( ENSPIRE Entertainment ) The Hype of Opening Night Continues
Last Friday, the hugely anticipated Broadway revival of August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre (241 West 47th St.). It stars Samuel L. Jackson, John David Washington, and Danielle Brooks, and is directed by Tony Award® nominee LaTanya Richardson Jackson — who is making her Broadway directorial debut and is the first woman ever to direct an August Wilson play on Broadway. This is such a monumental honor for Mrs. Jackson to be a part of a powerful story on Broadway. The cast also features Trai Byers as Avery, Ray Fisher as Lymon, April Matthis as Grace, Michael Potts as Wining Boy, and Nadia Daniel and Jurnee Swan as Maretha in alternating performances.
It was such an honor to witness the greatness of the play before opening night. There was so much energy in the crowd from the moment the curtains were raised until the end. The dialogue kept you engaged with the family drama between brother and sister as they come to a disagreement about the family history. If you have not read or know about the story of the Piano lesson, the disagreement amongst family is relatable. There were moments of laughter and gasping from intense scenes and amazing acting. This play is not only a must-see because of who is in it but because after you go see it, you will want to go again!
August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson, which premiered at the Yale Repertory Theatre in 1987 and starred then-39-year-old Samuel L. Jackson as Boy Willie, is the fourth play in the American Century Cycle. Three years later, a new production, starring Carl Gordon, Charles S. Dutton, and S. Epatha Merkerson, opened at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, and soon transferred to Broadway’s Walter Kerr Theatre. Besides winning the Pulitzer Prize for drama, The Piano Lesson won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play, the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play, and the Peabody Award and was nominated for the 1990 Tony Award for Best Play.
The Piano Lesson is set in Pittsburgh’s Hill District in 1936. A brother and sister are locked in a war over the fate of a family heirloom: a piano carved with the faces of their ancestors. The Piano Lesson wrote Frank Rich in The New York Times, “has its own spacious poetry, its own sharp angle on a nation’s history, its own metaphorical idea of drama and its own palpable ghosts that roar right through the upstairs window of the household where the action unfolds. Like other Wilson plays, The Piano Lesson seems to sing even when it is talking.”
The design team for The Piano Lesson includes Tony Award winner Beowulf Boritt (Set Design), Tony Award nominee Toni-Leslie James (Costume Design), Tony Award nominee Japhy Weideman (Lighting Design), Tony Award winner Scott Lehrer (Sound Design), Drama Desk Award nominee Cookie Jordan (Wig Design), Tony Award nominee Jeff Sugg (Projection Design), Alvin Hough Jr. (Music & Music Direction), Otis Sallid (Choreographer). Casting is by Calleri, Jensen, Davis. General Management is by Foresight Theatrical.