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Musical Theatre West’s Black History Month programming highlights Broadway artists – Press Telegram

By the time he was four years old, Antoine Lee already knew he wanted to be on the theater stage. But it wasn’t until years later that he saw someone else on stage who looked like him.

“I had never seen Black performers in musical theater until I was in high school, I think, and I saw one Black guy in a cast of over 40 in ’42nd Street,’” said Lee, whose theater credits include roles in several Musical Theatre West shows such as “Ragtime” and “Oliver.” “And that was the moment when I thought I could be that one Black guy one day.”

And with his latest role at the Long Beach company, he’s hoping to inspire future theater stars by showing them that Black performers have always been an essential part of theater then and now.

Lee is one of the hosts taking part in the Long Beach company’s monthlong online celebration of Black History Month, which will celebrate iconic Black Broadway artists as well as shows that featured Black performers or speak of the African American experience.

“It’s more than important, it’s necessary and required,” Lee said.

And there will be some dance lessons, too.

The celebration will consist of programs focusing on Black artists throughout the month of April.

The “Black Broadway History” program will take place at  7 p.m. on Fridays with host Stevi Meredith, who is an acting teacher and director.

She will lead history classes talking about iconic Black Broadway stars such as Florence Mills, a performer at the turn of the 20th century who was known as “Broadway’s Queen of Happiness,” as well as shows including “The Wiz,” “Ragtime” and “The Color Purple.”

“I think inclusion is super important. Children look at things and then they want to emulate what they see, and if they don’t see themselves right away their vision is impaired because they only see themselves as the other,” Meredith said.

There will also be daily posts on the company’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts that feature a picture of a Black artist each day with information about their lives and contributions to theater.

Lee will take part in the series’ “Black Broadway Choreography,” which will take place at 11 a.m. on Saturdays during the month when dancers lead a 30-minute choreography class focusing on the work of an influential Black choreographer.

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