BILL VAUGHAN’S TASTY CLIPS: USC Originals’ ‘Voodoo Macbeth’ looks at historic play

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By Bill Vaughan

Entertainment Writer

“Voodoo Macbeth,” a feature based on the true story of how leading Broadway actress Rose McClendon (phenomenally played by Inger Tudor) and producer John Houseman convinced a 20-year-old Orson Welles to direct Shakespeare’s play with an all-Black cast in Harlem, is now playing at Laemmle Royal.

Reimagined in a Haitian setting, the production was highly controversial, provoking heated protests from Harlemites who considered it exploitative, and by politicians who thought it subversive. The play debuted to packed audiences and was wildly successful, playing the Lafayette Theater for 10 weeks and then touring across America.

A bright light is shone on the phenomenal McClendon, a strong Black woman who was a major player in the Harlem Renaissance and who started Negro Theater Units in 11 American cities. As the film portrays, she was an essential mentor to Welles in his first important directing job.

In a 1982 interview, Welles said, “By all odds, my great success in my life was that play, because the opening night there were five blocks in which all traffic was stopped. You couldn’t get near the theatre in Harlem. Everybody who was anybody in the Black or white world was there. And when the play ended there were so many curtain calls that finally they left the curtain open, and the audience came up on the stage to congratulate the actors. And that was magical.”

“Voodoo Macbeth” marks the first theatrical release from USC Originals in association with Warner Bros. and was overseen by veteran producer and USC professor John Watson (“Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,” “Backdraft” and “The Outer Limits”), who serves as an executive producer.

The film, considered a launching pad for the next generation with 10 directors, eight writers and three producers uniting to form a common vision, has been an awards magnet.

It has received 14 wins and three additional nominations, including Best Film, Best Production and Best Actress at the Harlem International Film Festival; Best in Festival and The Audience Choice Award at Sedona International Film Festival; and Best Feature Film at Dances with Films.

AT THE MOVIES: Also at the Royal, “Causeway,” an intimate portrait of a soldier (portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence) struggling to adjust to her life after returning home to New Orleans opens Oct. 28 before premiering globally on Apple TV+ Nov. 4. Brian Tyree Henry (“Atlanta”) co-stars.

CLIPPETTES: Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr.: Up Up and Away! A Musical Fable is presented at the Cerritos Center on Oct. 29; as Soweto Gospel Choir: Songs from the Great African and American Struggle is hosted by The Soraya

Also that evening, Larry Carlton’s Farewell Tour touches down at The Coach House; Toro Y Moi is at The Greek; Cypress Hill brings their annual Haunted Hill to the Hollywood Palladium; Bone Thugs-N-Harmony spook The Novo; and Rocky Dawuni performs at the Soka Center

In addition, Ricky Minor and Ledisi are some of the honorees at the Los Angeles Jazz Society’s annual Jazz Tribute Concert and Awards at the Montalban Theatre with Debbie Allen, Jeff Hamilton and Stix Hooper …

Los Angeles’ newest rooftop restaurant, Lemon Grove, atop The Aster Member’s Club and Hotel, is officially open for reservations under the direction of esteemed celebrity Chef Marcel Vigneron. Signature dishes include The Lemon Pasta, Hamachi Carpaccio Pizza and Grilled Whole Branzino

Chaka Khan sings Oct. 30 at the Walt Disney Concert Hall as part of the LA Phil’s Rock My Soul Festival, while The Commodores hit the Cerritos Center; Marc Anthony croons at The Forum; Ace Hood raps at Los Globos; and Adam Lambert belts out hits at the Hollywood Palladium

Son Little plays the Troubadour on Nov. 1; while Lee Fields tours with his first new album in three years, “Sentimental Fool,” at The Glass House

Comic Aida Rodriquez hits the stage of the Hollywood Improv on Nov. 2

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Quentin Tarantino launches his multi-city book tour on Nov. 3 at the Theatre at Ace Hotel to celebrate the publication of his non-fiction debut “Cinema Speculation”

Later, the Grammy Museum welcomes The Manhattan Transfer to celebrate their 50th anniversary. After an in-depth interview, the vocal group will perform selections from their new studio album, “Fifty;” as Broadway diva Lillias White is with Seth Rudetsky at The Wallis.

