Clad in a blue and white Roman tunic on the stage of the St. James Theatre in New York, Whoopi Goldberg made it official Wednesday: She will be stepping into the central role of Pseudolus in the Broadway revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, succeeding Tony-winner Nathan Lane.
Members of the press, including Playbill On-Line, were invited to the St. James for the announcement following the Oct. 9 matinee. After curtain calls, Lane joked that he'd gathered the press to announce . . . he was running for president with RuPaul.
He then introduced Goldberg and delivered the real news of the day: the Oscar-winning actress will take over the role of Pseudolus for 20 weeks starting Feb. 11, 1997.
Feigning shock, Goldberg said, "They didn't tell me that!"
Because no questions were taken, it was not clear whether Goldberg will play the male role as a man, or if the part will be rewritten for her. It may be noted that Goldberg appears in male drag in her new film The Associate. Production spokesperson Jackie Green said the issue will be decided "in rehearsals" with Jerry Zaks. One of the librettists, Larry Gelbart, is still living. The show has a score by Stephen Sondheim.
Goldberg was one of the seemingly offbeat casting choices proposed by Playbill On-Line members in a July 1996 Playbill Poll. See story in Theatre News.
In the musical based on the works of Roman farceur Plautus, Goldberg will play a wily Roman slave who wins his (her?) freedom by outsmarting his master's family, a houseful of courtesans, their procuror, and even a Roman general and his men.
Goldberg, who began as a standup comedian, launched her way to stardom with a one-woman Broadway show in 1984. Produced by Mike Nichols, it ran 150 performances at the Lyceum Theatre. Goldberg is scheduled to recreate that show Oct. 23 in a one-night-only concert at New York's Carnegie Hall. All proceeds from the gig, which is again being presented by Nichols, will benefit the non-profit organization "Friends In Deed," which provides emotional, spiritual and psychological support to those affected by life-threatening illness.
The role of Pseudolus is perhaps unique in having won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical all three times the show has been produced on Broadway: for Zero Mostel in 1962, for Phil Silvers in 1972, and for Nathan Lane in 1996.