Why 1921’s Shuffle Along Was Forgotten By History

Shuffle Along pic
Shuffle Along
Image: blackpast.org

Based in New Jersey, Loretta Itri is a pharmaceutical executive who has been involved in many clinical drug developments with 20 years of experience. Loretta Itri is also an avid theater fan who has seen everything that’s currently showing. This spring, she will be seeing several new musicals including Shuffle Along.

Shuffle Along is a new musical by writer/director George C. Wolfe based on a much older musical which is no longer revived in contemporary times. Set in 1921, Shuffle Along is Broadway’s first all-jazz musical and was a turning point in the history of musicals. It was written by a group of four African-American vaudevillians and musicians and became a cultural phenomenon in its time. It revivified the Harlem Renaissance and had over 400 performances before being toured. It has also produced some big names in show business.

Why was it forgotten? In an interview with American Theatre, Wolfe avers that the musical was trashed by history. Despite being a huge hit back in the day, it was soon forgotten because it was relegated to a revue, though it only had elements of a revue. Today, it is known for having racially-integrated Broadway and many theaters in which it was performed.

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