Kenny Leon Will Direct Broadway-Aimed Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

News   Kenny Leon Will Direct Broadway-Aimed Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
Jeffrey Finn Productions is developing a new Broadway-aimed production of the groundbreaking 1967 film, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," with Kenny Leon attached as director.
Kenny Leon
Kenny Leon Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Late screenwriter William Rose's Academy Award-winning screenplay will be adapted for the theatre by Todd Kreidler, who served as dramaturg to the late August Wilson on both Gem of the Ocean and Radio Golf.

Producer Finn (Tony Award-nominated for On Golden Pond starring James Earl Jones) is hoping for a Dinner date on Broadway in fall 2008.

No theatre, dates or performers have been announced, but fans of the movie will likely create a casting wish list of their own. No less than Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy starred in the Columbia Pictures movie about white liberal parents whose adult daughter brings home an African-American beau; it was Tracy's final film, released after his death.

Hepburn's niece, Katharine Houghton, played daughter Joey, and Sidney Poitier played fiancé Dr. John Prentice.

Kenny Leon's Broadway credits include A Raisin in the Sun, Gem of the Ocean and Radio Golf. According to Jeffrey Finn productions, "Following a life-altering romance in Hawaii, Joey Drayton brings her fiancé, Dr. John Prentice, home to sunny San Francisco to meet her affluent parents. Their liberal persuasions are put to the test when they find out their daughter's fiancé, while an ideal choice – a handsome, wealthy, brilliant, internationally-renown doctor from a respectable family – is African-American."

Leon has directed three critically acclaimed Broadway productions that earned a total of 13 Tony nominations and two wins. He is co-founder and artistic director of True Colors Theatre Company in Atlanta, where Todd Kreidler serves with him as associate artistic director.

Leon said in a statement, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is about truth and hypocrisy in the most wonderful country in the world. Given the times we live in, and the conditions of this country and the world, the essential story is still extremely timely. We need to look inward at ourselves to see who we are as Americans at our core. Are we who we say we are? Do we live the lives we dream about? This story is a delicate balance of comedy and drama on a search for personal truth. What a wonderful opportunity to rediscover and take a fresh look at this iconic work."

Adaptor Kreidler added, "What's more current than a story set in a society riven by intolerance and fear? We forget: only a generation ago America drank from separate fountains. This love story offers a way to expose the fear and intolerance and see what happens when a couple attempts to share the water in even the most apparently liberal of homes."

Speaking on behalf of his father, the late William Rose, Kindred Rose stated, "The themes of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner are as relevant now as they have ever been. Jeffrey Finn is the first producer to conceive of a major stage version, and it's clear this will be both entirely true to the original ideas and concepts of the screenplay, yet a thoroughly new adaptation. If my father were alive, I know he would approve."

Up until six months before the film premiered, interracial marriage was still illegal in 17 Southern states — until June 12, 1967, when the U.S. Supreme Court in the case "Loving v. Virginia," declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional.

In addition to their work together on Broadway (on Gem of the Ocean and Radio Golf) and at True Colors, Leon and Kreidler will be collaborating on The Kennedy Center's "August Wilson's 20th Century" in March 2008. The series will be the first chronological look at all ten Wilson plays during a month of showcase productions. Leon is artistic director of the festival and will direct four of the productions. Kreidler is associate artistic director and will direct one of the productions.

Directed by Stanley Kramer, and originally billed as "A love story of today," "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" opened on Dec. 12, 1967 to rave reviews. It was nominated for ten Academy Awards including Best Picture, winning two: Original Screenplay for Rose and Best Actress for Hepburn.

The film inspired a race-reversed remake of sorts in the 2005 pic, "Guess Who," starring Bernie Mac (as the father) and Ashton Kutcher (as the fiancé).

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Producer Jeffrey Finn received a 2005 Tony Award nomination for Best Play Revival for the Broadway production of On Golden Pond starring James Earl Jones and Leslie Uggams. Additional credits include the 2006 revival of the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama The Subject Was Roses; On Golden Pond (national tour); The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber; Game Show (for which Finn is also a co-author); The Who's Tommy; A Few Good Men...DANCIN' (U.S. and international productions); Tell Me on a Sunday; Leader of the Pack; Promises, Promises; Company; Chess; and a series of national concert tours produced under the aegis Broadway Songbooks.

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