You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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.

Popular on Variety

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.

More Legit

  • Bess Wohl

    Listen: The Impossible Plays of Bess Wohl

    The playwright Bess Wohl is always chasing a wild idea — and she’s found that rather than scaring away her collaborators, it just makes them more eager. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “I started my career thinking, oh, I’ll just write a play that’s really easy to do,” Wohl said on the latest episode [...]

  • Roundabout Theatre Company: Three New Plays

    Roundabout Theatre's Off-Broadway Season Adds Three Shows From Female Playwrights

    Roundabout Theatre Company, led by artistic director and CEO Todd Haimes, announced Tuesday that three female-written plays will be added to the 2020-2021 Off-Broadway season. Sanaz Toossi’s “English” will make its world premiere in fall of 2020, while Lindsey Ferrentino’s “The Year to Come” and Anna Ziegler’s “The Wanderers” will make their New York debuts [...]

  • Gregg Smith, Dancer and Choreographer Assistant,

    Gregg Smith, Dancer and Choreographer Assistant, Dies at 73

    Gregg Smith, a dancer, casting director and assistant choreographer who had a long association with director Kenny Ortega, has died. He was 73. Smith died on Jan. 1. The industry veteran worked as a performer in the national touring company of the musical “Hair” and in a Los Angeles production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” He [...]

  • Frozen review musical

    Warmth and Humor Pervade Pantages Production of 'Frozen' the Musical

    In 2013, Disney’s “Frozen” hit screens like a 100 mile-per-hour snowball, sparking a pop cultural phenomenon in which little girls and boys pranced about dressed in Anna and Elsa and Olaf costumes while belting aloud “Let It Go,” Elsa’s feminist anthemic response to ice powers rendering her a societal outcast. The animated movie won two [...]

  • My Name Is Lucy Barton review

    'My Name is Lucy Barton': Theater Review

    Laura Linney is in love. Just watch the radiant expression on her face as she wraps her arms around the character of Lucy Barton, a role she played in two separate engagements at the Bridge Theater in London, and is now reprising on Broadway in “My Name is Lucy Barton.” The feeling is obviously mutual, [...]

  • 'Broadway Profiles with Tamsen Fadal' to

    'Broadway Profiles with Tamsen Fadal' to Air Weekly, Syndicate Nationally (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Broadway Profiles with Tamsen Fadal” will become nationally syndicated, marking a first for a program about the Great White Way. Beginning in fall 2020, the monthly show will increase frequency to air weekly. The show is hosted and executive-produced by 12-time Emmy Award winner Tamsen Fadal, a news anchor at WPIX, the channel that initially [...]

  • Laura Linney My Name Is Lucy

    Listen: What Laura Linney Learns From Bad Shows

    For Laura Linney, every stage experience is a learning experience. “Even the bad ones!” she cheerfully declared on the new episode of Stagecraft, Variety’s theater podcast. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “Even the ones that are really bad, and I’ve been really bad in some things,” continued the Emmy winner, currently back on Broadway [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content