The remarkable story of the 1921 trailblazing, all-Black musical, Shuffle Along , is explored in this well-researched and engrossing new book by pop-culture historian Gaines ... With this tense opening chapter, the dichotomous experiences of Black artists on early-twentieth-century stages are exemplified perfectly; both dazzle and danger, and not always in equal measure ... The book excels in describing the historical moment, seamlessly discussing a wide range of issues, including the role of African Americans in WWI and the racial violence in the country at large while also portraying the glamour of the time ... an excellent addition to the canon of musical theater history.
... a deeply researched and thoughtful framing of this pioneering musical, its time and its influence ... Gaines places the show within the broader American political and racial culture, making the book not only resonant but relevant. In addition to providing background on Jim Crow and the Great Migration ... Gaines is at his best when sourcing the wide-ranging voices of what at the time was called 'the Negro press' ... Footnotes could have gone deeper in conveying the offstage or onstage theatrical magic of the show itself. Gaines doesn’t really spend enough time walking the reader through how Shuffle Along played onstage. He also glosses over discussion of integrated shows of the period, such as Show Boat .... Although Footnotes raises a detailed embroidered curtain on Shuffle Along and its elegant, ambitious Black pioneers, posterity is still keeping the show’s full achievement waiting in the wings.
A celebration of a groundbreaking musical that stands as a landmark in Black American cultural history ... an animated, well-researched history of the creation, production, and long afterlife of Shuffle Along , a show that burst into the New York entertainment world in 1921 and was revived, in many iterations, as recently as 2016 ... A spirited, educative contribution to both theater history and Black history.