Def and Jeff get down to business this week, when the Broadway-bound staging of Suzan-Lori Parks begins rehearsals. The George C. Wolfe production will begin previews on March 12 at the Ambassador. Stars Jeffrey Wright and Mos Def open on April 7.
Mos Def replaces Don Cheadle in the production. Cheadle played the role in the Off-Broadway Public Theater production last year. As film star Cheadle ("Ocean's 11") became unavailable, director George C. Wolfe turned to Mos Def (nee Dante Smith), who has appeared in a couple films. Mos Def met Wolfe when the latter auditioned for a projected film of the musical Jelly's Last Jam.
The Wolfe staging ended its extended summer at The Public Theater's Anspacher Theater Sept. 2. Previews began July 10 for an opening on July 26. The work was originally scheduled for March 2001, but pushed back to July, apparently to accommodate Cheadle's schedule.
Cheadle's film credits include "Out of Sight" and "Traffic." He appeared in The Public Theater's 1989 production of Cymbeline. Wright won a Tony Award for his performance in Angels in America, also directed by Wolfe. He worked for the Public last summer, performing in Julius Caesar in Central Park.
In addition to his recording career, Mos Def has acted in the movies "Bamboozled," "Where’s Marlowe," "Island of the Dead," and "Monster’s Ball"
Parks' In the Blood (a Pulitzer Prize finalist) played the Public in 1999-2000, and her Fucking A will play at the theatre in the 2002 03 season.
Topdog was Wolfe's first directing assignment after 1999-2000's The Wild Party. He also directed Elaine Stritch and thus will have two shows on Broadway this season.
Topdog/Underdog designers were Riccardo Hernandez (scenic), Emilio Sosa (costumes), Scott Zielinski (lighting) and Dan Moses Schreier (sound).
—By Robert Simonson