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Diahann Carroll Pulls Out Of 'Raisin in the Sun' Revival; LaTanya Richardson Jackson Will Replace

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by Natasha Greeves
February 9, 2014 1:43 PM
13 Comments
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LaTanya Richardson Jackson

Producers have set opening night for April 23, 2014 at the Barrymore Theatre for the 2014 Broadway revival of Lorraine Hansberry's "A Raisin in the Sun," to be directed by Kenny Leon.

The show will run for 14 weeks, with previews beginning on March 8.

Denzel Washington will star as Walter Lee Younger, with Sophie Okenedo as his wife, Ruth, and Anika Noni Rose as his sister Beneatha.

Diahann Carroll was to play the family matriarch, Lena ("mama"), but the veteran actress has dropped out of the show, saying that the rigorous demands of the rehearsal and performance schedule, would be a bit much for the 78 actress.

In her place, LaTanya Richardson Jackson (who also happens to be wife of Samuel L. Jackson, and a veteran stage and screen actress in her own right), will step in to play Lena ("mama") in the upcoming revival. Richardson Jackson is only 5 years older than Denzel, so obviously some makeup will be required to age her, since she's supposed to be his mother. 

Stephen Tyrone Williams will play Joseph Asagai, Jason Dirden will play George Murchison and Stephen McKinley Henderson will play Bobo.

Also, David Cromer will play Karl Lindner, and Bryce Clyde Jenkins, makes his Broadway debut as son, Travis Younger. 

Scott Rudin is producing.

"A Raisin in the Sun" was last on Broadway in 2004, with Sean Combs playing Walter Lee Younger, Audra McDonald as his wife Ruth Younger, Phylicia Rashad as mama Lena Younger, and Sanaa Lathan as Beneatha, and was also directed by Kenny Leon.

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13 Comments

  • Jane | April 8, 2014 9:05 AMReply

    Another revival of A Raisin in the Sun, for the one billionth time! OMG! When are we going to see ORIGINAL WORKS from black playwrights! Different actors, same story! I know it's a classic, but enough already! Black writers, black playwrights, where are your original works that will become classics? That's what I want to see!

  • . | February 13, 2014 9:15 PMReply

    .

  • CareyCarey | February 10, 2014 7:05 PMReply

    Ladies and Gentlemen, did you see what just happened?! Shadow and Act was graced with the presences of one of the greatest and classiest black actresses of all time, Irma P. Hall!

    Without fanfare Ms. Hall walked in here to give her opinion on Ms. Carroll's departure from the play "Raisin In The Sun". And, that opinion is arguably the most poignant comment of them all... time catches up with all of us. To that point, the body says what the mind will refuse, the clock on the walls says when that's all.

    Anyway, at this time I have to stand in applause of Irma P. Hall's many contributions to cinema and the giving of her shoulders for black actors to stand on. She's in that rare air of black actors like Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee. But not only is her acting talent something to rave about, her life story (how she became an actor) can be an inspiration for all aspiring (and struggling) actors.

    Taken from her bio: Hall's first acting role was in an independent film called Book of Numbers at the age of THIRTY FIVE! Hall had been a teacher of languages for many years in Dallas, Texas when actor/director Raymond St. Jacques hired her as interim publicist for Book of Numbers. St Jacques saw her performing at a poetry reading. He liked her so much he offered her a role in his film on the spot. Hall discovered a love for acting and soon co-founded a repertory theatre in Dallas.

    Hall's personality and age made her a natural to be cast as a middle-aged, strong authority figure. She worked steadily in films and TV throughout the 1980s. But it was not until her role as the loving Aunt T. in 1996's A Family Thing that critics and audiences began to take notice of her talents. She won the Chicago Film Critics Association Award and the Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role and the success of that film helped launch Hall's career as a major supporting actor in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Sizable roles in major films such as Nothing to Lose and Steel followed. Hall then landed the role as Big Mama Joseph in the film Soul Food. The film was a hit at the box office, prompting a television spinoff, Soul Food: The Series, in which Hall reprised her role.

    Side note: Irma was 35 before landing her first part. One of the actors in the first black cast TV program (1951) which was a huge success for ABC, didn't get his defining role until the age of SIXTY FIVE! He paid his dues for 50 years before landing the role of that infamous character...

    So folks, in short, I just had to stop the action/conversations/ long enough to tell Ms. Hall, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for all the great memories!

    Btw, 77.5 and you're still doing fine, if you don't mind, what's on the horizon?

  • CareyCarey | February 10, 2014 10:25 PM

    Thanks Sergio, I'm surprised you've never interviewed her? I can assume she has appeared in a play in Chicago. And, I believe I read she even stayed on the South Side, a neighborhood you're very familiar with.

    But listen at me, just because she has lived in Chicago and you live there, you've had to have crossed paths, right. Geez, that's like me saying since she attended college in Iowa, I should know her life history. Yep, a foolish suggestion. Having said that, I can't help but believe you've been very close to an interview?

    Anyway, if you ever do get one, your history says it will be an interesting read... and highly entertaining too.

  • sergio | February 10, 2014 7:55 PM

    Any time Ms. Hall would love to grace us with an interview just let us know

  • Ava | February 10, 2014 5:55 PMReply

    As someone who writes for the theater, I definitely understand the rigors or acting and writing for the stage. I appreciate Ms. Carroll's honesty.
    As for Denzel Washington's portrayal of Walter Younger, I am trying to picture he and Anika Noni Rose as siblings.
    Coming from a West Indian background, where there is often large age differences between siblings so it is not that startling to me but what might be more jarring is seeing LaTanya Richardson as Denzel's Mom. Aren't they quite close in age?

  • Irma P. Hall | February 10, 2014 8:17 AMReply

    I understand Dianne. At 77and a half I had to leave the stage also. People don't understand how hard it is compared to screen. There comes a time when it's time for the final curtain call. We can just thank God for the opportunity to be on the stage for a while.

  • Shanae | February 10, 2014 7:50 AMReply

    I definitely plan to see "A Raisin in the Sun" but I am worried about Denzel Washington playing Walter Lee. He's definitely too mature for the role.

    And how did I not know that LaTanya Richardson Jackson is Samuel L. Jackson's wife? She's a great actress and I think she'll do a great job in the play.

  • patch neck red | February 9, 2014 11:14 PMReply

    I have no doubt that LaTanya will be able to hold her own one of those veterans in Kenny Leon's stable. But the real gem in this show will be Sophie Okendo you talk about chops.

  • Sheila | February 9, 2014 5:58 PMReply

    Maybe should took a second thought, and wondered how can a nearly sixty-year old man (Denzel) play Walter Lee?

  • slb | February 10, 2014 11:05 AM

    @Sheila: "Maybe should took a second thought, and wondered how can a nearly sixty-year old man (Denzel) play Walter Lee?"

    This and the fact that Oprah and Audra will be playing mother and daughter is evidence that there are no young, African-American "stars" available to perform on Broadway. Of course there are tons of capable and great young actors. But there's no starpower. Why else do we continue to see the big names in Black Hollywood in these Broadway shows who are "too old" for the specified roles. But that's my opinion as someone who has no particular insight into Broadway.

  • monica | February 9, 2014 3:39 PMReply

    I'm starting to believe that Diahann is losing her memory. A report came out last year about this and her PR team tried to dismiss it.

  • Denise | February 10, 2014 4:22 PM

    Happens to the very best of us at some point. She's had a great run...and honestly...did not deserve to be put on blast like that.

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