Manhattan Theatre Club has added some big names to the producing team for its upcoming world premiere Broadway run of Jocelyn Bioh's Jaja’s African Hair Braiding, set to begin performances September 12 ahead of an October 3 opening night at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.
Joining the list of producers are LaChanze, Taraji P. Henson, and Madison Wells Live. The credit will be Henson's Broadway producing debut, while LaChanze has previously produced Topdog/Underdog, Kimberly Akimbo, and the recently opened Here Lies Love. Already a Tony winner for her performance in the original Broadway production of The Color Purple, LaChanze became a three-time Tony winner following 2023 Tony wins in production categories for Topdog/Underdog and Kimberly Akimbo.
Madison Wells Live, the theatrical arm of producer Gigi Pritzker's Madison Wells Media, has previously produced Shucked, Mike Birbiglia: The Old Man and the Pool, The Inheritance, and Hadestown on Broadway.
“I am honored to make my Broadway debut as part of the producing team for Jaja's African Hair Braiding at Manhattan Theatre Club," says Henson in a statement. "I want to thank Madison Wells Live for inviting me aboard this incredible and entertaining project. This play holds immense importance within the Black community, addressing themes that resonate deeply. It celebrates the beauty, strength, and resilience of Black women, highlighting the art of hair braiding as a form of self-expression and empowerment. I am honored to contribute to the representation of diverse voices on Broadway and use my platform to uplift marginalized communities. Join us on this unforgettable and inspiring journey as we celebrate the power of Black culture at Jaja's African Hair Braiding on Broadway!"
“I am honored and excited to join the producing team of Jaja’s African Hair Braiding, written by the brilliant playwright Jocelyn Bioh," adds LaChanze. "Her work brings the vibrant lived experiences within our global community to center stage. Under the skillful direction of Whitney White, and the dynamic artistic leadership at Manhattan Theatre Club, this joyous, funny, and inspiring play is sure to attract fresh and inclusive audiences.”
The move is part of a growing trend on Broadway, placing celebrity power on producing teams as well as cast lists. In the last few seasons, Broadway has seen names like RuPaul, Don Cheadle, Mindy Kaling, Billy Porter, Alan Cumming, and Ilana Glazer producing shows, to name but a few. Real Housewives star Kandi Burruss and husband Todd Tucker recently added their names to the roster of producers working on a Broadway-bound touring revival of The Wiz as well.
Jaja's African Hair Braiding is set in a Harlem hair braiding salon where a hot summer day brings out some love, dreams, and secrets. Whitney White is directing, with casting and creative team to be announced.
“I’m thrilled, as is MTC’s new Executive Director, Chris Jennings, to be working with Madison Wells, LaChanze, and Taraji P. Henson on the world premiere of Jaja’s African Hair Braiding," says MTC Artistic Director Lynne Meadow. "Each of them is bringing special talents to our team and we couldn't be more proud to be joined by such accomplished partners to help create our Broadway premiere of Jocelyn Bioh’s exciting new play, under the direction of Whitney White. Both artists are making Broadway debuts with this opening of MTC‘s 2023-24 season.”