Show Business: Welcome to the Great Black Way!

When the nation's first black theater group opened in New York City in 1821, race-baiting whites in the audience proved so unruly that the company had to close down. Broadway today is witness to an explosion of all-black shows, which are also being loudly and insistently stopped by their audiences. This time round the unruly, enthusiastic applause leaves performers and producers in a state of ecstatic wilt.

More than a quarter of all current Broadway shows—seven of them—are black. Porgy and Bess, returning in the full operatic panoply of George Gershwin's original version (TIME,...