The Playbill Vault Celebrates Tony Award Winner Chuck Cooper
By Megan Dekic
Tony Award winner Chuck Cooper, who can currently be seen on Broadway in Romeo and Juliet, celebrates his birthday Nov. 8. To mark the occasion, the Playbill Vault looks back at his Broadway career.
Cooper made his Broadway debut as Brother Boxer in the musical Amen Corner, based on the play of the same name by James Baldwin. It told the story of a female Harlem pastor struggling to keep her life and her rebellious congregation together.
The production opened on Nov. 10, 1983, at the Nederlander Theatre and ran for 28 performances.
Fourteen years later, after understudying roles in Rumors, Passion and Getting Away with Murder, Cooper appeared in the Cy Coleman musical The Life, which explored the lives of 1980s Times Square prostitutes.
His portrayal of the intimidating pimp Memphis earned him a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical.
In 2004, Chuck Cooper appeared opposite Tonya Pinkins in the Jeanine Tesori-Tony Kushner musical Caroline, or Change, about a black maid working for a Jewish family in a 1963 Louisiana household.
The show ran for 136 performances at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre and was nominated for six Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
Cooper's next notable role came in the critically acclaimed 2009 Broadway revival of Finian's Rainbow, which stemmed from a New York City Center Encores! concert presentation. He performed the role of Bill Rawkins in a cast that included Broadway favorites Kate Baldwin and Cheyenne Jackson.
Despite rave reviews, producers closed the show after 92 performances, citing the tough economic times.
Cooper is currently appearing in the new Broadway revival of Romeo and Juliet, starring Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad as the young pair of ill-fated lovers. He plays Lord Capulet, patriarch of the Capulet family.
The production is scheduled to run through Dec. 8 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.
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