Author Archives: BukuWeb
The Donny Hathaway Tribute of 2003 started out as a prospective syndicated radio special, fourteen years prior. Sometime in 2002, while still waiting for my sales partner in Atlanta to find the necessary funding to broadcast the show, it hit me like a ton of bricks: “Let’s put the Donny Hathaway story on stage instead of on the radio.”
The great Donny Hathaway songs that would have been played on the radio broadcast were performed live, with a live band, by the Detroit area’s top vocalists in the disciplines of Blues, R&B, Jazz, and Gospel. The addition of the six fabulous Modern/Jazz dancers and interviews with Roberta Flack and Donny’s widow, Eulaulah, helped to make the theatrical concert a magical moment in Detroit theatre history.
Presented in 2004 at Paul Robeson Theatre and in 2005 and 2007 at Millennium Centre, Buku Productions Theatre Company’s production of “Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round” was written and directed by Artistic Director, Reuben Yabuku. The story line and a couple of songs in the show came pretty quickly to Reuben as an inspired piece of work.
The entire staging for the show was done fifteen years prior to the script being completed, because he couldn’t find the right songwriting partner to create the songs and music for the Gospel musical about the political career of Dr. Martin Luther King. When Reuben commissioned Patricia Grant of Inkster, Michigan to help write the songs, magic happened. Pat finished writing the needed songs in a couple of weeks and the birth of this stylized musical production, finally, was ready to be mounted and hit the stage. It’s become a perennial production for us.
“The Colored Museum” was one of the nation’s top plays in the 1980’s. The play, written by George C. Wolfe, is eleven exhibits of Black American life through the years. “The Colored Museum” was Buku Productions Theatre Company’s first production in 1990, and it was the sold-out hit a fledgling theatre company could only dream of having. With all thirty-six (36) shows at Detroit Repertory Theatre selling out completely, we were on our way.
In 2004, Buku Productions reprised the show with an all-new cast and packed them in again at Paul Robeson Theatre in Detroit.
August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning play, “Fences,” was well-traveled and a very successful audience-pleaser for Buku Productions Theatre Company. Always a sell-out show, “Fences” was mounted by Buku Productions in 1991 at Flint’s Whiting Auditorium and Toledo Repertoire Theatre and in 1992 at the Attic Theatre in Detroit and then back to the Whiting Auditorium, brought in by Flint’s Pace Productions.
The original Detroit production, produced by Detroit Repertory Theatre with Reuben Yabuku as director in 1990, won numerous awards from The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press Theatre Excellence Awards. Veteran stage actors, Council Cargle (deceased), Jennifer Jones, Michael Jay (deceased) and (sometimes) Ann Arbor’s Michelle Daniels, led a cast of metro Detroit’s finest performers. Council Cargle’s interpretation of the lead character, Troy Maxson, was truly a sight to see. His magnetic stage presence and big booming portrayal of the frustrated trash collector was award-winning but, more importantly, a shining example of one of Detroit’s greatest performances by one of the best to ever hit the boards… anywhere! Mike Jay, who played Bono in all 178 performances directed by Reuben Yabuku and the great Council Cargle… you guys are sorely, sorely missed.
“Moms Mabley The Naked Truth” began in 1999 as a pre-season co-production between Buku Productions Theatre Company and Detroit Repertory Theatre. The one-woman show, starring Linda Boston as “Moms,” was a complete 100% sold-out production. This revealing and hilarious look into the professional and personal life of Loretta Mary Aiken, better known as “Moms” Mabley, brought about side-splitting laughter as well as tears. Moms’ first cousin and 25 other members of her family attended a Detroit Rep performance of “The Naked Truth” and, thank goodness, they absolutely loved it! Most of the Aiken/Hall family members who attended that show are spotlighted in a group pic featured in our photo gallery below the video excerpts.
The premise is a supposition of “Moms’” reaction to how Black entertainment pioneers were being looked back on as buffoons in blackface instead of those courageous and oppressed performers who paved the way. Written and Directed by Buku’s Artistic Director, Reuben Yabuku, this popular play was performed again in 2001 at Millennium Centre, U of M/Flint (the week of “911”) and reprised again at Millennium Centre in 2002.
Buku Productions Theatre Company was proud to be asked to produce “Breaking Stories.” This uniquely crafted play was written and performed by Fox TV 2 Newscaster, Lee Thomas. Reuben Yabuku, Buku Productions’ Artistic Director, directed the production for Lee. It gave audiences the rare opportunity to see Lee Thomas perform in a way you can’t see on television. Other than the occasional appearance by featured performer, Keisha Grant, this production was a one-man stage play.
“Breaking Stories” takes a funny and intriguing look at the making of TV News with a mix of live television and theatre to better reveal the stories behind the sound bites. Lee Thomas plays multiple characters in a plot-twisting newscast that truly comes to life. “Breaking Stories” takes the audience behind the scenes and beyond the headlines.
Our presentation of “Breaking Stories” was May 9 – 11, 2003 at the Paul Robeson Theatre in Northwest Activities Center, Detroit. This production was sponsored by A-Star National Realty.
Our 2006 hit production, “Hit The Floor Dancin’” was a dance musical that walked through the history of dance styles from African dance to Hip-Hop. The show also examined Tap, Modern, Jazz, Salsa, Ballet, Swing, Haitian, Liturgical, and Street dance styles. One of the most unique aspects of “Hit The Floor Dancin’” was the show bringing some of Detroit’s top dance companies together, performing for the first time in the same show. What a treat it was for the audience!
Our 2003 production of “The Meeting” asked a simple question: What if Martin Luther King and Malcolm X really did have a secret meeting to discuss their philosophical differences and similarities. Roosevelt Johnson, Steve Dixon, and Casante Williams were the performers in this dramatic theatre production, presented at the Paul Robeson Theatre. Malcolm and Martin debated in intense and, sometimes, humorous fashion. At one point they even resorted to challenging each other to an arm wrestle. This audience-pleaser kicked off Buku Productions Theatre Company’s 2003/2004 theatre season.