Broadway Bad Boy: Rap Mogul Sean Combs Opens in Raisin in the Sun April 26
By Robert Simonson
Sean Combs—aka rapper-producer-music mogul P. Diddy—will make his stage debut on March 30, in the Kenny Leon revival of the classic Lorraine Hansberry drama, A Raisin in the Sun, opening April 26 at the Royale Theatre.
Sharing the stage with Combs are stars Audra McDonald, Phylicia Rashad and Sanaa Lathan, along with David Aaron Baker, Teagle F. Bougere, Frank Harts, Alexander Mitchell and Bill Nunn.
A Raisin in the Sun concerns Walter Lee, who chafes at his straitened circumstances and longs for a business deal that would lift him out of his limited world. He has his eye on his late father's insurance, but Walter's mother wants to use that money to move the family out of the city.
Recording artist, fashion mogul and actor Combs will play Walter, the role originated on Broadway by Sidney Poitier, who later reprised his work on film. Combs has appeared in the films "Made," "Monster's Ball" and "Death of a Dynasty." Combs is arguably the most prominent figure in the hip hop world. As founder of Bad Boy Entertainment, he shepherded the career of the late superstar rapper Notorious B.I.G., as well as other artists. He had a phenomenal success as an artist in his own right with the album "No Way Out" and the single "I'll Be Missing You." He has also received much (sometimes unwanted) press for his one-time relationship with actress Jennifer Lopez and for run-ins with the law, including charges surrounding a shooting incident at a New York club.
Three-time Tony-winner McDonald (Carousel, Master Class, Ragtime) will play Ruth Younger. McDonald played the supporting role of Hotspur's wife in last fall's acclaimed Lincoln Center production of Henry IV. That was her non-singing Broadway debut. (Though Master Class was a play, the central aspect of McDonald's performance was the delivery of an operatic aria.) Her other theatre credits include Marie Christine.
Like McDonald, Rashad, who plays Lena "Mama" Younger, is having a busy season. She recently acted Off-Broadway in the Public Theater's praised newspaper drama by Tracey Scott Wilson, The Story. That show closed Dec. 21, 2003. The former "The Cosby Show" matriarch has been a more and more common sight on New York stages. In summer 2001, she starred in Charles Randolph Wright's Blue, a sleeper hit for the Roundabout Theatre Company. Two years earlier, she played Harlem Renaissance luminary Zora Neale Hurston in Thulani Davis' Everybody's Ruby, at the Public Theater.
Lathan will be Beneatha, Baker will play Lindner, Bougere is Asagai, Harts portrays George, Alexander Mitchell plays Travis and Bill Nunn takes on the role of Bobo.
The show will feature set design by Thomas Lynch, costume design by Paul Tazewell, lighting design by Brian MacDevitt and sound design by T. Richard Fitzgerald. Additionally, Dwight Andrews will be composing original music for the production.
Raisin in the Sun premiered in 1959. It was the first Broadway play written by, directed by and starring African-Americans. Lloyd Richards directed. In the cast were Poitier, Claudia McNeil as the mother, Diana Sands, Ruby Dee, Louis Gossett, Ivan Dixon, Glynn Turman, John Fielder, Lonne Elder III, Ed Hall and Douglas Turner. It ran 530 performances. A 1961 film version followed, as did a later 1991 TV movie. It was also the basis for the musical, Raisin.
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