Alfonso Ribeiro, who was once Broadway's The Tap Dance Kid, will play the lead of Joe Wellington in the Encores! concert presentation of Charles Strouse and Lee Adams' Golden Boy, the second presentation of the smash concert series' 2002 season. Walter Bobbie of Chicago and Footloose fame directs the March 21-24 run at New York's City Center.
Paul Butler, who starred on Broadway in A Few Good Men, will be featured as Pop Wellington, the father of Ribeiro's character, with William McNulty as Joe's manager, Tom Moody. Anastasia Barzee, who replaced Christiane Noll in Broadway's Jekyll & Hyde, will star as Joe's love interest Lorna Moon with Side Show's Norm Lewis as racketeer Eddie Satin.
Others in the cast include Wayne Pretlow, Thursday Farrar, Michael Potts, Rob Bartlett, Joseph R. Sicari, Morgan Burke, Kamar de los Reyes, Karine Plantadit-Bageot and Julio Monge. The ensemble will comprise Eric Anthony, Kristine Bendul, Chaundra Cameron, Kyra DaCosta, Manuel Herrera, Erik Houg, Terace Jones, Gelan Lambert Jr., Vicky Lambert, Sharon Moore, April Nixon, Devin Richards, Angela Robinson, Janelle Anne Robinson, J.D. Webster and Patrick Wetzel.
Golden Boy has been adapted for Encores! by Suzan Lori Parks and will feature choreography by Wayne Cilento and lighting by Peter Kaczorowski. John Lee Beatty and William Ivey Long will serve, respectively, as scenic consultant and costume consultant.
Ribeiro — a TV sitcom regular — starred as Willie, a tap dancing boy who wants to enter show business against his father's wishes in the 1983 musical The Tap Dance Kid, his only major theatre credit to date. (TV audiences remember him from "Fresh Prince of Bel Air.") Golden Boy was adapted from Clifford Odets' famous play about a poor Italian youth whose promising career as a concert violinist is derailed when he is lured away by the flash of fast money and fame as a prize fighter. The musical switched the story's locale to Harlem and the lead's race to African American. Sammy Davis, Jr. played Joe in what became his most famous stage role.
The project had a famously rough road to Broadway. Odets succumbed to cancer before he could finish adapting his play. "By the time Lee Adams and I caught [Odets] he was at the end," Strouse said in the book "It Happened on Broadway." "We were in Vegas. He told us he had a terrible problem with gambling, that we shouldn't let him near the tables. Nevertheless, around midnight, we would have to pull him away and say, 'Get ye to the typewriter, because we've got to meet Sammy.' I'm an early riser, and at 6:30 the next morning, I'd pass by the casino and see an unshaven Clifford. 'I was going to quit,' he'd say, 'but I was ahead.' The first week of rehearsals, Odets died."
William Gibson was brought in to work on the book and it is he and Odets who share credit for the libretto, though many people worked on it, including Davis himself. Original director Peter Coe was replaced by Arthur Penn after tryouts in Philadelphia and Boston.
According to David Sheward's book "It's a Hit," the musical had the unlucky fortune to play Detroit during a race riot. As a result of the interracial romance portrayed between Joe and his manager's white mistress, Lorna Moon (played by Paula Wayne), the stars received death threats and required the services of bodyguards.
Golden Boy opened at the Majestic Theatre on Oct. 20, 1964 and went on to play 569 performances.
For tickets to the upcoming Encores! presentation, visit the City Center box office on West 55th Street (between 6th and 7th Aves.) or call (212) 581-1212.
Songs in the original score include "Workout," "Night Song," "Everything's Great," "Gimme Some," "Stick Around," "Don't Forget 127th Street," "Lorna's Here," "This Is The Life," "Golden Boy," "While The City Sleeps," "Colorful," "I Want To Be With You," "Can't You See It," "No More" and "The Fight."
Golden Boy had a revised regional staging at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, CT in fall 2000 under the direction of Keith Glover. For the Long Wharf staging in Hartford, Strouse added a jazzier Harlem touch to the sound of his score while crafting nine new songs with lyrics by Glover. These included "Playing the Game," "Natural African Man," "Yes, Yes, Yes," "Lane's Lament" and "One More Chance." "While the City Sleeps" was from that revisal. Director-adaptor Glover returned to Clifford Odets' original libretto (before it was touched by other writers) for a reworking.
— by Andrew Gans
and Robert Simonson and Christine Ehren