On the Purple Carpet: At Opening Night of Suffs, Joy and Activism Went Hand-in-Hand | Playbill

Opening Night On the Purple Carpet: At Opening Night of Suffs, Joy and Activism Went Hand-in-Hand

Plus, the opening night attendees included Melissa McCarthy, Sara Bareilles, D'Arcy Carden, Meena Harris, Dylan Mulvaney, and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Rachel Sussman Tricia Baron

The Suffs are at the gates. Suffs, the new musical about the women's suffrage movement, opened April 18. And in true suffragist fashion, purple and white were the core theme (the colors of the female suffragist). The carpet was purple and a number of core cast and creative team members wore white, including former Secretary of State (and Suffs producer) Hillary Clinton. 

"I am so excited!" Clinton exclaimed with a smile. Clinton, a longtime Broadway audience member, is making her debut as a producer on Suffs. When asked why she decided to support this new musical, the former First Lady did not hesitate to say, "This is an original American musical. And it's about an important part of American history that I want as many people as possible to know more about...And it is so well done. It is thrilling to watch. I am just beyond privileged to have any small role in helping to bring it to the audience that I hope will really respond." Read the reviews for Suffs here.

Click here to purchase the opening night Playbill forSuffs

Hillary Clinton Tricia Baron

Suffs follows the many women of the suffrage movement who lobbied for years for the right to vote. For Shaina Taub, who wrote the book, music, and lyrics (and who stars in the show as Alice Paul), this opening was the culmination of a decade of hard work. "I'm really trying to drink it in and just be so grateful that we got here," she said. 

But even on such a celebratory night, social change wasn't far from her mind. "I'm really lucky to be involved with some various organizations that are fighting for justice and equality...and education and health care, reproductive rights," she said passionately. "We have an opportunity to pass an Equal Rights Amendment here in New York State this fall, it's going to be a ballot measure. So it's been really exciting to me to kind of like have a show that can hopefully be a container and a platform for those issues." Indeed, Taub's character in Suffs, Alice Paul, was the person who wrote the ERA.

And it's a fortuitous bit of timing that Suffs is premiering in an election year, where millions of women will cast their ballot for who should be president. On the purple carpet, Playbill asked the cast of Suffs to name the people on their team that they would vote for President and Vice President. See who won the popular vote below.

Not only is it a historical piece, Suffs established itself in the annals of Broadway history on its opening night. Taub is the second known woman to have written the book, music, lyrics and star in her own book musical (after Micki Grant in 1971). And Suffs is also notable for featuring an all female, non-binary cast.

READ: How Suffs on Broadway Built Its Team of Powerful Women

This lack of representation for women in theatre is what inspired lead producer Rachel Sussman to have the idea of Suffs the musical in the first place and suggest it to Taub. "There are not enough stories that center female protagonists in the American canon and most of women's history in our country's overlooked. And so there's opportunity [with Suffs] to really be able to say, 'Look at this extraordinary group of women so that young girls can say, 'Hey, I can be like them, too.'"

Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai first saw Suffs when it premiered at the Public Theater Off-Broadway in 2018. She recalled falling in love with the show, and so when she was asked to produce it, she didn't hesitate. In fact, she says producing is in tandem with her own work as an activist for girls' education around the world. 

"I hope everybody watches it," said Yousafzai. "But I am really excited for young people to watch it. I believe that young people are not just the future, but in the present, they can do a lot. And I hope that they value the rights that they have and they fight for the rights of those who do not have equal opportunities, and they help us create a more equal and equitable society."

Though the events of Suffs take place over 100 years ago (the 19th Amendment was passed in 1920), the cast and creative team of the musical were clear in saying the work of ensuring equality for women is still ongoing. And the next generation will have to take up the mantle to finish the fight. 

That's what actor Nikki M James was thinking about at the Suffs opening night, where she admitted that she is a new mom. "Doing previews of the show with an 18-month-old baby at home has been an unreal feat," she exclaimed. But James wasn't tired, she was energized. It was clear that she and the other members of the Suffs team believed in the story they were telling and its message. And they were not shy about making their political stances known (a number of actors, such as Kim Blanck and Nadia Dandashi wore pins that said, "Theater workers for a ceasefire").

When asked what she hoped to inspire with her performance as real-life journalist and suffragist Ida B. Wells, James responded: "I just hope that we remember that with great progress, we can't just like be, it's done. We must continue to fight. We see that this year, with the rolling back of rights for women in Arizona and the Dobbs decision—that we must remain vigilant and take care of each other. And work is never done, never over" 

Shaina Taub Tricia Baron

In the many articles that have been written about Suffs, it's been compared to Hamilton due to it being a history musical where the composer is also the star. Luis Miranda, the father of Hamilton composer Lin-Manual Miranda, sees the comparison. He recalled the opening night of Hamilton, and "The excitement of telling a very different kind of story and Suffs, it's doing the same thing. It's telling a very different kind of story that is so needed in today's society."

Lin-Manual Miranda couldn't agree more, calling himself the "recording secretary of the Shaina Taub fan club." He had only positive things to say about Suffs, having followed the show in its early workshop days. "I think it's just so special. And what [Shaina is] trying to do was so hard and and she's accomplishing it. And I just think it's an amazing show."

See the Mirandas, as well as Melissa McCarthy, Dylan Mulvaney, Sara BareillesD'Arcy Carden, Meena Harris, and many more on the Suffs purple carpet.

Photos: Opening Night of Suffs on Broadway

Suffs also stars Tony Award nominee Jenn Colella as Carrie Chapman Catt, Grace McLean as President Woodrow Wilson, Hannah Cruz as Inez Milholland, Kim Blanck as Ruza Wenclawska, Anastacia McCleskey as Mary Church Terrell, Ally Bonino as Lucy Burns, Tsilala Brock as Dudley Malone, Nadia Dandashi as Doris Stevens, and Tony Award nominee Emily Skinne as Alva Belmont/Phoebe Burn. All cast members—save for Skinner, McCleskey, and Blanck—are rejoining the cast from the Off-Broadway production. Bonino and Dandashi make their Broadway debuts in the show.

The ensemble includes Laila Erica Drew as Phyllis Terrell/Robin and Jaygee Macapugay as Mollie Hay, along with Jenna Bainbridge, Dana Costello, Monica Tulia Ramirez, and Ada Westfall. Hawley Gould is the alternate for Alice Paul, with the company rounded out by swings Christine Heesun Hwang, Chessa Metz, Kirsten Scott, Housson Semon, D'Kaylah Unique Whitley.

Director Leigh Silverman again directs the Broadway production, which features a largely new creative team. Aside from returning music supervisor and music director Andrea Grody, the Broadway creative team includes Suffs newcomers choreographer Mayte Natalio, scenic designer Riccardo Hernández, costume designer Paul Tazewell, lighting designer Lap Chi Chu, sound designer Jason Crystal, and orchestrator Michael Starobin. 101 Productions is the general manager.

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