Is Usher Headed Back to Broadway in Golden Boy Revival?

News   Is Usher Headed Back to Broadway in Golden Boy Revival?
Usher, the multiple Grammy Award winner who made his Main Stem debut as Billy Flynn in Chicago, may be headed back to Broadway.
Usher as Billy Flynn.
Usher as Billy Flynn. Photo by SpotCo.

The New York Post reports that the acclaimed singer-actor is currently in talks to star in a Broadway revival of the 1964 musical Golden Boy, which is based on the Clifford Odets play of the same name. Usher would star as Joe Wellington, the role created on Broadway by the late Sammy Davis Jr.

Charles Strouse, who composed the music to Lee Adams' lyrics for the musical, told the New York daily, "I can't tell you that the contracts have been signed yet, but Usher's interest in the show is real. . . He's a rare talent. He moves so well, and he's a terrific singer. I would be the most flattered guy in the world if he does the show."

The Post also says that the producers of the revival are currently searching for a director and a new book writer; the latter would need to tweak the original William Gibson libretto, which concerns an interracial love affair between an African-American boxer and a white woman.

"The racial situation today is so much different from when we wrote the show," Strouse told the Post. "So we have some work to do on the show. But Lee and I would certainly love to write some new songs for Usher."

No theatre, dates or additional creative team were mentioned in the Post. Golden Boy had a famously rough road to Broadway. Odets succumbed to cancer before he could finish adapting his play. "By the time Lee Adams and I caught [Odets], he was at the end," Strouse said in the book "It Happened on Broadway." "We were in Vegas. He told us he had a terrible problem with gambling, that we shouldn't let him near the tables. Nevertheless, around midnight, we would have to pull him away and say, 'Get ye to the typewriter, because we've got to meet Sammy.' I'm an early riser, and at 6:30 the next morning, I'd pass by the casino and see an unshaven Clifford. 'I was going to quit,' he'd say, 'but I was ahead.' The first week of rehearsals, Odets died."

William Gibson was brought in to work on the book, and it is he and Odets who share credit for the libretto, though many people worked on it, including Davis himself. Original director Peter Coe was replaced by Arthur Penn after tryouts in Philadelphia and Boston.

According to David Sheward's book "It's a Hit," the musical had the unlucky fortune to play Detroit during a race riot. As a result of the interracial romance portrayed between Joe and his manager's white mistress, Lorna Moon (played by Paula Wayne), the stars received death threats and required the services of bodyguards.

Golden Boy opened at the Majestic Theatre on Oct. 20, 1964 and went on to play 569 performances.

Songs in the original score include "Workout," "Night Song," "Everything's Great," "Gimme Some," "Stick Around," "Don't Forget 127th Street," "Lorna's Here," "This Is The Life," "Golden Boy," "While The City Sleeps," "Colorful," "I Want To Be With You," "Can't You See It," "No More" and "The Fight."

Usher is a five-time Grammy Award-winning artist. His fifth album, "Confessions," was released in 2004 and sold over 15 million copies. The Hip-hop artist has also appeared in such films as "She's All That," "The Faculty," "Light it Up," "Geppetto," "Texas Rangers" and "In the Mix." His television credits include "The Twilight Zone," "7th Heaven," "Moesha" and "American Dreams." Chicago marked Usher's Broadway debut.

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