American Prophet: A Frederick Douglass Historical Musical

American Prophet is a powerful, historical musical about Frederick Douglass pulled from his own words. See it now at Arena Stage in DC!

I can’t say that I ever envisioned the story of Frederick Douglass as a musical theater production, but here we are. American Prophet at the Arena Stage in Washington, DC was nothing like I expected. But in this case, I’m glad. I expected a basic, informative story with songs… which, yes, was part of the production… but I didn’t expect to become so emotionally invested. I also thought using Douglass’s own words might alienate audiences, but I was wrong. The cast and crew work their magic to tie the life of Frederick Douglass and those around him to the same, current divisions we face today. It’s a powerful performance worthy of your time.

What if I don’t know anything about Frederick Douglass?

I really had no idea what I was getting into with American Prophet. I remembered Frederick Douglass from history lessons at school, but mostly, I only remembered his ties to President Abraham Lincoln. On the other hand, my friend just finished reading Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight (all 900+ pages of it!), so she was well-versed on the subject. We both loved the musical equally. Basically, it doesn’t matter if you know nothing or if you know everything; everyone will enjoy this production. My friend walked away with more perspective than before, I walked away with a history lesson, and we both walked away thoroughly entertained.

On a high level, what’s it about?

Charles Randolph-Wright (Arena’s Born for This: The BeBe Winans Story, Broadway’s Motown the Musical) returns to Arena Stage with a groundbreaking musical powered by Frederick Douglass’ own speeches and writings. Coupled with soaring new melodies and an original script from Grammy Award-winning songwriter Marcus Hummon and Randolph-Wright, Douglass rises as a fierce abolitionist and distinguished orator. Filled with an electrifying new score, this world premiere celebrates the revolutionary legacy of one of history’s first freedom fighters, whose fire is needed now more than ever.
How was the cast?

I was highly impressed with the entire cast, especially Cornelius Smith, Jr. as Frederick Douglass. Each individual dripped with talent, and I was blown away by the singing with each new song. Led by the director (and co-creator) Charles Randolph-Wright, the entire production will suck you in from the start. Get a glimpse behind the scenes:

So, should I see it?

Haven’t you been paying attention?! YES! If you’re in or around the DC area, buy your tickets to American Prophet right now: