Goodman Theater Gets a Gem of a Cast for Wilson Play; Begins April 18

News   Goodman Theater Gets a Gem of a Cast for Wilson Play; Begins April 18 August Wilson's latest, Gem of the Ocean, which premieres at the Goodman Theater in Chicago on April 18, has its cast. The production, under Marion McClinton's direction, plays until May 24.

Greta Oglesby will play Aunt Ester, a resident of Pittsburgh's Hill District who is celebrate her 287th birthday. She is visited by Citizen Barlow, played by Kenny Leon (better known as the former artistic director of Atlanta's Alliance Theater). Citizen is convinced he has committed a mortal sin and wants Ester to wash his soul clean.

Also in the cast are Paul Butler as Eli; Anthony Chisholm as Solly Two Kings; Peter Jay Fernandez as Caesar; Yvette Ganier as Black Mary; and Raynor Scheine as Rutherford Selig.

There is a lot of Wilson experience in the cast. Scheine has played Rutherford Selig, a character that also appeared in Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone, before. Ganier was in the Goodman production of King Hedley II. Chisholm acted in Two Trains Running at the Goodman and on Broadway. And Butler appeared in the Goodman renditions of Jitney and The Piano Lesson.

As for Leon, at the Alliance he directed Wilson's Jitney, Seven Guitars, The Piano Lesson and Fences.

The Goodman is one of only a few theatres in the U.S. to have presented all of August Wilson's plays. *

In other Goodman news, Michele Pawk, Jane Powell, Herndon Lackey and Gavin Creel have joined the cast of Bounce, the new musical by Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman, set to open at Chicago's Goodman Theater this summer under the direction of Harold Prince.

The production begins previews June 20 for an opening on June 30 and a run through Aug. 10. Tickets may be purchased at the Goodman Theatre Box Office, 170 N. Dearborn Street, charged by phoning (312) 443-3800 or online at www.goodman theatre.org.

Pawk takes the role of Nellie. Faith Prince was previously reported as cast for the part. The change was due to a scheduling conflict. Powell and Lackey will play Mama and Papa Mizner, the parents of the central characters, Addison and Wilson Mizner, played by Richard Kind and Howard McGillin. Gavin Creel is Hollis Bessemer. This is the first official casting announcement the Goodman has issued.

Creel is currently the male romantic lead in Thoroughly Modern Millie, which takes place in the same Jazz Age period Bounce does (he's expected to leave Millie in April). Powell is the movie musical queen ("Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," "Royal Wedding") who makes only occasional stage appearances these days, the last being Avow Off-Broadway. Herndon Lackey played Hugh Dorsey in the Broadway musical Parade, which Prince directed. Prince also piloted the recent Broadway play, Hollywood Arms, which has a short run last fall, but garnered much praise for leading lady Pawk. Pawk's past musical work includes the hit Cabaret and the miss Seussical.

The Goodman release offers the first detailed plot description of the hotly anticipated show: "Bounce follows the adventures of brothers Addison and Wilson Mizner, taking to heart the advice of their papa, Lansing Mizner, a man who never missed an opportunity, and Mama Mizner, who bankrolled their first chance to get rich quick. It's the story of American men and women willing to take risks to grab their piece of the dream, of women like Nellie, a Gold Rush dance hall girl, who marries well again and again. It's a story of resilience and invention, of America's ability to 'bounce.'" The musical will play the Washington, D.C. Kennedy Center in the fall. The two-stop trajectory of the show is likely aimed at a Broadway bow sometime in 2003-04. Talk of a Kennedy Center engagement for the new musical began as early as January, but Kennedy Center officials denied knowledge of any such booking.