One of the worst kept casting secrets in New York City has finally been confirmed. As has been reported for weeks, Jeffrey Wright and rap artist Mos Def will star in the Broadway production of Suzan-Lori Parks' Topdog/Underdog.
The show will begin previews at the Ambassador Theatre on March 12 for an April 7 opening. The limited run will play for only 20 weeks. The engagement will mark Parks' Broadway debut.
Mos Def replaces Don Cheadle in the production. Cheadle played the role in the Off-Broadway Public Theater production last year. As film star Cheadle ("Ocean's 11") became unavailable, director George C. Wolfe turned to Mos Def (nee Dante Smith), who has appeared in a couple films. Mos Def met Wolfe when the latter auditioned for a projected film of the musical Jelly's Last Jam.
The Wolfe staging ended its extended summer at The Public Theater's Anspacher Theater Sept. 2. Previews began July 10 for an opening on July 26. The work was originally scheduled for March 2001, but pushed back to July, apparently to accommodate Cheadle's schedule. Cheadle's film credits include "Out of Sight" and "Traffic." He appeared in The Public Theater's 1989 production of Cymbeline.
In addition to his recording career, Mos Def has acted in the movies "Bamboozled," "Where’s Marlowe," "Island of the Dead," and "Monster’s Ball"
Parks' In the Blood (a Pulitzer Prize finalist) played the Public in 1999-2000, and her Fucking A will play at the theatre in the 2002-03 season.
Topdog was Wolfe's first directing assignment since 1999-2000's The Wild Party. He also directed Elaine Stritch and thus will have two shows on Broadway this season.
Topdog/Underdog designers were Riccardo Hernandez (scenic), Emilio Sosa (costumes), Scott Zielinski (lighting) and Dan Moses Schreier (sound).