Stewart F. Lane (born 1951) is a six-time Tony Award winning Broadway producer with two shows currently on Broadway: Priscilla Queen of the Desert and War Horse. He also has a DVD out now based on his critically acclaimed book, Let’s Put on a Show! and a new book called “Jews of Broadway” He has also produced in Dublin and London (Olivier nominated twice). In addition to publishing two plays, he has directed across the country, working with Stephen Baldwin, Shannon Doherty, Chazz Palminteri, and more. He is co-owner of the Palace Theatre (Broadway) with the Nederlander Organization and a partner in the Tribeca Grill with Robert De Niro. Having been an actor, Mr. Lane has begun public speaking about his theatrical ventures.
“Black Broadway is a wonderful book. . . . lushly illustrated with oversized historic photographs . . . genius . . .”
As a follow up to his books on American theater history, Let’s Put on a Show! and Jews on Broadway, Stewart F. Lane—himself a six-time Tony Award winner as producer for La Cage Aux Follies, Will Rogers Follies, and Thoroughly Modern Millie, among others—has written a new volume celebrating theatrical talents that have, for far too long, been relegated to the sidelines.
In Black Broadway: African Americans on the Great White Way, Lane focuses his admirably researched and beautifully illustrated theatrical history both on the specific Broadway shows and on the great theatrical talents that best define the contributions that black performers and authors have made to the American theater.
What makes Black Broadway so special is that it introduces the reader to so many talented people—as well as so many who, like James Bland, our nation’s first black composer of popular music—blazed the trail for others to follow. Thus, in these pages, as we travel through history from minstrel shows to vaudeville and burlesque to the modern Broadway stage, we meet luminaries like Bert Williams, who began in a comedic duo partnered with George Walker on the Vaudeville stage, to go on to break down racial barriers by becoming a part of the prestigious Ziegfeld Follies and later, by becoming the first black comic to appear in any Hollywood movie.
At the time of Bert Williams’s death, no less than Booker T. Washington wrote, “Bert Williams has done more for the race than I have. He has smiled his way into people’s hearts.”
Make no mistake about it, Black Broadway is as much a political history as it is an artistic one, with its spotlighting specific Broadway productions, from Orson Welles’s “Voodoo Macbeth” to Deep Are Our Roots, a tale of interracial love that was produced during Broadway’s 1945 season, to something that seems much less revolutionary today than it did back in 1967, the smash-hit revival of Hello, Dolly starring Pearl Bailey leading an African-Americans. These, along with so many others presented in the pages of Black Broadway, stand as benchmarks, not only in the history of black American performers, but also of American culture itself.
The list of African American performers, producers, and writers whose work is celebrated in the pages of Black Broadway is long and diverse. And it is a joy to see that, with each succeeding chapter, the list of names of Broadway performers is longer and longer.
Black Broadway is a wonderful book. It’s coffee table proportions allow it to be lushly illustrated with oversized historic photographs and its heft indicates just how much history it contains, how many tales of the men and women who brought their genius to the center of the Broadway stage that the author, Stewart F. Lane, has to offer.