Arthur and Dottie had big dreams beyond what 1939 could dream up. Then Hattie McDaniel arrived.
During Hollywood’s Golden Age, 1939 was deemed one of the greatest years in motion picture history. Gone with Wind was among a long list of acclaimed classic films that premiered that year including Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Wizard of Oz, Stagecoach, Wuthering Heights, Gunga Din, Ninotchka, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, and Dark Victory. However, Gone with the Wind also marked an indelible moment in history. At the 1940 Academy Awards, Hattie McDaniel was the first African American to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
Directed warmly by Taavon Gamble, Greater Boston Stage Company delivers a perfectly timed, heartfelt tribute to one of the greats with the east coast premiere of Boulevard of Bold Dreams by LaDarrion Williams live and in person at Greater Boston Stage Company in Stoneham, Massachusetts and streaming through Sunday, March 19. The show is 90 minutes with no intermission. Click here for more information and for tickets.
This year’s 95th annual Academy Awards marked a revolutionary year as Everything Everywhere All at Once not only dominated the night winning Best Picture, Best Direction, and Best Screenplay but also delivered a historic win for Michelle Yeoh as the first Asian actress to win an Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role. One of the actresses that presented Yeoh’s Oscar was none other than Halle Berry who was the first African American to win an Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role. When Berry won in 2002 she declared, “This moment is so much bigger than me.”
Hattie McDaniel’s groundbreaking Oscar win as Mammy in Gone with the Wind garnered acclaim and ongoing recognition for the barriers she broke as well as controversy while she paved the way for Halle and many other actresses including Viola Davis, Whoopi Goldberg, Diahann Carroll, Jennifer Hudson, Regina King, Octavia Spencer, Lupita Nyong’o, and Ariana DeBose. Those actresses were able to write their own acceptance speeches, sit with their cast, and although some aspects of Boulevard of Bold Dreams is fictionalized, the show delivers some eye-opening facts about McDaniel within segregated Hollywood. Facing a tough road, McDaniel had had the foresight and tenacity to make sure her name was on that Oscar ballot.
Boulevard of Bold Dreams also boasts a memorable and tenacious cast. Bartender Arthur Brooks, an imaginative and aspiring director in a standout performance by Stewart Evan Smith, has big dreams well beyond his current occupation. Smith’s candor, charisma, and enthusiasm brighten each scene and his unflappable vision for his future makes it easy to root for his success in the face of any obstacle. Maid Dottie Hudson, a cynical, yet aspiring singer portrayed with wit and humor by Michelle Fenelon, has her feet planted closer to the ground. Smith and Fenelon strike a delicate balance of resourcefulness, wishful thinking and persistence when they arrived in Hollywood with little money and big ambitions. However, things are more complicated than they appear. In a distinctive and glittery blue gown, Samantha Jane Williams gracefully captures Hattie McDaniel’s humble and frank demeanor with an underlying anxiousness as she faces a potentially life changing night. Fenelon and Williams have quick and complex camaraderie as their strong vocals combine for a playful and impromptu duet.
Kiara Escalera’s meticulous costume design recreates McDaniel’s look with precision as well as the vintage sophistication of the 1940s. Enhanced by red and gold jacquard curtains and distinguished black and gold doors, scenic designer Rachel Rose Burke elegantly recreates a section of the Ambassador’s Coconut Grove Night Club in Los Angeles.
Boulevard of Bold Dreams not only depicts life’s possibilities through McDaniel, but the extent of the segregation and racism of that time and the struggle to make their dreams come true. Whether or not a fan of the Academy Awards or Hollywood, Boulevard of Bold Dreams tells an inspiring story for all the dreamers of how one person can create lasting change one step at a time.
Greater Boston Stage Company’s Boulevard of Bold Dreams by LaDarrion Williams live and in person at Greater Boston Stage Company in Stoneham, Massachusetts and streaming through Sunday, March 19. Click here for more information and for tickets.