TASTY QUIP: “Well, I’m not going to deny I do like a big booty, I’m not going to lie about that. It’s almost mandatory for me personally.” – STEPHEN A. SMITH on “Club Random with Bill Maher”

TC ON TV: Oct. 28 – “Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues” (Apple TV+): Offers an intimate and revealing look at the world-changing musician, presented through a lens of archival footage and never-before-heard home recordings and personal conversations. Directed by Sacha Jenkins with touches of Amiri Baraka, Count Basie, Miles Davis, Stanley Crouch, Walter Cronkite, Steve Allen, Leonard Bernstein and more. The film shows how Armstrong’s own life spans the shift from the Civil War to the civil rights movement, and how he became a lightning rod figure in that turbulent era. Also this day, Verve Records releases “Louis Wishes You A Cool Yule,” Satchmo’s first official Christmas album with guests including Ella Fitzgerald. “Wendell & Wild” (Netflix): Jordan Peele and Keegan Michael Key reunite to add voice to “Coraline” director Henry Selick’s latest stop motion animated epic. “Dia De Los Muertos” (PBS): A musical celebration of this much anticipated and highly celebrated fiesta by people of Mexican heritage everywhere. Special guests include Los Lobos, Ozomatli and Flor de Toloache. “The View” (ABC): Sherri Shepherd revisits the show that launched her daytime career. “The Talk” (CBS): Bell Biv DeVoe

Oct. 29 – “The Hair Tales” (Hulu/OWN): “Ayanna Pressley – Embodied Liberation,” “Chika – Audacious Visibility” “I’ve Got A Story To Tell” (BET): A thriller anthology with Pooch Hall, Blue Kimball, Young Joc, Dawn Halfkenny, Andra Fuller, Reginae Carter, Darren Dewitt Henson, Tammy Rivera and more. “Saturday Night Live” (NBC): Jack Harlow

Oct. 30 – “Be My Guest with Ina Garten” (Food): A visit from Chef Marcus Samuelsson closes the second season. “East New York” (CBS): Malik Yoba guest stars. “Unsung” (TV1): Norman Connors “Uncensored” (TV1): Mario Van Peebles

Oct. 31 – “Late Night” (NBC): Ice-T, Rina Sawayama

Nov. 1 – “Live with Kelly & Ryan” (ABC): Lupita Nyong’o, Sheryl Lee Ralph

Nov. 2 – “Upcycle Nation” (Fuse): Hosted and executive produced by Emmy Award winner Karrueche Tran, this series features aspiring designers and upcyclers from around the country who compete to transform everyday items into fashion-forward streetwear. Fashion mogul Jérôme LaMaar and upcycling innovator Peder Cho star alongside Tran as expert judges. “Sherman’s Showcase” (AMC): Sherman’s in Africa for “Live From Lagos.” “American Horror Story: NYC” (FX): Paris Barclay (“Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood,” “In Treatment,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “Glee” and “Dahmer-Monster”) directs.

Nov. 3 – “A Wesley Christmas” (BET+): Dorien Wilson, Jasmine Guy, Terrence “T.C.” Carson and Red Grant star in this holiday movie. “Blockbuster” (Netflix): JB Smoove and Randall Park are part of the ensemble of this comedy that takes place in the last Blockbuster Video in America. “Chris Redd: Why Am I Like This?” (HBO Max): The ex-“SNL” player scores a stand-up special. “Sesame Street” (HBO Max): Mickey Guyton and Amber Ruffin usher in the 53rd season. “Hip Hop Homicides” (WE): From executive producers 50 Cent and Mona Scott-Young comes this show looking into the staggering number of murders in the hip hop community. From tonight’s episode on Pop Smoke to XXXtentacion, the series attempts to uncover the truth behind these shocking crimes. “Atlanta” (FX): They always making Paper Boi go through something. “Cribs” (MTV): Michael Strahan, Adrienne Baillon and Israel Houghton “Kold X Windy” (WE): A Chicago-based rap drama starring Sh’Kia Augustin (“Black Lightning”), Nijah Brenea (“Rap Sh!t”) and Brely Evans (“Empire,” “All-American”). “The Best of All The Smoke with Matt Barnes & Stephen Jackson” (SHO): The Game

END QUOTE: “All mistakes teach us something, so there are, in reality, no mistakes.” – NIKKI GIOVANNI

As featured in the Los Angeles Wave and Independent, Tasty Clips is one of the leading entertainment columns in the nation, serving nearly one million weekly readers. Bill Vaughan may be reached at tastyclips@yahoo.com, via Twitter @tastyclips, or Instagram @tasty_clips.

 

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