Audra McDonald and Phylicia Rashad Join Sean Combs in Raisin in the Sun

News   Audra McDonald and Phylicia Rashad Join Sean Combs in Raisin in the Sun
Audra McDonald and Phylicia Rashad will be wife and mother to the Walter Lee Younger of Sean Combs in the spring Broadway revival of the classic Lorraine Hansberry drama, A Raisin in the Sun.

Audra McDonald
Audra McDonald Photo by Aubrey Reuben

The production, to be directed by Kenny Leon, will name its theatre in the near future. Specific dates — previews begin in March, opening in April — and the remainder of the cast are also to come.

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's in the Public Theater's praised newspaper drama by Tracey Scott Wilson's, 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.

Recording artist, fashion mogul and actor Sean "P. Diddy" Combs will make his Broadway debut as Walter, that role which was originated on Broadway by Sidney Poitier, who later reprised his role on film. Combs has appeared in the films "Made," "Monster's Ball" and "Death of a Dynasty."

David Binder, who is producing the revival, told the New York Times, "Most big stars won't audition at all, but Sean was exactly the opposite. He had to jump through a lot of hoops. He auditioned for the director, the casting director and the agent for the [Hansberry] estate. Everybody was incredibly impressed by his professionalism and preparation." Combs is not the first rap star to grace the New York stage. Mos Def impressed critics in the Broadway transfer of Suzan-Lori Parks' Topdog/Underdog, and later won an Obie Award for his Off-Broadway work in Parks' Fucking A. And several seasons back, Heavy D appeared in Laurence Fishburne's Off-Broadway drama Riff Raff.


A Raisin in the Sun concerns Walter Lee, who chafes at his straightened circumstances and longs for a business deal which would lift him out of his limited world. He has his eye of his late father's insurance, but Walter's mother wants to use her that money to move the family out of the city.

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 film 1961 version followed, as did a later 1991 TV movie. It was also the basis for the musical, Raisin.

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