Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Great writing, Entertaining, Great staging

About the show

The first production of Obie Award-winning playwright Dominique Morisseau’s Signature Residency is a timely look at the changes a community endures to find its resilience.

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In 1949, Detroit’s Blackbottom neighborhood is gentrifying. Blue, a troubled trumpeter and the owner of Paradise Club, is torn between remaining in Blackbottom with his loyal lover Pumpkin and leaving behind a traumatic past. But when the arrival of a mysterious woman stirs up tensions, the fate of Paradise Club hangs in the balance.

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"Firmly establishes Morisseau as one of the most exciting voices to be heard at New York theatres...If the presentation of a gifted but troubled male artist and the nice, nurturing woman who loves him seems bit familiar, it's not a flaw in the proceedings. Morisseau's beautifully stylized piece embraces this, and other character depictions, as antiquated classics and hints at the changes ahead for urban African-Americans and in relationships between men and women." Full Review

Stage Left

"A gorgeously written, acted, and designed production...Lloyd’s performance is well-paced by Mr. Santiago-Hudson, unfolding slowly toward a climactic finish that left my audience gasping and shook. The balance of the cast is equally as excellent...Expertly written, rivetingly staged, and finely acted, this play is another triumphant entry by Ms. Morisseau, and a 'must see' of the spring season." Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

“Morisseau paints a rich, beautiful pallet of pain, fleeting joy, and the quest for something lasting. Performed by a superb cast under the discerning direction of Ruben Santiago-Hudson, ‘Paradise Blue’ a bracing and invigorating new play by an exciting young playwright. Challenging, warm, in dialogue with while advancing tradition, innovatively staged, and full of clear-eyed compassion: there is nothing not to love about this play.” Full Review


“Santiago-Hudson's staging captures the kinship between Morisseau's own distinctive voice and August Wilson...Excellent as all the actors are, it's Lloyd's Pumpkin and Smith's Corn who are the most emotionally engaging characters...The musician desperate to hit that perfect note and the sexy black angel character sashaying around the edges and inevitably to center stage may be just a tad clichéd, but Santiago-Hudson and this ensemble make them very classy classy clichés.” Full Review

Front Row Center

Playwright Morisseau, Director Santiago-Hudson and the excellent ensemble cast who work together like a Swiss clock, with a specificity and precision that is beautiful to behold, manage to march the piece to its inevitable conclusion without being obvious. And by using humor mixed with compassion the tension mounts without becoming overwhelming.” Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Morisseau has written finely layered themes of conflicts and personalities in 'Paradise Blue'....Watching Nicholson is akin to reminiscences of a young Denzel Washington filled with powerful, aching moments of pain. It’s Santiago-Hudson’s strong directorial hand that turns this cast into a well-oiled remarkable machine that creates its own buzz, resulting in real and truthful performances, aided by Ramos’ costumes and Rampton’s jaz-infused music.” Full Review

New York Stage Review

“A gorgeous, evocative production...Feels almost Tennessee Williams–like...Morisseau brings chaos into the club via character...Santiago-Hudson beautifully blends the play’s moodier, more fanciful moments—for instance, the tortuous world in Blue’s mind—with simple, chatty scenes.” Full Review

Theater Time

“An intense and beautifully woven new play...Marked with both fierceness and humor...Morisseau has an innate feel for her characters. The storyline is never simple but there is such a palpable embodiment in each of her characters...Santiago-Hudson has an ostensible feel for the time period directing in a film noir style which enhances the play's time period...The characters under Santiago-Hudson’s indelibly sensitive direction interplay with each other so convincingly.” Full Review

Time Out New York

"If Blue comes off as a bit of a cipher, it's because his decline is a metaphor for what happened to the Motor City's famed African-American enclave Black Bottom...The supporting characters in his orbit have much richer melodies...Their poetic interactions...fuel the drama, which is heavy on atmosphere and emotion and light on action...'Paradise Blue' has overlong riffs and isn't as satisfying as 'Skeleton Crew.' Yet its haunting themes are liable to get stuck in your head." Full Review

Gotham Playgoer

“The characters, mostly richly drawn, would feel right at home in an August Wilson play except for Silver, who seems to have wandered in from a noir film. Skillful director Santiago-Hudson is in his comfort zone...The play does not fully live up to its promise...The character of Blue is so relentlessly unsympathetic and devoid of charm that it is hard to care about his fate...Nevertheless, I enjoyed seeing the other first-rate actors making the most of juicy roles...Still worth seeing.” Full Review

This Week in New York Blog

“Keeps the spirit of August Wilson alive while further confirming Morrisseau as a rising star in her own right. The play is smoothly directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, like a bandleader orchestrating a jazz number...Nicholson can only do so much as Blue, who is not as fully drawn and fleshed out as the other characters...A minor quibble in what otherwise is an exciting and captivating work that evolves with the rhythm of the blues as it explores race, class, and family legacy.” Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"Although it falls a bit short of Wilsonian stature, it's not hard to consider this always engrossing work, sizzlingly staged by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, the saloon drama the great playwright never wrote…Rather conventional plot. Things grow increasingly melodramatic, though, and the late accumulation of developments and their contrived resolution bring the play to an ending that, for all its shock value, is as hard to buy as a Saturday night orchestra seat to 'Hamilton.'" Full Review


