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Oprah Winfrey Pulls Out of ‘Night, Mother’ Revival; Says Material Too Dark & Is Developing Something Else

Oprah Winfrey Pulls Out of 'Night, Mother' Revival; Says Material Too Dark & Is Developing Something Else

No formal announcement has been made that I’m aware of, but Oprah Winfrey revealed in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that she will actually NOT be making her Broadway debut in a revival of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “‘Night, Mother,” starring opposite Audra McDonald, and directed by George C. Wolfe.

In the interview, published yesterday, Winfrey said that the material was too dark for her, and that she didn’t want to be “in the space of suicide every night for six months,” and that she’d “like something with a happier ending.” 

The Pulitzer Prize-winning 1983 play by Marsha Norman, is a 2-character chamber piece that centers on a mother (who would’ve been played by Oprah), fighting 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, and how meticulously she had planned her own death, culminating in 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. The 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. By all accounts, it’s an assured critical and commercial hit, and would’ve probably put both Oprah and Audra in Tony Awards consideration, for whatever year the play would’ve run. 

No word yet on whether a revival of the play, still with Audra, but another actress as her mother, and George C. Wolfe still directing, is still in the works.

It was roughly 3 years ago, when Oprah shared her Broadway dreams publicly, and how much she was determined to make them 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 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.

And she still very much plans to make her Broadway debut, as, per the New York Times this morning, she’s teamed up with producer Scott Sanders (who was producing the “‘Night, Mother” revival), as the two are now “working closely” on a new play that would mark her Broadway acting debut. No details on what that play is; although Sanders and Ms. Winfrey are also teaming up to produce a Broadway revival of the musical “The Color Purple” this fall, which counts Jennifer Hudson as a member of its cast.

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” 4 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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