African-American Idol

Anytime a Black celebrity makes their way to Broadway, the tenor around the show changes completely, because the crowd changes drastically. Each time I tell myself I'm not going to see the show, because I don't want my experience ruined, but there I am amongst the bourgeois Black folks and your cousins that are a little more Tyler Perry than August Wilson. It happened with Fantasia in The Color Purple, when Usher starred in Chicago and went to the third power with Denzel Washington in Fences.

Five years ago I saw Denzel in Julius Caesar and I don't recall the atmosphere being remotely close to the spectacle I witness last night. I imagine hearing the reaction to his appearance on stage was similar to what Marvin Gaye and Teddy Pendergrass experienced during their heydays. A deafening roar went through the crowd, as everyone appreciated his body of work, then the women who appreciate his body (face, walk & talk), screamed, shrieked, swooned and any other superlative that starts with a "s". Every line from that point became funny or profound, they really were, but judging from the crowd reaction, they really were because Denzel said them.

If the scene could be described as pandemonium because Denzel was the star, it was complete bedlam because The Big O was in the building. Yeah, Oprah was boo lovin' with Gayle and the place went completely ape sh*t once word spread that she was there. Folks lost any leftover cool they had and began climbing over seats, forgetting their manners and shedding any remnant of theater etiquette to get a glimpse of Oprah and take a picture of her big head or top of her head. It was idol worship at its worst!

Chaos inside nearly became a riotous situation outside as people awaited Oprah and Denzel's to exit as one of NYPD's worst tried to control the crowd by strong-arming and yelling his way to get people to submit to his will. They need to add "Star Struck Black Folk" to the NYPD curriculum for its cultural sensitivity training, because that officer would've known there's no containing the excitement of Negroes and Niggas when a cultural icon is in arms reach. We're gonna get pictures, a touch, a peek just to tell everyone that we did.

I stood on the periphery with a gang of folks that looked like kin to Gregory Abbott as the commotion went from ridiculous to an embarrassment as grown men forgot they were in public trying to snap a shot of Denzel, women subliminally told their men they were going to be the recipient of some Troy Maxon lovin' for the weekend and I just stood there shaking my head, snapping pictures of cast members as they crept out silently, relatively unnoticed. I hope people remember the content of the play as well as the memories of seeing Denzel and Oprah, I know I will…and the memory of the after-party on 48th St.!

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