Howard's temporary exit is to fulfill contractual obligations for a movie job, a spokesman said. Howard rejoins the production May 23.
With this Feb. 21 announcement comes confirmation that tickets are on sale through June 15, which represents an extension of the "strictly limited run" (which was previously on sale to April 13). The staging is so high-profile that an extension announcement was expected.
The revival of the 1955 Tennessee Williams classic at the Broadhurst Theatre marks the first time the play has been seen on Broadway with an African-American cast.
Howard is known for his work in Hollywood's "Crash" and "Hustle & Flow." He was Academy Award-nominated for the latter.
Kodjoe was named one of the "50 Most Beautiful People in the World" by People Magazine in 2002, and might be best known as a cast member of TV's "Soul Food." His film credits include "All About Us" and "Madea's Family Reunion," among other pictures. *
Previews for the Debbie Allen-directed Cat began Feb. 12 toward an opening of March 6.
Williams' Southern-fried feast of family greed, lies and sexual tension, a Pulitzer Prize-winner, is no longer set in the 1950s, but suggests the past 15 years or so.
Allen's cast includes James Earl Jones as Big Daddy, the dying patriarch of the Pollitt family, whose cotton-crop fortune is up for grabs; film actor Howard, making his Broadway debut as Brick, the favored ex-jock son who is now a heap of booze and regret (and repressed homosexuality), unable to give his voracious wife, Maggie (Tony Award winner Anika Noni Rose) a child; Phylicia Rashad as Big Mama, facing the loss of her man; Giancarlo Esposito as Gooper, the son whose greatest asset may be the children — also known as "no-neck monsters" — he and his wife, Mae (Lisa Arrindell-Anderson), have been able to produce.
The company also includes Lou Myers as Rev. Tooker, Count Stovall as Doctor Baugh, Skye Jasmine Allen-McBean as Sonny, Marja Harmon as Sookey, Heaven Howard as Dixie, Marissa Chisolm as Trixie and Clark Jackson as Lacey with Bethany Butler, Robert Riley and Jane White.
This is the first time an African-American cast appears in the Williams play on Broadway, although there is a regional-theatre precedent for the casting conceit. African-American actors appeared in at least one revival of the play — in 1999 at TheatreVirginia.
Allen previously stated, "I am thrilled to stand at the helm of this unique production as we navigate our way through Tennessee Williams' riveting and explosive American classic. Cat, said to be his favorite of his many plays, achieves a timeless coherence with its characters as they wrestle with the universal struggles of life, love, money, sex and death."
The Cat on a Hot Tin Roof design team includes Ray Klausen (sets), William H. Grant III (lights), John H. Shivers (sound), Jane Greenwood (costumes) and Charles G. LaPointe (hair). Production stage manager is Gwendolyn M. Gilliam.
Original music is by Andrew "Tex" Allen. Saxophone player is Gerald Hayes.
Cat is being presented by Front Row Productions and Stephen C. Byrd in association with Alia M. Jones. Byrd stated, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof has been revived on Broadway four times before; this production marks the first African-American production approved by the Williams estate for the Broadway stage. This revival of Cat is not only making Broadway history, it is making American theatre and black theatre history too!"
For tickets, visit www.telecharge.com or by call (212) 239-6200. For more information, visit www.Cat2008onBroadway.com.
Director Allen, a respected director and choreographer, is widely known for her role as Lydia Grant in the hit TV series "Fame." She made her Broadway debut in the chorus of Purlie. She created the role of Beneatha in the Tony Award-winning musical Raisin, and for the 1979 revival of West Side Story she received the Drama Desk Award, as well as her first Tony Award nomination (she played Anita). Allen received her second Tony Award nomination in 1986 for her performance in the title role of Bob Fosse's Sweet Charity.
Tony Award winner Rose is a veteran pf Caroline, or Change and Hollywood's "Dreamgirls." Howard is an Academy Award nominee whose work includes "Hustle & Flow" and "Crash." Rashad, widely known for TV's "Cosby," won a Tony for A Raisin in the Sun (the TV version of which air in February). Tony Award winner Jones is a theatre and film legend of Broadway's Fences and The Great White Hope, and voiced Darth Vader in "Star Wars," among many film projects. Esposito appeared in Broadway's Seesaw as a young actor and has acted for Spike Lee in "Do the Right Thing," "Mo' Better Blues," "School Daze" and "Malcolm X."
Cat was last seen on Broadway during the 2003-04 season in a production that starred Ashley Judd, Jason Patric and Ned Beatty. Anthony Page directed.
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 a Broadway African-American cast for the 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 a staging never materialized.