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.