Denzel Washington to Star in ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ on Broadway

Two-time Oscar-winner Denzel Washington will return to Broadway in a revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s award-winning 1959 play A Raisin in the Sun, beginning preview performances March 8, 2014 and opening April 3 at the Ethel Barrymore Theater, where the original Broadway production opened.

Denzel Washington

Denzel Washington (Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The actor told reporters at the premiere of his new film 2 Guns the production would begin preview performances in March 2014. He last appeared on Broadway in a revival of August Wilson’s Fences in 2010, for which he won a Tony Award. Other Broadway credits include Julius Caesar and Checkmates. He will be playing Walter Lee Younger, a young father and husband frustrated by racism as his family attempts to move out of the Chicago slums. The role is usually cast with an actor in his 30s; Washington is 58. Also starring will be Tony winner Diahann Carroll (No Strings, Dynasty) as Walter’s mother Lena, Academy Award nominee Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda) as his wife Ruth, and Tony winner Anika Noni Rose (Caroline or Change) as his sister Beneatha. Kenny Leon who staged a 2004 revival of the play and directed Washington in Fences, will also helm this production.

A Raisin in the Sun was the first play by an African-American woman to receive a Broadway production. It starred Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee and Claudia MacNeil and won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play. At 29, Hansberry was the youngest American playwright to win the award and only the fifth woman. The Broadway cast repeated their performances in the 1961 film version. Raisin, a musical adaptation, opened on Broadway in 1973, won the Tony for Best Musical, and ran for 847 performances. Sean Combs, Phylicia Rashad and Audra McDonald headlined a 2004 Broadway revival of the original play and also starred in a 2008 TV-movie adaptation.

The landmark play has also inspired many other playwrights. Bruce Norris’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Clybourne Park takes place in the white suburb where the Younger family wishes to move, while Kwame Kwei-Armah’s Beneatha’s Place, presented at Baltimore’s Center Stage, imagines the future life of Beneatha Younger, Walter’s sister, an aspiring medical student.