Broadway's Cat Stops Purring June 22; Is a Leap to London Possible?
By Kenneth Jones
The new Broadway production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof starring James Earl Jones as Big Daddy, Phylicia Rashad as Big Mama and Terrence Howard as Brick, ends its limited run on schedule June 22.
By close, it will have played 124 regular performances and 25 previews at the Broadhurst Theatre.
Without earning a single 2008 Tony Award nomination, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was still sizzling: Producer Stephen Byrd announced May 15 that he and his partners had recouped their $2.1 million capitalization. The recoupment happened in just 12 weeks.
Byrd is in discussions for a possible London future for the production.
The limited engagement of this African-American cast production of the Tennessee Williams classic began previews Feb. 12 and opened March 8.
This acclaimed landmark production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama — which has lured a multicultural audience — is directed by Debbie Allen. The staging's marquee names include Oscar nominee Howard, Tony Award winner Rashad, Tony winner Jones and Tony winner Anika Noni Rose as Maggie.
Principals also include Lisa Arrindell Anderson, Lou Myers, Count Stovall and Giancarlo Esposito.
Variety reported that producer Byrd has snagged the rights to make a film version of the property, again with an African-American cast. No production details have been announced.
"Hypocrisy, greed and secret passions threaten to tear apart a wealthy but dysfunctional Mississippi family in Tennessee Williams' stunning American masterpiece," according to production notes. "Cat On a Hot Tin Roof searingly portrays the larger-than-life characters of Maggie 'the Cat,' her alcoholic husband, Brick, and the domineering family patriarch, Big Daddy."
During the run, Boris Kodjoe stepped into Howard's role for several weeks while Howard satisfied a publicity commitment to a film studio.
The opening night company also included Lou Myers as Rev. Tooker, Count Stovall as Doctor Baugh, Skye Jasmine Allen-McBean as Sonny, Marja Harmon as Sookey, Heaven Howard (Terrence's daughter) as Dixie, Marissa Chisolm as Trixie and Clark Jackson as Lacey with Bethany Butler, Robert Riley and Lynda Gravatt.
This is the first time an African-American cast appeared in the Williams play on Broadway, although there was a regional-theatre precedent for the casting conceit. African-American actors appeared in at least one revival of the play — in 1999 at TheatreVirginia.
Debbie Allen previously stated, "I am thrilled to stand at the helm of this unique production as we navigate our way through Tennessee Williams' riveting and explosive American classic. Cat, said to be his favorite of his many plays, achieves a timeless coherence with its characters as they wrestle with the universal struggles of life, love, money, sex and death."
The Cat on a Hot Tin Roof design team includes Ray Klausen (sets), William H. Grant III (lights), John H. Shivers (sound), Jane Greenwood (costumes) and Charles G. LaPointe (hair). Production stage manager is Gwendolyn M. Gilliam.
Original music is by Andrew "Tex" Allen. Saxophone player is Gerald Hayes, who opens each act.
Cat is being presented by Front Row Productions and Stephen C. Byrd in association with Alia M. Jones.
Byrd stated, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof has been revived on Broadway four times before; this production marks the first African-American production approved by the Williams estate for the Broadway stage. This revival of Cat is not only making Broadway history, it is making American theatre and black theatre history too!"
For more information visit www.Cat2008onBroadway.com.
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