PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: The Trip to Bountiful—Carrie Me Back

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24 Apr 2013

Vanessa Williams
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

"At the core it's about the family, the trio, but then there's all these people she meets along the way—and, of course, once you bring that Houston bus station alive, you have to have that ensemble, and all of them are also standing by for the principal parts."

Directing Tyson to the Broadway triumph that had too long eluded her was "total joy" for him. "She has such a deep connection to the character, to the story. It's very fluid.

"It's as if we've worked together before—I can't explain it. Maybe it's because we share an equal love and passion for Horton's writing, but we can often finish each other's sentences. It's been really lovely, and she has been so generous with the whole company, and they've had a tremendous amount of fun with her as well."

Director and star collaborated on creating a scene that was never in the play before—an exuberant dance of freedom over the hymns that she is not allowed to sing back home. "It's so nice to sing a hymn when you want to," she exclaims.

Eight faithful denizens of Wharton, TX—Horton Foote's hometown which he renamed Harrison in his plays—came in for the 60-years-in-coming of the Broadway revival of his beautiful Bountiful. Among them were next-door-neighbor Beau James and Van Ramsey, who lived five blocks away. The latter was the crucial ingredient that ignited this production. He had costume-designed for Tyson in the past, and he is the one who informed her that an African-American reprise of Bountiful was in the works. They mixed it up with the four Foote offspring—lawyer Walter, playwright Daisy, restaurteur (Tavern on Jane) Horton Jr. and actress Hallie.

"'A good time tonight' is not the way I describe it," said Jessye Norman, calibrating as carefully as she enunciates. "I was inspired. I was uplifted. The writing, of course, is quite unbelievable, and to see this perfect, perfect cast on stage! That it is even possible that we have the good sense in New York City to put on something that is this strong and this powerful and this meaningful for family situations on the stage of Broadway—it just makes me very happy." Methinks that the lady approves.

Condola Rashad
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Being the Tyson of opera, it's not at all surprising that the two of them are very good friends. "We've known each other quite a long time. We've both been sorta supporters and board members and all the rest of it of The Dance Theatre of Harlem, supporting Arthur Mitchell and the great work that they do there. And isn't it wonderful that that theatre is back as well? Fabulous!"

Prominent among the first-nighters: Lois Smith (who raked in the most awards as Carrie Watts in the 2005 Off-Broadway Trip to Bountiful), Elizabeth Ashley (a Texas matriarch in Foote's Dividing the Estate) with producer Jeffrey Richards, producer-actress Tamara Tunie and her dandily turned-out crooner hubby Gregory Generet ("If you're going to be a bear, be a grizzly!"), Erika and Kevin Liles, "Today" weatherman Al Roker, award-courting Michael Urie (on his night off and out of Buyer & Cellar, cheering on his "Ugly Betty" co-star Williams), Andre de Shields (who did Just So, the musical version of "The Jungle Book" years ago, and now heads for Chicago's Steppenwolf and a new Mary Zimmerman production of The Jungle Book: "I'll play an orangutan and finish the work I started in Primate!"), Suzanne de Passe (revealing Berry Gordy left with the patrol at dawn today for L.A., "his work is done here") with Motown director Charles Ranolph-Wright, fashion designers Patricia Field and Chris Benz, English rapper and record producer Estelle, veteran actor Joseph Sirola (sporting his homegrown Garnett rose), Steve Kazee (Once a Tony winner, soon a 54 Below crooner "of my own stuff"), LaChanze (who had Tyson for a mom in "The Help"), Kate Mulgrew of "Star Trek: Voyager," Lynn Kendall, Isiah Thomas, and James Houghton, who gave Foote a season at his Signature Theatre.

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