The new Debbie Allen-directed Broadway staging of Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, to feature an African-American cast in fall 2007, has been postponed due to a lack of an available theatre, Playbill.com has learned.
Stephen Byrd is the producer of the Broadway-aimed staging to be helmed by actress-choreographer-director Allen (known for "Fame" and the 1986 revival of Sweet Charity).
The producer was previously looking toward an October 2007 launch. Dates in 2008 are more likely. A spokesman confirmed the postponement.
Tony winner Phylicia Rashad, Allen's sister, was previously reported to be in talks to play Big Mamma. She won her Best Actress Tony for the recent revival of A Raisin in the Sun.
Byrd previously said an offer went out to Danny Glover for Big Daddy. Other star names — Thandie Newton and Anika Noni Rose for Maggie, and Blair Underwood and LL Cool J for Brick — were also bandied about. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is the first theatrical producing project for Byrd, who worked at Goldman Sachs for 15 years and currently runs a private equity fund. He and two of his partners from the fund are bankrolling Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Byrd said he has the rights to the play until mid-2008.
The most recent Broadway revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof starred Ashley Judd, Jason Patric and Ned Beatty in 2003. A 1990 revival starred Kathleen Turner, Daniel Hugh Kelly and Charles Durning, and a 1974 revival starred Elizabeth Ashley, Keir Dullea and Fred Gwynne. The original 1955 production starred Barbara Bel Geddes, Ben Gazzara and Burl Ives and was staged by Elia Kazan.
There is a precedent for an African-American take on Williams' Deep South-set classic soap opera about greed and lies.
In 1999, TheatreVirginia staged such a production, with Tamara Tunie ("As the World Turns," Broadway's Julius Caesar) as Maggie. It was thought to be the first professional African-American-cast staging of the play. Kent Gash directed the Richmond, VA, production.
The idea of an African-American cast for the 1955 Williams play about a wealthy but dysfunctional Southern family has been around for several years. Director Lloyd Richards (Fences) expressed a hope to stage the sex-and-lies-fraught play with James Earl Jones as Big Daddy, but plans never materialized.
"A lot of people are going to think the show is rewritten (to fit this cast)," TheatreVirginia George Black told Playbill.com at the time, noting that Williams' scripted language was drenched in a Mississippi Delta cadence so associated with African Americans.
Director Gash said the non-traditional casting would not be anachronistic: He said there were indeed rich, land-owning African-Americans in the South in the 1950s, the milieu of the drama.
"It's not my intent to change any of the language of the play," Gash said. "There certainly won't be 'rewrites.' All the issues of the play take on a different resonance in the African-American [context]. When Big Daddy says he got [rich] by 'working like a nigger in the field,' it will really be felt.'"
Artistic director Black did note, however, that a reference to leading-character Brick playing football at the University of Mississippi, a school not yet integrated in the 1950s, posed a challenge. Brick referred to "Old Miss" as "college."
Rodney Scott Hudson played Big Daddy, Lynda Gravatt was Big Mama, Thomas Corey Robinson was Brick, Gail Grate (Public Theater's 1998 Pericles) was Mae and Grate's husband, Terry Alexander (Lincoln Center Theater's Streamers) was Gooper.