Theater People presents their newest episode and, as always, is a great one!
Tonya Pinkins, most known for her work in Caroline, Or Change, is a Tony winner that has become a Broadway legend! As Patrick notes, Tonya has also been in Merrily We Roll Along, Jelly’s Last Jam, and is currently in Holler If Ya Hear Me.
Holler If Ya Hear Me is based on the lyrics and poetry written by Tupac Shakur. As Tonya says, the show isn’t a “jukebox musical” but is a collection of Tupac’s protest lyrics set to popular tunes from the 80s and 90s. And so, Todd Kreidler brought these pieces together to illustrate the events that many African Americans face. Patrick and Tonya both say that the show is not about Tupac, but instead the world that African American men find themselves in. Tonya notes that the show is opening doors for viewers to discuss a part of African American culture that people have been overlooking.
After the touching discussion about Holler, Patrick then takes Tonya down Memory Lane to discuss her Broadway debut in Stephen Sondheim and Harold Prince’s Merrily We Roll Along. She notes that the show previewed for two months, followed by two weeks on Broadway – at which point the show closed. She also points out that many people have tried to solve the “Merrily problem.” Last year, the show was filmed at the Harold Pinter Theatre, where the show garnered critical acclaim. However, Tonya believes that the show is easier to follow structurally in today’s society than it was in 1981, which may explain the show’s initial failure.
The next stop on Memory Lane was Jelly’s Last Jam, where Tonya played Jelly’s love interest, Anita. She talks about her time in the show, including the times that she was fired from the show and brought back. She also campaigned for the Tony by sending out press packages to get people to pay attention to her. It was only after the Drama Desk nominations that Tonya got noticed for her role in the show.
After Jelly, Patrick and Tonya take a look at Caroline, Or Change. She does a great impression of George C. Wolfe telling her about the show and his interest in her being castes as Caroline. Caroline, Or Change tells the story of an African American woman working as a maid for a Jewish family in Louisiana during the Civil Rights Movement. Tonya tells that she did not need to study the piece, but could feel the work within her. Patrick tells Tonya that the show will forever be associated with her. Despite all this, it lost Best Musical awards at Drama Desk and the Tonys, but won the Olivier for Best Musical.
Finally, she dishes on her upcoming projects and dream roles.
What an amazing interview! Tonya is an inspiring person and a beautiful speaker. If you haven’t already listened to this week’s episode, you are missing out!