Great Cast for ‘Colored Girls’

But here's why Ntozake Shange's choreopoem deserves a better director.

Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images
Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no Tyler Perry fan. When I first heard that Mr. Madea would be adapting For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf, I stomped around the office, gnashing my teeth and muttered, “Tyler Perry must be stopped!” News that he wanted to cast Beyoncé didn’t help with the agitation.

I took comfort in knowing that at least Madea wouldn’t be making an appearance in Ntozake Shange’s seminal, Tony Award-winning choreopoem, which debuted on Broadway in 1976. At least.

Now I can take comfort in knowing that Beyoncé won’t be making an appearance, either.

This week, Perry announced–drumroll–his official, Beyoncé-free cast: Whoopi Goldberg, Janet Jackson, Jurnee Smollett, Phylicia Rashad, Kimberly Elise, Mariah Carey, Kerry Washington and Macy Gray.

And I’m not (too) mad at him. They’re all talented women. Macy Gray’s demonstrated her thespian chops in Domino and Idlewild. (And was her whole spacey, drugged out, 1990s stage persona an act, too?) Mariah Carey surprised us all, post Glitter, by proving in Precious that she could act, too.

But still. They deserve a better director. A much better director. (What happened to Nzingha Stewart, who wrote the adaptation and was originally set to direct For Colored Girls?) Just as every good writer needs an eagle-eyed editor, just as the Lakers need Phil Jackson, actors need a savvy director to lead them around the pitfalls of over-emoting and underwhelming, to draw out the best possible performance. Say what you will about Precious and Lee Daniels, but he’s a man who knows how to coax award-winning acting out of the most unlikely of performers.