Tag Archives: Buku Productions Theatre Company



The hit Broadway Ossie Davis play, “Purlie Victorious,” was adapted into a musical in the 1970’s and became a hit sequel to the original comedy.  The New McCree Theatre in Flint, Michigan, hired Buku Productions’ Artistic Director, Reuben Yabuku, to commute North to direct the classic musical production of “Purlie,” for their patrons and with their area performers.  The result was so explosive that Reuben decided to partner the New McCree Theatre and Buku Productions Theatre Company to co-produce this show for Buku’s Detroit area patrons.

The Flint audiences packed into the New McCree Theatre to see this funny and highly entertaining musical.  The sold-out crowds were extremely energized and excited by the superb cast of performers and the singing by all eight lead singers (Johnnie Person, Jon’Tise Samuels, Gwen Hemphill, Tezell Morris, Cliff Thurlow, Billie Scott-Lindo, Travis Thurlow, and Terence Grundy), the background vocal support by a marvelous trio of pit singers and an outstanding live band led by Music Director, Richard Battle.






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Purlie Victorious Judson is a man who fled the South during the Jim Crow era, because he wasn’t good at “staying in his place.”  The play opens with Purlie returning home with a scheme to swindle Ol’ Cap’n Cotchipee out of $500; the amount of the inheritance he feels Ol’ Cap’n stole from his family.  However, the plantation owner may not be as easy to persuade as Purlie thought; not when it comes to parting with Ol’ Cap’n’s first love: money.  The fun really heats up as Purlie and Ol’ Cap’n, both as stubborn as can be, match wits.


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Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round

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.

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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.

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