Taye Diggs Will Be The Next Hedwig On Broadway, Marking A Big Moment In Color-Blind Casting
There's great news for fans who miss the former Mr. Idina Menzel. After a decade-long hiatus from the Broadway stage, Taye Diggs will appear in Hedwig and the Angry Inch . The musical tells the rock and roll tale of a transsexual/gender queer performer whose life changed after a botched surgery and a big, bad break-up. Diggs will be the sixth actor to take on the bombastic role after Neil Patrick Harris, Andrew Rannells, Michael C. Hall, Darren Criss, and Hedwig originator John Cameron Mitchell brought the musical back to Broadway in 2014. Diggs is the first African American to play Hedwig on the New York stage and there's no doubt his performance will be unforgettable. The 44-year-old performer is a seasoned musical star, appearing in such hits as RENT (original cast), Wicked, and Chicago.
Diggs' casting is a huge moment for diversity on Broadway, not only because he is an African American actor, but because his casting in a lead role is color-blind. The majority of the Tony nominated shows for Best Musical or Best Revival of a Musical feature mainly white casts, less than half in the past five years had a black lead or black cast-members, to be exact. Furthermore, in 2015, all of the Best Musical and Revival nominees feature white leading actors and white ensembles.
That isn't to say that Broadway musicals don't have an African American presence. Recent Tony winning shows and nominees like Memphis, Fela!, Sister Act, Kinky Boots, and After Midnight feature African American leads and supporting casts. But what's rare about Taye Diggs as Hedwig is that the role was envisioned as a skinny, white, East German character — it's not often that a black actor is chosen for a role that's not explicitly for a black actor, especially when it comes to the Original Broadway Cast.
Though Diggs is in the sixth iteration of Hedwig's run, it's still a big moment. The only other similarly color-blind casting in the past five years came in the form of James Monroe Iglehart, who played the Genie in the original Broadway cast of Aladdin. The Genie's voice was originated by a white actor (Robin Williams), but Genie was blue in the Disney film, so I'm not quite sure Iglehart's casting counts as color-blind.
This is also not the first time Diggs has taken over a leading role of a white actor. His roles in Wicked and Chicago, as well as an understudy role in Carousel, were all originated by white actors.
Diggs' news is exciting for many of reasons, but especially for the steps it makes in diversifying the Broadway stage. Now, here's a little something to get you extra pumped:
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