"Morriseau is to be lauded not just for the show's much-needed history lesson (revealing a story about a part of Detroit in 1949 unfamiliar to most), but also for her prescient, timely reminder that female empowerment and racial equality have been issues for many decades and remain so to this day." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

“One of those plays that feels powerful when you witness it, and starts to spur more and more questions of character and logic the farther you get from it...The actors throw themselves wholeheartedly into climactic moments, doing solid, emotionally connected work even when Morisseau’s script moves toward the neatness and sentiment of melodrama...Morisseau seems to give in to noir logic...I prefer the moments when, outside of archetype, I can see the play’s characters clearly.” Full Review


“Feels less like an improvisatory jazz number than a tightly structured opera...Blue is less interesting as a character than as a thematic totem...If the rest of the characters feel more deeply characterized, that may lie less in Morisseau's writing— than in the very fine actors who bring these ciphers to vivid life...Visual and aural imagination helps Morisseau's flawed but worthy drama sing even when we sometimes find ourselves too conscious of the notes she's trying to hit." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"The thin storyline takes a back seat to the rich language on display; like many a jazz composition, 'Paradise Blue' doesn't cohere very well, but there are some dazzling solos...The play feels very much alive anyway, thanks to Morisseau's prodigious gifts for language and creating small moments that register with significant emotional impact...'Paradise Blue' may be an imperfect play, but it's receiving a nearly perfect production." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"As with any show of pyrotechnics, a few of the explosives fizzle out prematurely, but most land with a kinetic energy that calls to mind August Wilson's poetically haunted blending of realism and expressionism, and novelist Alice Walker's forceful voice on behalf of black women...'Paradise Blue' could profit from another round of revision...Despite the occasional rickety bits, however, it is quite possible to see Dominique Morisseau as the heir apparent to August Wilson." Full Review

Wolf Entertainment Guide

“The conclusion is a symbolic killing of a time and place as well as of an individual. If only the action made character sense too...Santiago-Hudson maintains an atmosphere of dramatic tension combined with humor derived from the characterizations...The production’s main attribute is the combination of performances that come from the excellent, well-chosen five cast members who can keep us enthralled even through the play’s assorted weak spots.” Full Review

New York Stage Review

“Clichés about women and artists are explored and exploited along the way. If ‘Blue’ is lacking in fresh insights, it compels us as a character study, Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s robust and sensitive direction of a solid cast. Smith’s Corn is a standout...Battiste’s stubborn and wily P-Sam offers a fine contrast...As Blue, Nicholson brings charisma and poignance...The lessons in ‘Blue’ are hard...they leave plenty of room for debate after the curtain falls.” Full Review

The Wrap

"If the characters and set-up sound a little stock, Morisseau manages to elevate them with some pointed commentary and poetic turns of phrase. Her writing consistently elevates material that might otherwise seem pat...Ruben Santiago-Hudson stages the action, including the musical interludes, with a sure and steady hand — building to a climax that is suitably surprising even if it does not quite feel earned." Full Review

The New York Times

"Oddly in a play that features so much talk of jazz and poetry, the real estate story is the most compelling aspect...So overplays its genre tropes that the characters feel like incoherent afterthoughts. Especially in the second act, as the plot tries to wind itself into a climax, they stop making sense...The performances are hot and compelling in the way a five-alarm fire is, making you want to keep watching but also keep your distance...Feels like a work that merits deeper and longer recons... Full Review


"The play restricts itself to being an atmospheric but insubstantial slice of dramatic life. In this staging, Kristolyn Lloyd gives a lovely, self-effacing performance as Pumpkin...In lieu of a plot, Morisseau presents us with a cast of full-bodied characters...The characters are a few players short of the swinging band this play needs. But under the confident direction of Ruben Santiago-Hudson, the thesps have a good handle on their characters." Full Review


"Morisseau's characters, unfortunately, aren't quite as well rounded as Wilson's and her injudicious inclusion of an over-the-top melodramatic ending turns a dark character study—not without its charms—into something ludicrous." Full Review

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Dominique morisseau is god

See it if You want a nuanced view of black people in a world that is constantly trying to push them out.

Don't see it if You don't want to get pulled into a narrative that will punch you in the gut by the end.

Also Dominique Morisseau crafts and completely compelling narrative that gi... Read more Read less

Delightful, Must see, Profound, Riveting, Entertaining

See it if You love Dominique's writing style and Reuben's attention to detail for directing.

Don't see it if You like plain stories with no complexities.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Exquisite, Great acting, Great writing

See it if You like plays that have everything: humor, drama, characters, plot, heart, ideas, magic.

Don't see it if You want mindless numbing escape.

Funny, Intelligent, Great writing, Great staging, Brilliant ensemble acting

See it if Top notch acting is the premiere reason you love theatre ! You enjoy realistic plays that grab you from the first moment & don’t let go !

