Denzel Washington Talks Up Broadway Return

A textbook star-driven revival would add wattage to the spring slate

For anyone worried that all the really big stars would be packed onto Broadway in the fall, Denzel Washington has come along to add some wattage to the spring lineup.

Nothing has been confirmed on the Main Stem, but during press duties for his new film “2 Guns,” the thesp, one of Broadway’s top box office draws, has been talking up a starring gig in a new revival of “A Raisin in the Sun.” To hear Washington tell it, the show will start previews in March in a production that will reunite him with director Kenny Leon and producer Scott Rudin, also collaborators on his Tony-winning turn in “Fences” in 2010. Diahann Carroll, Anika Noni Rose and Sophie Okonedo are among the actresses rumored to be joining him in “Raisin.”

If it materializes, “Raisin” — a textbook example of what has become one of Broadway’s most consistently profitable production models — would help make the upcoming Rialto season as starry as last year’s crowded slate.

The upcoming autumn sked is already packed with high-profile screen actors, starting with Orlando Bloom in “Romeo and Juliet” and including Zachary Quinto in “The Glass Menagerie,” Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in a Pinter-Beckett double bill, Ethan Hawke in “Hamlet” and, in another Rudin-produced revival, a staging of “Betrayal” starring Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz.

All of those shows conform to the formula that puts one (or more) big-name thesp in a revival of a well-known stage title for a limited engagement. It’s easy to see why the model is as popular as it is: It’s one of the safest bets on Broadway, tapping a bankable actor (or a theoretically bankable one, anyway) to star in a title that’s familiar enough to general auds so that it won’t intimidate. The fact that the runs are limited can add a buy-now element of frenzy to the box office, as is is the case with “Betrayal,” which, according to word on the Street, is racing along toward being entirely sold out well before its first performance.

At this point, though, the 2013-14 play season on Broadway risks being as overloaded with starry competition as last season, which saw some but not all star-driven productions turn a profit.

Led by Al Pacino, last fall’s “Glengarry Glen Ross” easily made it into the black, as did Bette Midler starrer “I’ll Eat You Last” and Tom Hanks topliner “Lucky Guy,” while Jessica Chastain vehicle “The Heiress” eked out a recoupment just before it closed. But those successes are balanced by a string of starry outings that shuttered in the red, including “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” starring Scarlett Johansson, “Orphans” toplined by Alec Baldwin, “The Performers” with Henry Winkler and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” led by Emilia Clarke.

Both Midler and Hanks deviated from the norm by appearing in a new play as opposed to a revival, and their respective shows’ stellar box office put them in an elite group of thesps who, to judge from prior Broadway stints, can ring in boffo sales no matter what the title. Like Pacino, Hugh Jackman and Julia Roberts, Washington is already on that list thanks to “Fences,” a major hit of the 2009-10 season.

The actor’s proven Broadway muscle looks poised to make “Raisin” a big-ticket item no matter what its competish. And with the spring slate of plays still falling into place, there doesn’t look to be as much of that as there would be in the fall — at least not yet.

Popular on Variety

More Legit

  • David-Alan-Grier-Blair-Underwood

    David Alan Grier and Blair Underwood to Star in 'A Soldier's Play' on Broadway

    David Alan Grier and Blair Underwood will star in a Broadway production of Pulitzer-Prize winning drama “A Soldier’s Play.” The play, written by Charles Fuller, is set in 1944 and follows a murder mystery centered around the death of black Sergeant Vernon C. Waters (played by Grier) who is found on a Louisiana army base. [...]

  • The Inheritance review

    'The Inheritance' Announces Broadway Cast

    After an Olivier-winning run in London, “The Inheritance” is gearing up for its Broadway debut. The two-part epic has set the cast for its transfer from the West End to the Great White Way. John Benjamin Hickey, Paul Hilton, Samuel H. Levine, Andrew Burnap and Kyle Soller are among the cast members reprising their roles [...]

  • Patrick Page, Amber Grey, Eva Noblezada,

    'Hadestown' Announces 2020 National Tour

    ‘Hadestown’, the eight-time Tony award winning Broadway musical, is set for a national tour in 2020. The show will stop in more than 30 cities including Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New Orleans, and more. The musical is a stage adaptation of the Greek myths of Orpheus and Eurydice and King Hades and his wife [...]

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

    Listen: Why Jake Gyllenhaal Is His 'Best Self' in the Theater

    Looking for the best possible version of Jake Gyllenhaal? You’ll find it onstage, according to the actor himself. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “I am my best self when I’m working in the theater,” Gyllenhaal said on the latest episode Stagecraft, Variety’s theater podcast, on which he appeared with Carrie Cracknell, the director of [...]

  • Photo: Jeremy Daniel

    'The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical' Gets Broadway Run

    “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical” is Broadway bound. The musical adaptation of the franchise about a teenager who discovers he’s the son of Poseidon hits the Great White Way on Sept. 20 ahead of an Oct. 16 opening night. It comes on the heels of an extensive, nationwide tour that took the show [...]

  • Tom Sturridge Jake Gyllenhaal

    Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge Celebrate 'Sea Wall/A Life' With Star-Studded Opening Night

    A star-studded audience looked on as Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge returned to the stage for their double monologue performance in “Sea Wall/A Life.” Theater-goers and celebs including Anne Hathaway, Tom Hiddleston and John Mulaney gathered in Manhattan’s Hudson Theatre for opening night, celebrating a show tackling grief, birth and death through the eyes of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content