Two old hands at the language of playwright August Wilson may be in the cast of King Hedley II when it reaches Broadway on March 31. According to the New York Times, Viola Davis will play the role of Tonya at the Virginia Theatre, while Charles S. Dutton is in talks to fill the part of King. (The two characters are played by Yvette Ganier and Richard Brooks, respectively, in the current mounting at Chicago's Goodman Theatre.)
Davis appeared on Broadway in Wilson's Seven Guitars, a work that is sort of a prequel to Hedley. Dutton, meanwhile, starred in The Piano Lesson, the role that afterwards earned him much work in television and film.
Hedley began L.A. performances Sept. 2 with an opening Sept. 14. Marion McClinton directs the drama. Following the Chicago run will be a stop at Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center, opening March 1, and then Broadway, with previews beginning at the Virginia Theatre on March 31, 2001, for an April 16 opening.
The curtain went up on King Hedley II in Chicago on Nov. 30. The play officially opened Dec. 11 and will run through Jan. 13, 2001.
Continuing his decade-by-decade examination of African American life in the United States, Wilson sets King Hedley II in 1985 in the black ghetto of Pittsburgh and deals with the triumphs and trials of a community torn apart. King Hedley rages against his past and present and his pregnant wife, Tonya, fears to bring a child into their world. A two time Pulitzer Prize-winner, Wilson also wrote Fences, The Piano Lesson and Seven Guitars. Set design is by David Gallo, costumes by Toni-Leslie James, lighting by Donald Holder and sound design by Rob Milburn. Significant changes were made to the cast of Wilson’s new drama in its progression from Pittsburgh to the Huntington Theatre in Boston to Los Angeles, to Chicago, to DC and Broadway in the spring. Though Charles Brown, Lou Myers, Monte Russell remain with the show, some major roles have new players, including Tony-winner Leslie Uggams signing on as Ruby, and “Law & Order” first-season castmember, Richard Brooks, as the title character.
Harry Lennix had played Hedley in Los Angeles for all but the final week, when Jerome Butler came into the role. Juanita Jennings played the role now essayed by Uggams, whose Broadway credits include Jerry’s Girls, Blues in the Night and her Tony-winning turn in Hallelujah, Baby!. Yvette Ganier plays Tonya, replacing Mone Walton.