Cicely Tyson took longer than her own two hour-plus trip onstage in the Broadway revival of Horton Foote’s “The Trip to Bountiful” to get to the Copacabana opening night party on April 23. But then she’s 88 years old, by some reports. Tyson hadn’t been on the Broadway stage in 30 years.
“The biggest surprise was she giggled through pretty much every day,” said Vanessa Williams, who also performs with Cuba Gooding Jr., among others, in the show. “She said she’s never giggled so much on anything. She was so joyful.
“I had no idea from what was on the page and in rehearsal that the humor was going to be as prevalent as it is,” Williams continued. “There’s so many laughs. Our first show Cuba, Cicely and I came offstage and said, ‘When did this turn into ‘Three’s Company’? We had no idea it was a comedy — that’s been a huge surprise.”
The revival, Broadway’s first since Lillian Gish starred as Carrie Watts 60 years ago, seemed blessed by fate.
“I’ve never seen a Broadway production come together so fast,” said director Michael Wilson. “This was born in September,” when Tyson said yes. “We had our producer in October and were announced in December and went into rehearsal in February.”
“It’s funny,” Gooding said. “I was going to do a play in the West End and we lost the theater, and this came up.”
“It’s freaky how everything is right with this show,” Williams said. “The fact that we’re in the same theater it debuted in 60 years ago (then the Henry Miller’s Theater). And the fact that the last show that I did” — “Sondheim on Sondheim” three years ago — “and our opening was Stephen Sondheim’s birthday and they’ve renamed the Henry Miller the Stephen Sondheim and this is the next show I’m doing. The fact that Michael Wilson has known Hallie Foote and he’s worked with Horton for years. We actually had a birthday cake for Horton, who although he’s passed away his spirit was so much part of the process, because of the relationship with Michael, because Hallie’s in the room. It was really so close and so uncanny.”