On Feb. 25, 1964, a 22-year-old Cassius Clay abashed the apple with a achievement over Sonny Liston at the Miami Beach Convention Center, not abandoned acceptable the ample championship of the world, but instantly acceptable an all-embracing pop-culture star.
So abrupt was the celebration that no post-fight accident was planned, and Clay was larboard to absolve in absolutely easygoing appearance at his Jim Crow-era auberge in Miami with three friends: arguable religious baton Malcolm X, accompanist Sam Cooke and NFL brilliant Jim Brown.
There is abundant to ameliorate in that atramentous at the Hampton House in Miami’s Brownsville neighborhood, a acclaimed acme of four men who would become arresting abstracts in the civilian rights movement. It wasn’t continued afore Clay was reborn as Muhammad Ali, Cooke and Malcolm X were asleep and Brown was walking abroad from football at the aiguille of his Hall of Fame career.
In his acute estimation of that evening, Los Angeles-based author Kemp Powers offers a fly-on-the-wall annual of the acquisition — abounding with amusing blowing and humor, annoyance and fears, and Sam Cooke songs — as the quartet struggles with questions about civilian rights and amusing turmoil, the responsibilities of accord and manhood, and the banned of atramentous celebrity.
It has taken bristles years for the comedy “One Night in Miami …” — which premiered in Los Angeles, afflicted in London and seems assertive for staging in New York — to appear home. But with the nation grappling with how we appetite our sports stars and celebrities to allege out on chase and inequality, the timing may be perfect.
Michel Hausmann, aesthetic administrator at Miami New Drama, which will aftermath performances of “One Night in Miami …” Oct. 27-Nov. 18 at the Colony Theatre in Miami Beach, says it is absurd to watch the comedy afterwards because the altercation over NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s national-anthem protests of badge brutality.
“I am beholden that it took this long. It would accept been a disservice if we would accept produced this comedy aback Barack Obama was president,” Hausmann says during a breach in a contempo rehearsal. “We would accept had the feeling, ‘Oh, attending how far we’ve appear aback the absolute 1964 South. These are four icons that had to be segregated, and now, America has a atramentous president! God absolve us! How far we’ve come!’
“Had we done that, I anticipate this would accept acquainted like a building piece. But the way that it is actuality produced now, this comedy floats like a erfly and stings like a bee,” Hausmann says, laughing. “This is a comedy that’s alike added important to be produced in the Trump era.”
“One Night in Miami …” is the aboriginal of four productions in the additional abounding analysis of Miami New Drama, an aggressive aggregation that prides itself on amphitheater and casting that reflect the minority-majority architecture of the city.
“We abandoned do assignment that is in absolute chat with what’s accident in our affiliation … and with what’s accident in the country,” the Venezuelan-born Hausmann says. “We accept absolutely no absorption in accomplishing whatever was accepted in New York aftermost year. We are abundant added absorbed in accomplishing what is absolute for Miami this year.”
The comedy appearance above University of Miami sprinter angry amateur Kieron J. Anthony as Cassius Clay; Grammy-winning producer, artisan and amateur Leon Thomas III, who already co-starred with South Florida citizenry Victoria Justice and Ariana Grande on Nickelodeon’s “Victorious,” as Sam Cooke; adept date and TV amateur Jason Delane (“Criminal Minds,” “The Secret Action of the American Teenager”) as Malcolm X; and Esau Pritchett (“The Blacklist ,” “Chicago P.D.,” “Orange Is the New Black”) as Jim Brown.
Susan Stocker / South Florida Sun Sentinel
From left, Leon Thomas III (Sam Cooke), Kieron J. Anthony (Cassius Clay), Jason Delane (Malcolm X) and Esau Pritchett (Jim Brown) brilliant in Miami New Drama’s analysis opener, “One Night In Miami …”
From left, Leon Thomas III (Sam Cooke), Kieron J. Anthony (Cassius Clay), Jason Delane (Malcolm X) and Esau Pritchett (Jim Brown) brilliant in Miami New Drama’s analysis opener, “One Night In Miami …” (Susan Stocker / South Florida Sun Sentinel)
If you are afraid to apprentice that Clay, Cooke, Brown and Malcolm X already aggregate in the aforementioned allowance in Miami, you are not alone.
The play’s director, Carl Cofield, grew up in Miami, was a affiliate of the aboriginal admission chic at New Apple School of the Arts and did his undergraduate assignment in the amphitheater administration at the University of Miami. And he didn’t know.
“I accede myself a appealing adeptness clairvoyant of history, and of advance I knew about him acceptable the ample championship, but I did not apperceive that his three best accompany acclaimed with him there,” says Cofield, accessory aesthetic administrator for the Classical Theatre of Harlem. “Here is this arresting history in Miami that some of us who accept developed up actuality aren’t accustomed with. Amazing history appropriate in our own aback yard. That’s arrangement of a travesty.”
Cofield, who additionally directed the play’s 2013 apple premiere in Los Angeles, credibility out that the Hampton House, a accepted destination in Miami for atramentous celebrities banned from Miami Beach hotels and area Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is said to accept bound some of his “I Accept a Dream” speech, reopened in 2015 as a building and affiliation centermost afterwards a diffuse renovation.
“That was one of the impulses to appear aback to the burghal area it absolutely happened. You don’t accept that abounding adventures in amphitheater area the stars align,” Cofield says.
Powers, the playwright, comes from a journalism background, accepting accounting for Forbes and Newsweek, and “One Night in Miami …” allowances from his absolute research, Cofield says. Brown, 82, the abandoned survivor of the four, was clumsy to appear the play’s 2013 premiere a his home in Los Angeles, but ancestors associates who saw it relayed his abutment for the script’s accuracy, Cofield says.
“But the adorableness of the comedy is it isn’t an bookish exercise. It’s rich. It’s entertaining. I alarm it edutainment,” Cofield says. “For these men to be together, it’s about like the Avengers. It’s the Justice League of America.”
Cofield cautions that he and Hausmann are not absorbed in accepting the actors bear impersonations, but rather abduction a holistic appearance of the men, portrayals that baffle the audience’s assumption ideas.
“You’re never action to out-Cassius Cassius Clay,” Cofield says. “We’re added absorbed in the aspect of these men. This boyish, electric energy. This blowing that … I anticipate the avant-garde equivalent, the kids alarm it ‘swag’ now.”
Kieron J. Anthony grew up in St. Augustine, Trinidad, bedeviled as a boy by action movies and Muhammad Ali, whose face covered his bedchamber walls and bookshelves.
Plans to become a able sprinter — Anthony says that as a 16-year-old he ran the 12th fastest 100 meters in the apple amid runners adolescent than 18 — fell victim to abiding hamstring injuries with the Hurricanes at the University of Miami. He majored in analysis and kinesiology as a premed apprentice afore arresting out on an acting career in Brooklyn.
Susan Stocker / South Florida Sun Sentinel
Kieron J. Anthony rehearses a arena as Cassius Clay in Miami New Drama’s “One Night in Miami …”
Kieron J. Anthony rehearses a arena as Cassius Clay in Miami New Drama’s “One Night in Miami …” (Susan Stocker / South Florida Sun Sentinel)
Anthony says he has no agitation summoning the all-important bluster to comedy Ali, article he able on the track, abnormally aback Hurricanes football players were cheating in the aing lane.
“The apple was his playground. He endemic the space. That wasn’t actual difficult,” Anthony says. “The hardest allotment was adorning the ancillary of him that the camera doesn’t see. The ancillary the reporters don’t get, that abandoned his aing accompany see. Because there are not abounding recorded contest of that happening.
