A spokesman for the show confirmed the casting first reported by The New York Post. As Playbill On-Line first revealed on Dec. 15, the production will begin previews March 21 with an official opening scheduled for April 18.
Combs will play the role of Walter Lee, which was originated on Broadway by Sidney Poitier, who later reprised his role on film. Kenny Leon will direct a cast that may also include three-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald. McDonald, the Post says, has been offered the role of Lee's wife Ruth.
David Binder, who is producing the revival, told the New York daily, "Most big stars won't audition at all, but Sean was exactly the opposite. He had to jump through a lot of hoops. He auditioned for the director, the casting director and the agent for the [Hansberry] estate. Everybody was incredibly impressed by his professionalism and preparation."
Combs has appeared in the films "Made," "Monster's Ball" and "Death of a Dynasty."
Combs is not the first rap star to grace the New York stage. Mos Def impressed critics in the Broadway transfer of Suzan-Lori Parks' Topdog/Underdog, and later won an Obie Award for his Off-Broadway work in Parks' Fucking A. And several seasons back, Heavy D appeared in Laurence Fishburne's Off-Broadway drama Riff Raff. On the big screen, of course, rappers have been commonplace for the last two decades. A few, including Ice-T and Ice Cube, have enjoyed long careers in a string of movies. Others, such as LL Cool J, have had sitcoms built around them.
A Raisin in the Sun concerns Walter Lee, who chafes at his straightened circumstances and longs for a business deal which would lift him out of his limited world. He has his eye of his late father's insurance, but Walter's mother wants to use her that money to move the family out of the city.
Raisin in the Sun premiered in 1959. It was the first Broadway play written, directed and starring African-Americans. Lloyd Richards directed. In the cast were Poitier, Claudia McNeil as the mother, Diana Sands, Ruby Dee, Louis Gossett, Ivan Dixon, Glynn Turman, John Fielder, Lonne Elder III, Ed Hall and Douglas Turner. It ran 530 performances. A film 1961 version followed, as did a later 1991 TV movie. It was also the basis for the musical, Raisin.