Diahann Carroll, Denzel Washington revive 'A Raisin in the Sun'
Diahann Carroll and Denzel Washington will play mother and son in a Broadway revival of the American classic 'A Raisin in the Sun.' In 1968, Diahann Carroll was the first black woman to star in a non-servant role on TV.
Tony Award winners Diahann Carroll and Denzel Washington will play mother and son on Broadway in a spring revival of the classic American play "A Raisin in the Sun," an opportunity that has left him "overjoyed" and her "thrilled."Skip to next paragraph
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"I think it's one of our most original plays and I think that's why it keeps coming back," said Carroll by phone from Los Angeles. Washington, en route to a film set in Boston on Thursday afternoon, agreed: "It's one of those classics."
Previews of Lorraine Hansberry's play begin March 8 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre with an opening night scheduled for April 3. Kenny Leon, who directed Washington on Broadway to a Tony in "Fences," will helm the production.
Both Carroll and Washington confessed that they were somewhat daunted by the prospects of an eight-show week. For Carroll, it's the first time on Broadway in 30 years but "once you're into the flow of it, it becomes a life style." Washington, speaking on the way to the set of "The Equalizer," said theater and film — with its 14-hour days — were both tests of endurance.
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"While you're sleeping tonight, I'll be running around on the street of Boston so I don't take that lightly," he said. "I don't think eight-shows-a-week is necessarily harder, but the energy I get from the audiences, you don't get that on a film."
Set in the late 1950s in a rundown South Side Chicago apartment, "A Raisin in the Sun" deals with the hopes and disappointments of a black family trying to find a better life in a white neighborhood. It was the first play by a black woman to be produced on Broadway. Hansberry became the youngest American and the first black winner of the New York Drama Critic's Circle Award, in 1959.
Carroll, 78, met Hansberry before the playwright died at age 34 in 1965. "She was extraordinary and I think that's one of the reasons why it is an honor to be asked to be part of this," said Carroll. "She faced everything with such intelligence and grace. She was dying [of cancer] when we met but you would never have known that."
This will be the second Broadway revival of the play. The original Broadway production in 1959 featured Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Claudia McNeil and Diana Sands, all who reunited for a 1961 film adaptation. The last Broadway revival occurred in 2004, starring Diddy, Phylicia Rashad, Sanaa Lathan and Audra McDonald.
The play's central conflict concerns Lena Younger's late husband's insurance money. She wants to use it to move the family out of their cramped tenement apartment and into a house in a white neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. She also wants to pay her daughter's medical school tuition.
But her son, Walter Lee Younger, sees the money as a chance to open a liquor store and be more like the wealthy white men for whom he works as a chauffeur. He wants to make life better for his own son and pregnant wife. "I open and close car doors all day long. I drive a man around in his limousine and I say, 'Yes, sir; no, sir; very good sir,'" he tells his mother in one scene.