Benedict Cumberbatch is the first performer to sign up for the New York debut of London’s Letters Live, a stage show that pairs celebrities with actual “literary correspondence” from the likes of Mohandas Gandhi, David Bowie, Tom Hanks, Abraham Lincoln, Patti Smith and Janis Joplin.
Cumberbatch is the first star confirmed for the show’s New York debut engagement on May 18 and 19 at Manhattan’s Town Hall. Additional cast will be announced, though some surprises are planned for the shows.
Created and developed by independent publishing house Canongate, Letters Live is described as a “live celebration of the enduring power of literary correspondence. Each show always features a completely different array of great performers, reading remarkable letters written over the centuries and from around the world. One of the joys of Letters Live is that one never knows who is going to take to the stage or what letter they are going to bring alive.”
A portion of the proceeds from the two NYC shows will support literacy group 826NYC and Entertainment Industry Foundation.
Since its 2013 at the Tabernacle in London, Letters Live has included performances by Cumberbatch, Gillian Anderson, Ian McKellen, Kylie Minogue, Russell Brand, