Next Thought on TV: ‘HAIRSPRAY LIVE!’

Oscar, Golden Globe, SAG and Grammy Award-winner Jennifer Hudson and multiple Tony Award-winner Harvey Fierstein will headline the cast of NBC’s “Hairspray Live!,” the network’s next live Broadway musical holiday event following the phenomenal success of “The Wiz Live!”

Also joining the creative team will be acclaimed television director Alex Rudzinski, who received extraordinary reviews for his television direction of “Grease Live!” Rudzinski was also the TV director for “Dancing With the Stars” from 2005-14.

“We are beyond thrilled with this incredibly talented duo of stars for ‘Hairspray Live!,’” said Robert Greenblatt, Chairman, NBC Entertainment. “Harvey Fierstein created the role of Edna Turnblad on Broadway in an indelible Tony-winning performance that demanded to be memorialized on film, and we’re happy he wanted to step into her shoes one last, unforgettable time. We’re also so grateful that the incomparable Jennifer Hudson will play Motormouth Maybelle and we know her rendition of ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’ will literally stop the show.”

Based on the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, “Hairspray Live!” takes place in 1962 Baltimore. Teenager Tracy Turnblad’s dream is to dance on “The Corny Collins Show,” a local TV program. When, against all odds, Tracy wins a role on the show, she becomes a celebrity overnight and meets a colorful array of characters, including the resident dreamboat, Link; the ambitious mean girl, Amber; an African-American boy she meets in detention, Seaweed; and his mother, Motormouth Maybelle, the owner of a local record store. Tracy’s mother is the indomitable Edna Turnblad, and she eventually encourages Tracy on her campaign to integrate the all-white “Corny Collins Show.”

Harvey Fierstein, who is also writing the teleplay, will play Edna Turnblad, a role he created and won a Tony Award for in the stage version of “Hairspray.” The quintessential Edna, Fierstein portrayed the character for the show’s first two years of its seven-year run at the Neil Simon Theatre on Broadway.

As an actor, he is a member of an elite group who have won Tonys as Best Actor in a Musical (“Hairspray”) and Best Actor in a Play (for his own “Torch Song Trilogy”). As a writer, Fierstein won Tonys for “La Cage Aux Folles” and “Torch Song Trilogy,” and received three more Tony nominations for writing “Kinky Boots,” ”Newsies” and ”Casa Valentina.” His adaptation of “Funny Girl” is currently running, along with “Kinky Boots,” in London.

Hudson, who will play Motormouth Maybelle, is currently completing a triumphant run in the acclaimed revival of “The Color Purple” — performing the role of Shug Avery in her Broadway debut. She won an Oscar and Golden Globe in 2007 for her iconic performance as Effie White in the hit film “Dreamgirls.” Her sensational rendition of the song “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” was greeted with instant acclaim by film critics and moviegoers alike and made Hudson the person to beat as best supporting actress for the Academy Awards.

Hudson’s incredible vocal talents were first recognized with her appearance on the third season of “American Idol” in 2004, where she impressed both the show’s judges and a national TV audience. Soon after, she released her first album, “Jennifer Hudson,” which debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 Chart and sold more than 500,000 copies in the U.S. through the first six weeks. The album was nominated for four Grammys and won for best R&B album.

Hudson continued on the bigscreen following “Dreamgirls” and has since co-starred in such films as “Sex and the City,” “The Secret Life of Bees” and Spike Lee’s latest film, “Chi-Raq.” Her TV credits include NBC’s “Smash,” Fox’s “Empire” and HBO’s newest telepic, “Confirmation.”

“Hairspray Live!” reunites Hudson with executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who worked with her previously on NBC’s “Smash” and the 85th and 87th Oscar telecasts, which they also produced.

Television director Alex Rudzinski will join stage director Kenny Leon (“The Wiz Live!”). Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (the upcoming “A Few Good Men Live!”) serve as executive producers of “Hairspray Live!” Harvey Fierstein will provide a new teleplay and Jerry Mitchell (“Kinky Boots,” “On Your Feet”) will serve as choreographer for the live production with music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (“Smash” and Broadway’s upcoming “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”).

