Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, the Play, Gets Starry NYC Reading With Martin, Pawk

News   Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, the Play, Gets Starry NYC Reading With Martin, Pawk Jesse L. Martin, Michele Pawk, Timothy Busfield and John Cullum are among participants in an Aug. 24 industry reading of Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, Todd Kreidler's play based on the Academy Award-winning film.
Jesse L. Martin
Jesse L. Martin

The private reading in Manhattan is directed by Christopher Ashley (All Shook Up, Memphis, The Rocky Horror Show). Producer Jeffrey Finn (Broadway's recent On Golden Pond and the upcoming Oleanna) is the producer who has been shepherding the project since 2007.

Playbill.com learned that the latest reading cast includes "Law & Order" and Rent star Martin (Dr. John Prentice, the Sidney Poitier role), Tony Award winner Pawk (Christina Drayton, the Katharine Hepburn role), TV and film actress Kerry Bishé (Joanna "Joey" Drayton), Emmy Award winner Busfield (Matt Drayton, the Spencer Tracy role), two-time Tony Award winner Cullum (Monsignor Ryan), Frankie Faison (John Prentice, Sr.), Lynda Gravátt (Matilda "Tillie" Binks), Julie Halston (Hilary St. George) and Novella Nelson (Mary Prentice).

The reading represents the latest draft by playwright Kreidler; the play is drawn from a screenplay by William Rose.

Kenny Leon was previously announced as director of the Broadway-aimed production, but is no longer attached. A director has not been officially announced.

As is often the case with developmental readings, the creatives involved here do not necessarily reflect future employment. No timetable for Broadway has been announced. *

A starry first-reading of the new script of the 1967 Academy Award-winning film took place in Manhattan on Nov. 14, 2007, under the auspices of Jeffrey Finn Productions. Finn's On Golden Pond was nominated for a 2005 Best Revival Tony.

According to Finn Productions, "Following a life-altering romance in Hawaii, Joey Drayton brings her fiancé, Dr. John Prentice, home to sunny San Francisco to meet her affluent parents. Their liberal persuasions are put to the test when they find out their daughter's fiancé, while an ideal choice — a handsome, wealthy, brilliant, internationally-renown doctor from a respectable family — is African-American."

Kreidler served as dramaturg to the late August Wilson on both Gem of the Ocean and Radio Golf.

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Adaptor Kreidler previously stated, "What's more current than a story set in a society riven by intolerance and fear? We forget: only a generation ago America drank from separate fountains. This love story offers a way to expose the fear and intolerance and see what happens when a couple attempts to share the water in even the most apparently liberal of homes."

Speaking on behalf of his father, the late William Rose, Kindred Rose stated, "The themes of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner are as relevant now as they have ever been. Jeffrey Finn is the first producer to conceive of a major stage version, and it's clear this will be both entirely true to the original ideas and concepts of the screenplay, yet a thoroughly new adaptation. If my father were alive, I know he would approve."

Up until six months before the film premiered, interracial marriage was still illegal in 17 Southern states — until June 12, 1967, when the U.S. Supreme Court in the case "Loving v. Virginia," declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional.

Directed by Stanley Kramer, and originally billed as "A love story of today," "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" opened on Dec. 12, 1967 to rave reviews. It was nominated for ten Academy Awards including Best Picture, winning two: Original Screenplay for Rose and Best Actress for Hepburn.

The film inspired a race-reversed remake of sorts in the 2005 pic, "Guess Who," starring Bernie Mac (as the father) and Ashton Kutcher (as the fiancé).

For more information, visit www.DinnerOnBroadway.com.

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Producer Finn received a 2005 Tony Award nomination for Best Play Revival for the Broadway production of On Golden Pond starring James Earl Jones and Leslie Uggams. Additional credits include the 2006 revival of the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama The Subject Was Roses; On Golden Pond (national tour); The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber; Game Show (for which Finn is also a co-author); The Who's Tommy; A Few Good Men...DANCIN' (U.S. and international productions); Tell Me on a Sunday; Leader of the Pack; Promises, Promises; Company; Chess; and a series of national concert tours produced under the aegis Broadway Songbooks.

Visit jeffreyfinnproductions.com.