Broadway Expands Marquee Light-Dimming Honor For Hinton Battle After Online Outcry – Update

Broadway Expands Marquee Light-Dimming Honor For Hinton Battle After Online Outcry – Update

UPDATE: After an online backlash from many in the theater community, particularly among people of color and fans of pioneering actor-dancer Hinton Battle, the Broadway League announced today that marquee lights at all 41 Broadway venues, rather than just the select nine originally announced, will be dimmed for the late star of The Wiz.

“After further consultation among the Committee of Theatre Owners and reflecting on the impact of Hinton Battle, the Committee has shared with his family that all Broadway theatres will dim their lights in his honor on March 12, 2024, at 6:45pm for one minute,” said Jason Laks, Interim President of The Broadway League, in a statement today. “As we continue to remember Mr. Battle’s remarkable talent and array of roles, the decision was made to dim all lights as the most appropriate way to recognize his legacy on Broadway and within our community.”

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Battle, who made his Broadway debut as a teenager when he originated the role of The Scarecrow in the 1975 classic staging of The Wiz, died January 30 at the age of 67.

The light dimming has become an often fraught tradition in recent years, with fans of deceased Broadway stars taking to social media to lobby on behalf of favorite performers. At issue is not merely whether a particular passing merits a light-dimming – as was the case when Joan Rivers, a comic known more for television than her several Broadway appearances, was initially snubbed for the honor when she died in 2014, a decision that was quickly reversed – but even over how many theaters should participate. (Which, and how many, venues to dim is determined by the theater owners.)

While the deliberations by the League’s Committee of Theatre Owners are not made public, the number of Broadway venues participating in light dimmings is generally viewed as reflecting the honoree’s influence, career span and even how recent a Broadway career has been. Battle’s last Broadway appearance was in 1997.

In the weeks since Battle died, fans and admirers of the actor grew impatient waiting for the League dimming announcement that finally arrived yesterday. When the partial dimming was announced, many online were disappointed. Typical was a message on X/Twitter from OnStage Blog: “Just so we’re clear, no human being has won more Tonys for Best Featured Actor in a Musical than Hinton Battle, yet he’s only receiving a partial dimming light tribute on Broadway. Do better, @BroadwayLeague.” (After today’s updated announcement, the blog tweeted that the League “makes the right decision.”)

While it can seem like marquee dimmings are de rigueur for passings, the actual number is small. Last year, the lights dimmed only three times (for Todd HaimesRobin Wagner, and Sheldon Harnick). Most recently, all lights were dimmed for Chita Rivera, who died the same day as Battle.

PREVIOUS, March 1: Broadway will honor the late actor, dancer and singer Hinton Battle with the traditional dimming of marquee lights on March 12.

The lights will dim at Broadway’s Shubert, Marquis, St. James, New Amsterdam, Samuel J. Friedman, Circle in the Square, Hayes, Vivian Beaumont and Todd Haimes theaters for the traditional one minute at exactly 6:45 p.m./ET.

“The passing of Hinton Battle has had a profound impact within the Broadway community as we mourn the loss of a true theatrical legend,” said Jason Laks, Interim President of The Broadway League, adding that Battle’s family had been consulted about the tribute venues. “Hinton Battle will be remembered for his incredible array of roles on Broadway. Our thoughts are with his family, friends, and fans.”

Battle died January 30,at the age of 67. A trained ballet dancer who studied at the renowned Jones-Haywood School of Ballet in Washington, D.C. and School of American Ballet in New York City, Battle began his Broadway career at the age of 18 starring as the original “Scarecrow” in the 1975 musical The Wiz.

He would go on to perform in some of Broadway’s most memorable roles for the next two decades. Battle won three Tony Awards for Best Featured Actor in a Musical, setting a record in the category, for his roles in Miss Saigon (1991), The Tap Dance Kid (1984), and Sophisticated Ladies (1981).

Other Broadway credits include Chicago (1996 Revival); Miss Saigon (1991); The Tap Dance Kid (1983); Dreamgirls (1981); Sophisticated Ladies (1981); Dancin’ (1978); and The Wiz (1975).

On tour Battle’s credits included Ragtime, The Tap Dance Kid, Sophisticated Ladies and Dancin’.