“Hairspray Live!” will air Wednesday, Dec. 7 at 8 p.m. ET/PT and will originate from Los Angeles.

MMT April 2016 Netflix Picks

This month I was inspired to share a few of my obsessions, that are conveniently up on Netflix presently – but we know that changes every so often, so hop on these while you can!

I was so happy to see my favorite basketball player of all time, Allen Iverson, recently named as an NBA Hall of Famer! Iverson brought so much to game, and was often not credited for the changes he made to the league. The documentary, IVERSON, is a really great look into the baller’s history and his heyday in the league – and it is told mostly in his own words. It’s pretty short, coming in at running time of 1 hour and 28 minutes, and is rated TV-14 – so it’s a good one to watch with the teens and to use as a lesson highlighter.

Now, I am always surprised when I ask people of this next pick, and they have yet to watch one episode! I’m referring to one of my favorite shows, JANE THE VIRGIN, which is currently in its second season on the CW. The show tells the story of Jane Villanueva, who made a childhood vow to her grandmother to remain celibate until marriage – but is erroneously impregnated by an obstetrician during what was supposed to be a routine GYN visit. Oh, and the sperm just so happened to be the OB/GYN’s (Luisa) brother, Rafael, whose fiancée Petra was supposed to be artificially inseminated on the same day! Sounds crazy, right?  But the premise lays the foundation for a hilarious series of events that involves Jane’s mother Xiomara, grandmother Alba, boyfriend Michael, and a host of colorful characters – including a mafia lord – and leading up to a really decent season cliffhanger. In short, it is a nighttime soap-opera fashioned comedy a’la “Ugly Betty.”

The show really has some mature themes, so it’s not for the youngins, and the first season is currently streaming in its entirety on Netflix – so if you also never watched, it’s a great way to catch up and then tune into season two on the CW! And if you need anymore convincing, Jane the Virgin won the People’s Choice Award for Best New TV show and its lead, the dynamic Gina Rodriguez, won a Golden Globe for her performance.

My last pick is the new Pee Wee Herman movie, PEE-WEE’S BIG HOLIDAY, because when the original film – Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure – was released in 1985, I not only saw it in the theaters twice, but watched it repeatedly on VHS when it came out (yes, I said VHS and stop trying to guess my age!). I still die laughing at Large Marge and the Tequila scenes (fellow fans certainly know what the hype is all about) and this new film brings back that silly humorous fun. It is also big kid-friendly – with a PG rating that I’d say was safe for ages 8 and up. And guess what? Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure is also on Netflix, so make it a double-feature of good old-fashioned dumbness when you watch!

Alright family, that’s it for now. I think I’m about to go for my 5,110th viewing of Pee-Wee!

Until next thought, Thomasena

PS – open this in your browser to see the “Tequila” scene at the bottom, and another special blast from the past!

…and because we had no act right in the 80’s, and used any excuse to make up a new dance! Who remembers this?

MMT alternatives for those planning to NOT watch The Oscars and why I’m tuning in

Academy Awards Infographic

Happy Sunday MMT Fam! Unless you’ve been boycotting television, or living under a rock, you are aware of this year’s Academy Award controversy and its subsequent social media hashtag, #OscarsSoWhite. There are pretty much three camps with respect to viewing tonight’s ceremony – those who are (for various reasons), those who are boycotting it all-together, and those who couldn’t care less because they’ve never watched!

Any reasonable person, who can read the above infographic or count & name persons of color who’ve won any category since the inception of the Academy Awards, knows there is great merit in the cause of those who fall in the second category. And though I mostly agree with the cause, I don’t believe boycotting the Oscars will have greatest impact implementing diversity changes within Hollywood – I’ll save that full conversation for another post, but let’s just say it involves mostly film boycotts. Hey GODS OF EGYPT, how’s that first weekend box office coming along?😉

Anyways, I’m in that first camp this year, and not for my normal reasons of wanting to see the red-carpet fashions and if any faves will take home the gold, especially on the chance that one of my favorite films and/or actors of color are nominated – which we definitely know isn’t the case tonight. I’m watching this year solely to see Chris Rock – who’s taking his second stint as the Academy Award host, his first sting being in 2005 back when Jamie Foxx won his Best Actor for RAY (and you know that was a very black year) – and what I believe will be one remarkable opening monologue. Not only am I looking forward to his monologue, but any biting critique he shares for the remainder of the show – honestly if I can hang in that long, but I am committed to signing in for the first part!

I’m hoping Rock does what he does best – which is highlight the elephant in the room in such a way that even though you’re uncomfortable you can’t help but acknowledge, accept or be shamed by what’s spoken. As a matter of fact, I’m looking forward to watching some uncomfortable reactions and seeing the camera pan on faces that may or may not reflect discomfort, agreement or pure agitation.

Why would I want to witness this, some of you are asking? It’s simple. Because I want truths spoken and tea spilled to further the uncomfortable conversations that need to take place. Let’s keep tackling and bringing awareness to this diversity issue – which is impacting every person of color, not just African-Americans, and subsequently everyone because we are not seeing accurate reflections of who we are in total.

Now for those of you who aren’t watching, I do have a few alternative recommendations of what you can view today. The first selection, #JusticeForFlint, is starting at 5pm est, so those who are watching the awards can join in for a bit as well, and is live streaming at A benefit fundraiser held by filmmakers, and a couple of MMT faves, Ava DuVernay and Ryan Coogler, #JusticeForFlint will be hosted by comedian Hannibal Buress and feature performances by Janelle Monae, Ledisi, Andra Day, Vic Mensa, Jazmine Sullivan, Musiq Soulchild, Robert Glasper, Jesse Williams, Jussie Smollett, Jasiri X, Vic Mensa, and more.

For those of you who stream Netflix, a service that is slaying the game in terms of diversity, why not catch up on a few films or TV shows, such as Beasts of No Nation (which was tragically overlooked by Academy voters this year) or any of the Netflix Picks that this site has highlighted since October of last year.

Don’t have Netflix? That’s cool. Go online to CRACKLE, which you can also stream to your TV, and find some great selections there – including a few of my faves including The Greatest, the 1977 film which stars the GOAT himself, Muhammad Ali, portraying – who else – himself! And if you’re into thrillers, I recommend Unthinkable, a 2014 edge-of-your-seat film starring Samuel Jackson and Carrie-Ann Moss, or you’re into action/martial arts, I recommend the Spike Lee directed remake Old Boy – but be warned the latter has an ending that really is “unthinkable!”

Looking for another free option? Then head on over to Bounce TV, whose line-up today includes the classics Waiting to Exhale and He Got Game!

And for those of you who are sitting TV out this evening, but may be interacting on social media, why not log into Twitter where African Amedia is hosting “The Sidneys,” so named after legendary actor Sidney Poitier with the hashtag #SidneysSoWoke, to pay tribute to your favorite actors, directors, and films in black cinema?

Well family, if nothing more, I hope this post offers food for thought, and inspires you to think about some of the diversity challenges that exist. And I hope it also shares viewing alternatives that you were not yet aware. Please feel free to share some thoughts in the comments and, as always, I look forward to reading what you have to say.

Until next thought, Thomasena

PS – check out Chris Rock’s opening monologue from 2005 below and get your life! He better slay tonight!




MMT February 2016 Netflix Picks

Happy Valentine’s Day MMT Fam! I’m really excited to share my three Netflix picks for this month with you! The picks range from one of my top five films of 2015, to a movie directed by a Philly native and shot locally in our hometown, to one of my favorite new TV shows – which has a new season starting in March, so you’ll have time to get up to speed if you’re not already watching.😉

My first choice is new to Netflix, the film DOPE, which I heavily promoted last year with screening giveaways and a review. “Dope” is set in director’s Rick Famuyiwa’s hometown of Inglewood and follows protagonist Malcom (Shameik Moore) and friends Jib (Tony Revolori) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) – from their unknowing entry into a drug scenario (slight spoiler) through their clever attempt to beat the odds and the drug dealers at their own game. It’s funny, clever, and filled with great music (with songs produced by Pharrell Williams) and cameos. You can check out my full review from last year here.

Next up is a film that was also recently added to Netflix, BROTHERLY LOVE, which was written and directed by Jamal Hill. Set in the Overbrook section of Philadelphia, “Brotherly Love” follows a sibling trio – Jackie (Keke Palmer), Sergio (Eric D. Hill Jr.) and June (Cory Hardrict) – who are pursuing a better life amidst severe challenges, that result in life-altering decisions. The story is solid, and includes a young love affair (with a twist) between Jackie (Palmer) and Chris – the latter played by Quincy Brown aka Combs. And if you recognize the last name, yes that is Combs as in Diddy’s son – who also makes in appearance the aforementioned “Dope.”

“Brotherly Love” also co-stars singer/actress Macy Gray, rapper/actor Romeo Miller – and has several cool cameos, including actors Malik Yoba, actor/comedian Faizon Love, and “The Roots” front man and Philly native Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter.

My final pick for today is the Netflix original mini-series – that literally had folk (myself included) going through withdrawal last year after binge-watching – MARVEL’S DAREDEVIL! As hard as I tried to extend viewing, once I got past episode three it was a wrap – I was done in two days, and that would be business days, so I got no sleep!

Now I have to admit that I was not a “Daredevil” comic fan and really knew nothing about the character. So I entered episode one like, “A blind comic book hero? How?”  Since I don’t do spoilers, let’s just say that by the end of episode two (the rescue scene) I was a believer. And by the time one of my fave actors, Vincent D’Onofrio (Law & Order: Criminal Intent), appears and starts showing out, kicking a$$, and taking no names as Wilson Fisk, I was ALL IN!

I was able to interview “Daredevil” actor Elden Henson (Foggy Nelson) when he visited Philly for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay 2 press tour. I tried to get him to give us the tea on the upcoming season – with pretty much no luck, LOL! But, you can check out why he amusingly “feared” spilling the beans in my Examiner article here.

Alright MMT Fam, that’s it for this month’s selections. Please leave a comment or two if you watch or have seen any of the choices, and feel free to leave some Netflix picks of your own.:)

Until next thought, Thomasena







MMT January 2016 Netflix Picks

Netflix Picks January 2016 out-of-my-hand-movie beasts of no nation

Happy Sunday MMT Fam! So this is the first Netflix picks list that I’m sharing where I haven’t actually seen the films – but rather this is my personal watch list for today’s “snow-seclusion!”

First up is the one movie that seems to have the critics’ consensus as being majorly snubbed – including the performance by the magnificent talent that is Idris Elba – this award season, BEASTS OF NO NATION. The film is is based on the highly acclaimed novel by Nigerian author Uzodinma Iweala and follows protagonist Agu, a child soldier torn from his family to fight in the civil war of an African country. Newcomer Abraham Attah portrays Agu, while Elba portrays Commandant, a warlord who takes in Agu and instructs him in the ways of war.

The next two on my list were both recently acquired by ARRAY (formerly AFFRM) for distribution –  AYANDA and OUT OF MY HAND. “Ayanda”  tells the story of a single-minded 21-year-old Afro-hipster Ayanda (Fulu Mugovhani), who has a talent for taking neglected pieces of furniture and “bringing them back to love”. Eight years after her father’s death, his prized auto repair garage is in deep debt and in danger of being sold, but Ayanda does everything in her power to hold on to his legacy. The film also stars Nigerian actor OC Ukeje – winner of the 2015 Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Award for Best Actor, Jafta Mamabolo, Nthati Moshesh, Kenneth Nkosi, Sihle Xaba and Vanessa Cooke.

Out of My Hand” is the directorial feature début of Takeshi Fukunaga and tells the story of a struggling Liberian rubber-plantation worker (Bishop Blay), who risks everything to discover a new life as a cab driver in New York City. The film debuted in the Panorama Section of the 2015 Berlin International Film Festival.

If you weren’t emotionally touched by any of the above trailers – especially the last – you have no pulse! I can’t wait to watch each of these, and I hope many of you will join me. And don’t forget to share your thoughts with us in the comments.:)

Until next thought, Thomasena