Her acting debut, that is. Winfrey’s first foray in the theater industry was as an above-the-title producer on 2005 musical “The Color Purple.” So if ” ‘Night, Mother” comes together, the actress would find herself in the unusual position of debuting on Broadway with a box office track record that’s already firmly established.
Scott Sanders — who produced “Color Purple” — and his team at shingle Scott Sanders Prods. wouldn’t confirm details of the exact stage project, but it’s no secret that Winfrey has been considering an acting gig on Broadway for some years. She’s even said so in the press: “Broadway is definitely in my future,” she told the New York Daily News last year.
Whether it’s in ” ‘Night, Mother” — which would, it’s said, potentially co-star Audra McDonald in a staging helmed by George C. Wolfe (“Lucky Guy”) — or in another title, Winfrey hits the boards as a proven sales magnet on a Broadway landscape where only an elite handful of names rank as top-tier B.O. powerhouses.
The multihyphenate’s presence on the “Color Purple” marquee gave a major boost to the national profile of the musical, which got further attention when Winfrey tubthumped for the tuner on her own talk show and on “Late Show with David Letterman.”
It wasn’t long before the musical’s weekly sales snowballed into the million-dollar range. Receipts trailed off in early 2007, but spiked again with the cast addition of Fantasia Barrino — news announced on “American Idol” and further touted on Winfrey’s show.
A significant chunk of Winfrey’s legit box office power comes from the fact that the main Broadway ticketbuying demo, older-skewing females, matches up nicely with the fanbase she established over the many years she headlined her talk show. She’s also a significant draw for African-American auds, another seg that turned out in force for “Purple.”
With the success of “Color Purple” already under her belt, she looks to become a major box office boon to any Main Stem show in which she’d star. That’s a hefty advantage for a new production on Broadway, where big names don’t always translate into big box office. Denzel Washington, Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks, Al Pacino and Ricky Martin have all established themselves as powerhouses, but familiar faces such as Scarlett Johansson and Katie Holmes haven’t been able to guarantee box office success.
So regardless of whether ” ‘Night, Mother” materializes, Winfrey seems bound for Broadway — and when she gets there, she stands poised to become a major box office player.
News of the ” ‘Night, Mother” was first reported by the New York Times.