As previously reported, Academy Award winner Whoopi Goldberg is currently in negotiations to star in a Broadway revival of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Goldberg's agent confirmed again Oct. 17 that the actress has had several conversations regarding a return to Broadway in the 1984 play, although at this time "nothing is set for Whoopi to do the show."
: A casting notice for the production reveals that the August Wilson play will be mounted at Broadway's Royale Theatre, which is currently the home for Jackie Mason's Prune Danish. Rehearsals will commence in the beginning of December for previews on Jan. 20 or 21, 2003. The casting notice seeks actors to portray Ma Rainey, Levee, Cutler, Toledo and Slow Drag.
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, 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. 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.
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."