"A PASSIONATE AND INSIGHTFUL NEW PRODUCTION! Yvette Freeman brings down the house, and Jason Bowen's volcanic performance is spellbinding." -The Boston Globe

Legendary 1920s blues singer Ma Rainey and her musicians gather in a run-down Chicago studio to record new sides of old favorites when generational and racial tensions suddenly explode. The Huntington completes Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner August Wilson's Century Cycle with this searing drama, Wilson's first Broadway hit.


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  • Completing the century cycle

    August Wilson had a unique relationship with the Huntington, as eight of his plays were produced here before they went on to New York (7 to Broadway, and one Off Broadway). Our audiences and staff alike have wonderful memories of encounters with Mr. Wilson, and he felt a special connection with the theatre as well.


  • The Music of Ma Rainey

    Ma Rainey, like the blues, was a product of the late 19th century South that reached full flower in the early 20th century. Born Gertrude Pridgett on April 26, 1886 in Columbus, Georgia, she began performing around age 14 in the local talent show and at church.


Press Reviews

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"A PASSIONATE AND INSIGHTFUL NEW PRODUCTION! MA RAINEY'S IS SOMETHING SPECIAL! Yvette Freeman brings down the house, and Jason Bowen's volcanic performance is spellbinding." -The Boston Globe
"MAGNIFICENT! A MUST-SEE THEATRICAL EVENT! This standard of excellence is the hallmark of the Huntington."

"GENIUS! A luminous and brilliant production that makes the ’20s roar once more. Yvette Freeman is fabulous!"

"Yvette Freeman is a force of nature, and you can’t take your eyes off the captivating Jason Bowen. Director Liesl Tommy gets at the heart of the story and conducts the talented ensemble like a virtuoso."

"An EXTRAORDINARY and moving experience!"
"Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is the tops! SPECIAL THEATRE YOU WON'T WANT TO MISS!" —
"POETIC, PROPHETIC, AND PROFOUND! Ma Rainey's has come to the Huntington at last — lucky, lucky Boston." -Cape Cod Times
More Reviews

Audience Buzz

"Jason Bowen: 'volcanic, spellbinding.' Yes. This was spot-on casting. I enjoyed all the actors' performances. And I will assuredly buy tickets for anything Liesl Tommy directs in the future." — Wayne Tucker via Facebook

"Saw the show on Saturday and LOVED it. Highly recommend it." — Julie-Anne Whitney via Facebook

Boston is luck to have had August Wilson's 10 play century cycle @huntington. Go see patter and tale filled blues drama 'Ma Rainey'" — @AhtsAndCultchua

"Great production of #MaRaineysBlackBottom, Both funny & heartbreaking. One of the best shows I've seen this season!" — @bkornell

"I agree. The casting was phenomenal. Each actor fully embodied their character. I felt like I was part of their conversation. The play has really stuck with me since I saw it on Saturday. I urge everyone to see it. I didn't expect the heavy moments and neither did I expect the sobs that Jason Bowen pulled from me. My heart ached for Levee's anguish. Everyone was stellar in this production. I wish I could meet you all to thank you personally. Best of luck!" — Kris K on the Blog

"While the play was very good, I'm reviewing the entire, Huntington experience here. It was the third night of the Back Bay blackout. I honestly didn't think they would be open. The entire block of Mass Ave was dark, except for the few buildings with generators. The Huntington pulled it off, and had a generator. They started a little late, but I have to really give them credit. The old adage 'the show must go on' was strictly adhered to. Bravo Huntington!!" — Goldstar Member

"An extremely moving and powerful performance!" — Goldstar Member

"Powerful, most enjoyable, The story and cast were excellent. Thank you Huntington. I have been telling all my friends and family." — Goldstar Member



    From WGBH's Greater Boston, March 15, 2012: "Jared Bowen speaks with ER star Yvette Freeman about the Huntington Theatre Company's production of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, the final installment in the company's cycle of plays by the late August Wilson.. . . . "

    From BU Today, March 14, 2012: "When Ma Rainey's Black Bottom opened on Broadway in 1984, New York Times critic Frank Rich wrote that Tony and Pulitzer winning playwright August Wilson 'sends the entire history of black America crashing down upon our heads.' A play about white racism and its victims, Ma Rainey is driven by music, especially the reign of 1920s blues legend Gertrude "Ma" Rainey. . . . "

    From The Boston Globe, March 9, 2012: "When Ma Rainey's Black Bottom opened on Broadway in 1984, playwright August Wilson emerged, seemingly out of nowhere, as an electrifying new voice in American theater. The poet from Pittsburgh was hailed for his lyrical voice and for his singular ability to capture the hopes and dreams — often deferred — of black Americans. . . . "


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