Billy Dee Williams Exits Broadway-Bound Mambo Kings Musical

News   Billy Dee Williams Exits Broadway-Bound Mambo Kings Musical Billy Dee Williams has withdrawn from the upcoming musical The Mambo Kings according to producers of the Broadway-bound show. No replacement has yet been named.

The actor will left the production "due to an aggravated hip condition," a release stated. Williams was to play nightclub impresario Fernando Perez. His replacement is expected to be announced in the coming days.

The stage version of Oscar Hijuelos' Pulitzer Prize-winning novel will debut at San Francisco's Golden Gate Theatre, May 24-June 19, before beginning previews at the Broadway Theatre July 20 and opening Aug. 18.

The previously announced cast includes "NYPD Blue" star Esai Morales and Mexican born actor-singer Jamie Camil as the title brothers, "Six Feet Under" actress Justina Machado as Dolores' sister Ana Maria, Grammy Award-winning Cuban music star Albita as singer Evalina Montoya, Dennis Staroselsky (The Rivals - Huntington) as Bernadito, Cote de Pablo ("The Jury") as Nestor's wife Dolores and Jekyll & Hyde's Christiane Noll as Miss Mambo, Vanna Vane.

Williams would have marked his return to the Broadway stage after appearing in the 1987 original run of August Wilson's Fences and the 1976 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. tribute I Have a Dream. The Harlem native made his Broadway musical debut in Hallelujah, Baby! after appearing in The Cool World, A Taste of Honey and Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright. He is best known for his film work in "Lady Sings the Blues" and "Mahogany" with Diana Ross and his role as Lando Calrissian in the "Star Wars" epics "The Empire Strikes Back" and "The Return of the Jedi," as well as a turn in "Batman" and the television movie "Brian’s Song."

Based on the Hijuelos' "The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love," the musical follows the same story of two Cuban brothers who travel to New York City in 1949 with dreams of becoming recording stars. The Latin siblings — flashy, guitarist Cesar and his shy trumpet playing brother Nestor — rise to fame from the dance halls to perform as Desi Arnaz's cousins on "I Love Lucy." The novel was adapted for the big screen into "The Mambo Kings," which starred Armand Assante and Antonio Banderas under the direction of Arne Glimcher. Glimcher now provides book (with Hijuelos) and lyrics for the musical version which features music by Carlos Franzetti — who also scored the film. Sergio Trujillo will serve as choreographer with Glimcher as director.

The design team for The Mambo Kings features Riccardo Hernandez (sets), Ann Roth (costumes) with Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer (lighting). Musical direction will be handled by Constantine Kitsopoulos.

Daryl Roth and Jordan Roth will produce The Mambo Kings which capitalized at $12 million. "I think it's really a story that is just screaming to be a musical — it has sex and passion and mambo and rhythm and dance," Jordan Roth previously told Playbill.com (Sep. 2004).

The staging will mark the first Broadway collaboration between the mother and son producing team of Daryl and Jordan Roth. Daryl Roth is currently represented on Broadway by Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Other credits include Caroline, or Change, Anna in the Tropics and The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? Jordan Roth has produced The Rocky Horror Show on Broadway as well as The Donkey Show Off-Broadway.

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