Things that make you go hmm… this is somewhat perplexing, assuming it’s true.
Showbiz411 and Broadway World are reporting that Denzel Washington will play Walter Lee Younger in a 2014 Broadway revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, to be directed by Kenny Leon, who, by the way, also directed Washington in Fences (2010), for which he won a Tony Award.
And, in addition, Sophie Okenedo and Anika Noni Rose will co-star with Washington, although no word yet on what roles each would play. But we can guess – one will be Walter Younger’s wife, and the other will be his sister.
As for who will play Walter’s mother, no name is given, although Roger Friedman at Showbiz411 suggests Cicely Tyson, who just won a Tony Award for her starring performance in The Trip To Bountiful (which has been extended again by the way).
Scott Rudin will produce.
I started out saying that this perplexes me because, Denzel is a bit too old to play Walter Lee Younger, isn’t he?
I don’t think we’re ever told exactly how old Walter Lee Younger is in Hansberry’s work (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong about that), but I do know that his younger sister, Beneatha Younger, is a college student in her early 20s. While there certainly are families in which there’s a significant age difference between oldest and youngest, this particular age difference will be a bit too much. Denzel is 58 years old (he’ll be 59 in December, and by the time the play is reportedly scheduled to begin its run next year).
Yes, I suppose he could play younger, but I don’t think he’d pass for a 30-something year old man, which is about how old Sidney Poitier was when he originated the role in 1960 (he was 33 years old). And most recently, in 2004, Sean Puffy Combs (of all people) was 35 when he played Walter on Broadway.
Unless, of course, the team behind the production plans to take creative liberties with the story, which certainly won’t be a first. After all, Kenny Leon did cast 63-year-old Samuel L. Jackson to play 39-year-old Martin Luther King Jr in Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop a couple of years ago.
Recall the November 2012 Charlie Rose interview we posted, in which Denzel Washington (while plugging Flight) revealed that he was planning a return to the Broadway stage in 2014, with Leon directing and Rudin producing.
He said Rudin and Leon had already decided on what the play will be, but he hadn’t quite made up his own mind at the time, as to whether the play they’d chosen was one he’d like to do.
I started to speculate, but then remembered that earlier last year, in February, I dug up a profile of Denzel while he was plugging Safe House, in the UK, which included a statement that the actor was “showing no signs of slowing down, with talk of him starring in Othello with Al Pacino.“
Denzel played Othello on stage in college many years ago at Fordham University, so this won’t be foreign territory for him, this time teaming up with Al Pacino as Iago.
So I figured that might be the play that Rudin and Leon had already settled on; although, it looks like it was likely instead maybe what Denzel would rather have done (or would rather do), instead of what a revival of A Raisin in the Sun.
For a number of years now, Pacino has been interested in producing the Shakespearean tragedy, with him playing Iago; most recently, in 2010, while doing press for The Merchant Of Venice on Broadway, in which he played Shylock, he had this to say to the New York Times: “I once talked to Denzel Washington about doing Othello. I turned down Iago in the past because I thought there was a banality to Iago. Time has passed, and I have read the play again and again and found a way in… Now I want to do it.“
So… connect the dots…
I’d say that a pairing of Pacino and Washington on stage in a Shakespeare work will likely be THE friggin’ hottest ticket in town, or at least on Broadway, if it ever does happen, and you may as well put Denzel’s name up there for another Tony Award also.
To be frank, I think I’d probably rather see that play, over Denzel in A Raisin In The Sun, in part because it was just recently on Broadway, in 2004, with Sean Combs (for some reason) playing Walter Lee Younger, Audra McDonald as his wife Ruth Younger, Phylicia Rashad as mama Lena Younger, and Sanaa Lathan as Beneatha.
Another revival of the play, 10 years later, seems a bit too soon, especially when there are so many other plays that could be “the one.”
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also note that FOX studios did recently announce that they planned to turn some 7 or 8 movies from their library into Broadway musicals. No word on which titles are in contention.
But maybe it’s a completely different work which we’ll find out about eventually; maybe Oprah Winfrey‘s waiting for him, and we’ll see Oprah and Denzel in a play together! Imagine that! She recently reiterated her Broadway plans (although she hasn’t revealed what work she’ll be bringing to the stage) – plans she first revealed about 2 years ago.
So, in closing, assuming this news holds, it’ll be Denzel Washington, Sophie Okenedo and Anika Noni Rose (and maybe Cicely Tyson) in a revival of A Raisin In The Sun, next spring on Broadway, with Kenny Leon directing and Scott Rudin producing.