“There are a brace of curve in the comedy — ‘Hey, Cassius, the cameras are off now’ — that absolutely resonated with me. He aloof won the ample title. His action is action to change the aing day. The actual aing day, this 22-year-old becomes the better name in the world, and he’s this adolescent atramentous kid from Kentucky. What was he like afterwards all of that?”
Of the four men in the allowance in 1964, the one atomic associated with the civilian rights movement is R&B accompanist Sam Cooke. That’s allotment of the allure for Leon Thomas III, no drifter to the stage, with credits including the aboriginal Broadway casts of “The Color Purple” and Tony Kushner’s “Caroline or Change.”
Thomas believes that Cooke’s business activity, as a atramentous man who ran his own label, SAR Records, fabricated him a civilian rights role archetypal and put him in a position to accept an bread-and-er appulse on marginalized communities.
“Past aloof his words, his accomplishments batten volumes. The actuality that he was one of the aboriginal atramentous males to own a publishing aggregation and to accept a characterization and to apply so abounding adolescent atramentous artists at that time, shows that he was absolutely acquainted of the bread-and-er ability that we bare to accept at that time,” Thomas says.
Susan Stocker / South Florida Sun Sentinel
Leon Thomas III, right, as accompanist Sam Cooke, rehearses a arena with Kieron J. Anthony, arena boxer Cassius Clay, in Miami New Drama’s “One Night In Miami …”
Leon Thomas III, right, as accompanist Sam Cooke, rehearses a arena with Kieron J. Anthony, arena boxer Cassius Clay, in Miami New Drama’s “One Night In Miami …” (Susan Stocker / South Florida Sun Sentinel)
Thomas, 25, won a Grammy for his bearing assignment on the 2014 Toni Braxton-Babyface anthology “Love, Marriage & Divorce.” On Oct. 12, rapper Belly appear the appellation clue from the anthology “Immigrant,” a song produced by Thomas and featuring Meek Mill and M.I.A. As the appellation implies, Belly, a Canadian rapper of Palestinian-Jordanian descent, is anxious about the plight of the world’s nationless souls.
“For a continued time, I’ve affectionate of backward abroad from speaking out, but as a ambassador I was able to be a allotment of article that truly, absolutely gives the bodies a voice,” Thomas says. “It was such a admirable moment. I bethink aback we fabricated the clue — I’m still accepting chills cerebration about it — I knew that song had some actual appropriate potential.”
As he showed abounding times with his role as Andre Harris on “Victorious,” Thomas possesses a abstract singing voice, and one of the showstopping moments in “One Night in Miami …” will be his soulful arrangement of Cooke’s civilian rights canticle “A Change Is Gonna Come,” appear canicule afterwards his affair with Clay, Brown and Malcom X. Cooke would be attempt and dead nine months later.
Cooke was bent by the actuality that he had not accounting a beef song on the adjustment of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” appear the antecedent year, says Thomas, anecdotic the affect he invests into his achievement of “A Change Is Gonna Come.”
“When you see all of these abhorrent things action on aural your community, you appetite to affectionate of be that superhero. Aback you’re an artist, you are sometimes looked at as that by the blow of the world,” Thomas says. “I’m aloof animated that he was able to pen article that absolutely meant article to the time period. And you can see in that scene, it was added than aloof a song, it was his movement.”
“One Night in Miami…” is actuality produced in affiliation with ABKCO Theatre, a analysis of ABKCO Music and Records, which holds the rights to a advanced arrangement of performers, including Sam Cooke.
Miami New Drama’s Hausmann says that as Powers continues to accomplish adjustments to the script, he and ABKCO assembly accept aerial hopes for the play.
“We achievement that this is the assembly that causes the absorption that this comedy deserves, so it can arise to the abode area it deserves, which is actuality produced in New York and beyond the country,” he says.
“One Night in Miami …” will be performed Oct. 27-Nov. 18 at the Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Road, in Miami Beach. Tickets amount $35-$60. Alarm 305-674-1040 or go to ColonyMB.org. For added information, go to MiamiNewDrama.org.
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