Don't see it if You are looking for light drama that washes over you and demands nothing from you. A “happily ever after” play is your thing.

Absorbing, Delightful, Great acting, Great writing, Great staging

See it if great little period piece about jazz, post WW2 black culture and gentrification.

Don't see it if portrayal of women is a bit 2 dimensional and negative.

Great acting, Entertaining, Engaging

See it if YOu enjoy a great story and great acting.

Don't see it if YOu don't like suspenseful drama

Absorbing, Great acting, Gripping, Entertaining, Complex

See it if you care to see a supremely skillful playwright carrying on the torch of August Wilson (with the support of a five-star cast).

Don't see it if the sound of a gunshot is going to trigger you or you lack sympathy for mental health issues and people haunted by the demons of the past.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Great staging

See it if you love seeing great productions of new work

Don't see it if You dum

Insightful, Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if You like character-driven works, with layers that unfold continuously.

Don't see it if You need large sets, are bothered by some swearing, prefer light topics

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Profound, Relevant

See it if You love August Wilson's play. Similar but takes place in Detroit. Wonderful acting.

Don't see it if You aren't interested in our dark history of racism and the ramifications.

Exquisite, Great acting, Intelligent, Great writing, Entertaining

See it if you like Dominique's work, if you are an August Wilson fan, if you love music as an integral part of a story

Don't see it if I loved it and can't really imagine anyone not finding something in it - wonderful work

Great acting, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if you're a fan of Dominique Morrisseau, which I am. It's not her best, but it's much better than the average play. Stay for the second act.

Don't see it if you're uninterested in historical fiction, gentrification, the African-American experience, or Detroit.

Funny, Profound, Resonant, Great writing, Great staging

See it if you enjoy shows about the African-American experience, or are looking to complete Dominique Morisseau’s Detroit trilogy.

Don't see it if you don’t enjoy shows about struggling, working-class folks, or live gunshots on stage bother you.

Absorbing, Great acting, Riveting

See it if For a poignant portrayal of Black jazz musicians, circa 1949, whose Detroit milieu is being wiped out by urban renewal and personal demons,

Don't see it if You prefer listening to jazz to hearing about the lives of Black jazz musicians whose home club is going to be destroyed as "urban blight."

Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Masterful

See it if You want to revel in a riveting nuanced performance by all of the wonderful actors. Splendid theatre. Great direction.

Don't see it if You are closed minded and are bothered by guns and are lacking imagination.

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Entertaining

See it if It might be over-ripe, but this drama has powerful acting and tackles real issues regarding 'urban blight"

Don't see it if You want to see a jazz concert.

Absorbing, Intelligent, Relevant, Entertaining

See it if You enjoy seeing interesting characters in an intelligent, well written play

Don't see it if You are looking to go home without thinking about the meaning of the play

Great acting, Excellent ensemble cast, Emotionally impactful, Writing captures voice of detroit black bottom

See it if Land value greater than its entertainment value spells the death of the Paradise jazz and blues club and its ill-fated residents.

Don't see it if A flawed ending spoils your enjoyment of Morisseau’s powerful and tragic drama.

Ambitious, Great acting, Relevant, Riveting, Great writing

See it if you're a fan of the playwright, curious about Detroit's jazz clubs & ambitions of black people in late 40's with great character profiles

Don't see it if you have no interest in Detroit or African-American history, don't like jazz, uninterested in sharp, authentic performances

Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant, Cliched

See it if . . . a jazz-oriented story with African-American characters in a 1949 Detroit club--affection, conflict, intrigue, dramatic irony abound.

Don't see it if you dislike an entertaining and engaging show with what might be considered black stereotypes--lite August Wilson.

Disappointing, Great singing, Great staging, Great directing

See it if you love terrific acting.Keith Randolph Smith is a delight.Play has a weak ending but a terrific first 7/8ths!Ending makes no real sense.

Don't see it if you hate serious plays about African Americans.With strong hints of August Wilson,the play explores the loss of black communities.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Indulgent

See it if you like strong acting from a talented and fresh ensemble.

Don't see it if you're looking for a lot action.

Great acting, Cliched, Dated, Great staging

See it if You want to follow one of the important female writers of our time. The acting is mostly excellent. And the set is terrific

Don't see it if You don't have patience for a play that may feel dated, . Even though themes might be relevant, it felt as if they had not been

Also I wanted so much to be enthusiastic about this play- but I had mixed f... Read more Read less

Movingly reflects the blues notes of a dying black detroit community

See it if features aching blues music, characters speak in/move to blues rhythm, beautiful poetic script

Don't see it if characters stereotypes: siren, doormat, tormented soul; static production; weak actor playing central Blue role leaves hole in play

Also Saw powerful Blair Underwood as "Blue" in the 2015 Williamstown produc... Read more Read less

Great acting, Entertaining, Long, Funny moments, Overly-ambitious

See it if You are interested in a dramedy that introduces you to interesting characters -- portrayed by talented actors.

Don't see it if You are impatient with melodrama and wordiness.

Also This script could benefit from a a few edits -- the first act is overl... Read more Read less

Cast & Creatives (13)