BAZ BAMIGBOYE: Denzel Washington and son are on a mission in honour of playwright August Wilson
John David Washington and Samuel L. Jackson are to star in a new Broadway production of August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson, before appearing together in a film version.
It is the latest step in a mission by Washington’s dad, Hollywood star Denzel, to bring a ten-play cycle of Wilson’s work to the screen. The plays document the hopes and struggles of African-Americans over 100 years, with each one taking place in a different decade of the 20th century.
You don’t have to look very far for recurring themes here; or for a sense of batons being passed from one family generation to the next.
Denzel told me that his son, who broke through in Christopher Nolan’s Tenet and Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, would play Boy Willie in The Piano Lesson — the part Jackson played in the original production, at Yale Repertory Theatre in 1987.
John David Washington (left) and Samuel L. Jackson (right) are to star in a new Broadway production of August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson, before appearing together in a film version
The play which is likely to reach the stage sometime in 2022, will be directed by LaTanya Richardson Jackson — Samuel L.’s Tony award-winning wife.
A movie director is being sought to make the film, which will be opened up in the way Fences was.
That August Wilson work, set in the 1950s, starred Denzel and Viola Davis. The pair performed it on stage in NYC before going on to film it on location. And it earned Ms Davis a well-deserved Oscar.
Denzel was also a producer of the acclaimed Netflix movie of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Wilson again, this time in the 1920s) ,which also starred Davis, alongside Chadwick Boseman and Colman Domingo.
Denzel Washington said that his son John (pictured together) would play Boy Willie in The Piano Lesson
‘Now my son’s the big man, I’m blessed to be waiting on him to give me his time,’ Washington Sr joked.
‘You know, I’ve vowed to do the August Wilson canon; and this would be the third film,’ he added. The award-winning actor is producing along with Scott Rudin and Todd Black.
The Piano Lesson, which is set in Pittsburgh in 1936, follows Boy Willie’s trip from Mississippi farm country to visit his sister Berenice in the city.
He wants her to agree to sell her share in an ornately decorated upright piano — a family heirloom. Boy Willie wants the proceeds to purchase a parcel of land back in the South.
The play which is likely to reach the stage sometime in 2022, will be directed by LaTanya Richardson Jackson — Samuel L.’s Tony award-winning wife (pictured together)
Danielle Brooks, who found fame as ‘Taystee’ Jefferson in Orange Is The New Black, will play Berenice in both play and film.
She’s a terrific theatre actor, too, as I can attest, having seen her on Broadway opposite Cynthia Erivo in The Color Purple.
Thirty-four years after he first tuned into The Piano Lesson, Jackson will take on the role of Doaker, the keeper of the piano (and its blood-drenched history), and uncle to Berenice and Boy Willie.
Joss and Dave’s pen power
Singer Joss Stone has teamed up with Dave Stewart to write the songs for a stage version of novelist Audrey Niffenegger’s best-selling weepie The Time Traveler’s Wife.
Stone and Stewart have already composed several soulful numbers for the musical, adapted by Lauren Gunderson, which tells the story of Henry, a man with a genetic anomaly that causes him to flit back and forth in time, where he keeps bumping into the same girl: Clare.
A godawful film version, starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams, focused on Henry’s story. However Stone told me, in an email sent from her home in New Jersey (where she’s nursing five-week-old daughter Violet), that ‘given that the title is The Time Traveller’s Wife, we wanted to tell the story from Clare’s point of view’.
Singer Joss Stone has teamed up with Dave Stewart (pictured together) to write the songs for a stage version of novelist Audrey Niffenegger’s best-selling weepie The Time Traveler’s Wife
‘Clare inspires me, because she is a strong character who has so much love in her heart that she is willing to give fully, if she feels respected and cared for,’ she continued. ‘Isn’t this how we all want to be?’ And she added that even though Clare has to endure a lot, she ‘never wallows in self-pity’.
Stone recently wowed TV audiences with her amazing voice when she won The Masked Singer (as Sausage).
I’ve listened to her singing some of the powerful and romantic numbers for the new project, and they’re very good. But she won’t be starring in the show, which producer Colin Ingram said will open next year at a non-profit theatre, with Bill Buckhurst directing, before transferring to the West End.
A godawful film version, starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams (above), focused on Henry’s story
Ingram said he intends to cast a black actress to play the central Clare (though she will be played by different actresses at other ages).
In the film version, Bana’s Henry kept turning up naked when he journeyed back in time to see Clare. ‘He’s not going to time travel without his clothes!’ Ingram assured me. ‘You’ve got a Clare aged nine, and you can’t do a scene with a little girl and a naked man.’
However, there will be a moment when Henry’s in the shower — when Clare’s all grown up.
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