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Oprah Winfrey Will Make Her Broadway Debut Starring w/ Audra McDonald In 'Night, Mother' Revival

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by Tambay A. Obenson
February 6, 2014 2:24 PM
7 Comments
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Two years ago, we discussed Oprah Winfrey's desire to make her Broadway dreams a reality.

Specifically, though she hadn't signed up to star in any Broadway shows at the time, word on the street was that she was speaking to various Broadway directors and producers, stating, "I have a stack of plays in my bag right now that I am reading... And just this past weekend, I was in New York meeting with producers. We were just talking about what would be the best route to take. But yes, this is really going to happen... Life is too short."

Indeed it is.

She further added, "I think that an ensemble production is the way I should go."

Worth noting is that much of the acting work she's done (on film primarily), has been in what she refers to as ensemble projects, so her desire to continue with that trend, on the stage, makes sense, I suppose.

Skip ahead to today's news, that Ms Winfrey will make her Broadway debut in a revival of the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1983 play by Marsha Norman, titled Night, Mother

Oprah will star in the 2-character play, opposite the absolutely fabulous Audra McDonald, a multi-Tony Award winner, in a story about a mother (played by Oprah) who is struggling to stop her daughter (Audra) from committing suicide.

The play opens with the daughter nonchalantly telling her mother that, by morning, she will be dead, as she plans to commit suicide that very evening. That revelation is followed by an extended dialogue between mother and daughter, as the latter slowly reveals her reasons for her decision, her life with her mother, and how meticulously she had planned her own death, culminating in what is said to be a disturbing – yet unavoidable – climax.

The original 1983 production at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, starred Kathy Bates and Anne Pitoniak, as daughter and mother. This production eventually made its way to Broadway, where it played at the John Golden Theatre with the same cast. It received 4 Tony Award nominations: Best Play, Best Actress in a Play (both Bates and Pitoniak) and Best Director (Tom Moore).

There was of course a film adaptation, 3 years later, 1986, which starred Sissy Spacek and Anne Bancroft as daughter and mother, respectively. Bancroft received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress (Drama) in a Film, for her performance.

A Broadway revival opened at the Royale Theatre on November 14, 2004 and closed on January 9, 2005 after 65 performances and 26 previews; it starred Edie Falco and Brenda Blethyn.

During each of its Broadway runs, the play has received rave reviews from critics and audiences, and since its debut has enjoyed numerous sold out shows.

Let's see if that continues when Oprah and Audra take their version to Broadway during the 2015/2016 season, under the direction of another Tony winner in George C. Wolfe.

As an aside... an interesting "Did You Know"... Oprah previously revealed that she was approached by director Kenny Leon, to star opposite Denzel Washington in the Broadway revival of August Wilson's Fences 3 years ago - a role that eventually went to Viola Davis, for which she won a Tony Award.

"I had always wanted to do Fences... I went through the idea of trying to take my show to New York, shoot a show during the daytime and appear on Broadway at night. But I couldn't do it. And finally, Kenny said he couldn't wait any longer," said Ms Winfrey.

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7 Comments

  • CareyCarey | February 8, 2014 2:14 AMReply

    I smell a Tony Award! Listen, there's no doubt Oprah is a fantastic actor. She has repeatedly shown her ability to convincingly move me through a host of human emotions. Her subtle nuances, excellent pace, perfect facial expression and superb timing has taken me through moments of deep sorrow, regrets, tears and painful memories, to moments of unbridled laughter, joy and loving personal memories. Oprah has taken me there.

    In watching all her movies, from The Color Purple, Beloved, Brewster Place and The Butler, when I dropped my political positions and simply viewed the films for their artistic beauty, it's glaringly obvious that Ms. Winfrey is a grand performer. In fact, I just watch The Butler for the second time in the comfort of my home. When I sat aside my personal dislike of films featuring black butlers and passive maids, it was clear that Oprah's performance was indeed Oscar caliber work. She was definitely snub (I'll get back to that) And, although the film "Beloved" was a convoluted mess, Oprah's performance was commendable. And, without a reason of doubt, she killed-killed-killed "Sofia" in The Color Purple.

    In reference to her snubbing by the Oscar committee, I wonder why? Why did some voters pass her by? Well, whatever the case, I hope they are not the same individuals who comprise the Tony voters, because if not, I'm saying right now, Oprah Winfrey is going to kill the part of the mother, Thelma (mama), and win a Tony Award - if her skin color and jealousy doesn't impede the voting process. Hey, and don't be surprised, she could possibly show Audra McDonald a thang or two.

  • CC | February 9, 2014 10:55 PM

    Okay Dave, I watched it again. Now, you were saying Lisa Gaye Hamilton did what? How and when? Listen, I know you're the kind of guy who can, and will, say when he made a boo-boo (you said so to Sergio), so, do you wanna retract any parts of your opinion on Oprah and Lisa Gaye? As I said, I did what Beloved so when and how did Ms. Hamilton outshine Oprah? Geez, next you'll be saying no-acting Loretta Devine stole the show and Thandie Newton was believable. Come on man, I accept apologies too :-)

  • CC | February 8, 2014 2:22 PM

    Colt 45? Nawl man, even when I was drinking fire water, Colt 45 didn't grace these lips. But look man, I thought you knew a little something about the acting game, but obviously you had me fooled. So the next time you say anything about an actor, good or bad, I'm giving you the hand.

    Seriously Davey Crockett, to shoot down Oprah by saying she has no major acting talent, is as ridiculous as a postal worker playing an arm-chair psychologist. Opps, that's right, you do work the grave yard shift at the post office, so that explains your preposterous psychoanalysis of a gifted and complicated black woman.

    But I will re-watch "Beloved"... only if you throw me back a bone. Now are you serious, are you saying Oprah's performance in The Butler and The Color Purple, is not the work of an actor with major talent? Come on now, tell the truth and shame the devil that invaded your brain for a split second.

    Listen, I don't know what motivates this powerful black woman, and neither do you, however, what does that really have to do with the tea in China? Can she, and has she been doing the damn thang or not?

  • Dave's Deluxe | February 8, 2014 4:29 AM

    CC, what the hell 40-ounce are drinking, brother!? Oprah's just another "celebrity personality" hungry for white acceptance, aka "Oscar". She has no major acting talent surpassing the most modest of indie black actors. Oprah's driving career motivation is to LEGITIMATELY win an Oscar (as opposed to that "honorary" Oscar she won [re: paid for] for her "humane" work), because she can't STAND that Mo'Nique has an Oscar and she doesn't. I challenge you to re-watch "Beloved" again and tell me that Oprah outshines Lisa Gaye Hamilton (who KILLED it!). You'd have to be drunk off that Colt 45!

  • Alias | February 7, 2014 9:32 PMReply

    This is a great work, and I loved the Spacek/Bancroft production. ... Very interesting choice. Audra, of course, will be brilliant. ... What remains to be seen, however, is whether Oprah can rise to the occasion alongside her THREE-time Tony award-winning cohort, and not have her acting be viewed as "one note." This will certainly be the biggest stretch for Oprah in her acting career.

  • Ava | February 6, 2014 8:06 PMReply

    Hmm, interesting. I've read the play a couple of times and I'm trying to picture Oprah as the needy Mother and McDonald as the depressed, sad sack, hapless daughter. I'm definitely intrigued.

  • Patch Neck Red | February 6, 2014 3:01 PMReply

    Congrats! Ms.Winfrey is in good hand with George Wolfe and Audra McDonald that's the key to life surround yourself around people who will nurture,challenge,and lift you up. Break a Leg!

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