been a carefully tended garden, carted away the fence and burned the building to the ground.

Many people today, if they have even heard of the Draft Riots, probably know it as a violent citizens’ revolt against President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 conscription of soldiers. In Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York,” inspired by the nonfiction book by Herbert Asbury, what happened over those days comes across as a somewhat entertaining if gory battle between rival white gangs.

The truth is that over the course of some four days, mobs of white New Yorkers roamed the streets of the city from City Hall to Gramercy Park to past 40th Street, setting fire to buildings and killing people, targeting Black people for the most horrific violence. Historians are still assessing the overall death toll, with estimates ranging from more than 100 to more than a thousand. One of the most prestigious Black newspapers of the time estimated the deaths of people of color to be as high as 175. Other Black people were driven from their homes and all of their property destroyed. In the aftermath, some 5,000 Black New Yorkers were discoveredhiding on Blackwell’s Island, in police stations, in the swamps of New Jersey and in barns on Long Island, desperately seeking safety from the murderous white crowds.

The gruesome events should be remembered. They are as much a part of the city’s history as Sept. 11, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire or immigration through Ellis Island. And there is a related story to tell. One reason we know about the brutality of those events is a booklet, “Report of the Merchants’ Committee for the Relief of Colored People Suffering From the Riots in the City of New York,” published in 1863, from which I’ve drawn many of the descriptions in this article. Importantly, the clerks of the merchants’ committee recorded the testimony of many of the people who had lost loved ones to the murderous gangs, creating a clear record of many of the atrocities committed.

Immediately after the riots, the white merchants of New York combined forces to raise money to care for the injured, repair the damaged property and support the legal and employment needs of the terrorized Black people. Of course, nothing could make up for the lives lost and the pain and suffering inflicted on those who were attacked. But the shopkeepers quickly raised over $40,000, equivalent to more than $825,000 today. Their fund-raising effort was notable because it focused on preserving and honoring the dignity of the people the merchant committee’s report described as the “sufferers.”

“We have not come together to devise means for their relief because they are colored people,” wrote Jonathan Sturges, the treasurer of the group, “but because they are, as a class, persecuted and in distress at the present moment.”

The merchants went about their work methodically. They vowed to secure help from the county. Lawyers volunteered their expertise. When requested, ministers visited the homes of survivors. They urged businesses that were afraid to rehire their Black employees for fear of the mob’s vengeance to be courageous, and promised to guard the businesses that did rehire.

J.D. McKenzie, the chairman, noted that the murderers and pillagers “sought to destroy a race.” But the shopkeepers made a point of not wasting their time focusing on who perpetrated each of the evil deeds. The report made clear that the murderers were clearly “bad men.” The group moved on to what they could do to rectify the inhumanity.

On Saturday, July 25, 1863, the third day that funds were disbursed, applicants packed Fourth Street near Broadway. The donors prided themselves on limiting stress for the recipients. “There are no harsh or unkind words uttered by the clerks — no impertinent quizzing in regard to irrelevant matters — no partisan or sectarian view advanced. The business is transacted in a straightforward, practical manner, without chilling the charity into an offense by creating the impression that the recipient is humiliated by accepting the gift,” The New York Daily Tribune reported. The donors encouraged people to return if they needed more help.

In the first month, the group assisted 6,392 people. Since their children were beneficiaries as well, the total number helped added up to 12,782 — from laborers to music teachers, physicians to cooks, ministers, artists, and farmers.

Black ministers and laymen wrote a note to the merchants about what it all meant: “You did not hesitate to come forward to our relief amid the threatened destruction of your own lives and property. You obeyed the noblest dictates of the human heart, and by your generous moral courage you rolled back the tide of violence that had well nigh swept us away.” This episode from the 19th century is haunting even now, first, because of its brutality. The violence occurred on streets where people now dine and shop, oblivious to what happened. Men were lynched while simply walking home from their jobs. But the manner in which the shopkeepers of New York responded is also important, and it may be instructive to how all people confront and respond to racism today.

It’s horrific what happened on Washington and Leroy Streets, or 34th Street at the East River, East 28th Street, Fulton Ferry, 30th Street and Second Avenue, and Carmine Street in 1863. But horrific events fueled by racism are not just in our past. Think of what happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis and David McAtee in Louisville and Ahmaud Arbery in South Georgia, and what happens in the cells of people still waiting to be freed under the Supreme Court’s ruling against juvenile life sentences.

The story of the merchants’ response to the so-called Draft Riots is a reminder that we can all do more if we don’t want the lives of more Black people to be marred by cruelty. That begins with having a cleareyed view of our own history. Understanding the past in a way that’s neither sugarcoated nor whitewashed will keep us moving forward.

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