Whoopi Goldberg and Charles S. Dutton will head the cast of the Broadway revival of August Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, the New York Times reports.
Goldberg will star as blues singer Ma Rainey, and Dutton will repeat the role he created in the show's original run, trumpet player Levee. About returning to the role of Levee, Dutton told the Times, "I think, maybe, 19 years later, I won't be able to muscle the role the way I did. Or maybe I will." Marion McClinton will direct the production, which will open at the Royale Theatre Feb. 6, 2003. Producers include Goldberg, Benjamin Mordecai and playwright Wilson.
Playbill On-Line had previously reported a confirmation that Goldberg was in negotiations for the production.
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, August Wilson's first work to arrive on Broadway, is a powerful account of a blues singer and the effect racism has on her life and career, and how anger burbles inside musicians who are part of her world. Wilson followed Ma Rainey's with Fences, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson, Two Trains Running, Seven Guitars and King Hedley II.
Charles S. Dutton received a 1985 Tony Award nomination for his work in the original production of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom; his other nomination came for another Wilson play, The Piano Lesson. Perhaps best known for his TV series "Roc," Dutton's other screen credits include roles in "No Mercy," "A Low Down Dirty Shame," "Nick of Time," "Blind Faith" and "Black Dog." * In his original New York Times review, Frank Rich had this to say about Ma Rainey's Black Bottom: "This play is a searing inside account of what white racism does to its victims—and it floats on the same authentic artistry as the blues music it celebrates. Harrowing as Ma Rainey's can be, it is also funny, salty, carnal, and lyrical. Like his real-life heroine, the legendary singer Gertrude (Ma) Rainey, Mr. Wilson articulates a legacy of unspeakable agony and rage in a spell-binding voice."
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom opened at Broadway's Cort Theatre in Oct. 1984, playing 276 performances before closing in June 1985. Featuring direction by Lloyd Richards, the play cast Theresa Merritt in the title role. The remainder of the company featured John Carpenter, Lou Criscuolo, Scott Davenport-Richards, Charles S. Dutton, Leonard Jackson, Robert Judd, Christopher Loomis, Aleta Mitchell and Joe Senaca. Nominated for a Tony Award, Ma Rainey's won the 1984 New York Drama Critics Circle Award.
Whoopi Goldberg made her Broadway debut in her own one-woman show, Whoopi Goldberg. She later replaced Nathan Lane in the hit revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and she is currently represented on Broadway as one of the producers of the Tony winning musical Thoroughly Modern Millie. An Academy Award winner for her role in "Ghost," Goldberg's numerous other screen credits include "The Color Purple," "Sister Act," "Boys on the Side" and "Star Trek: Nemesis."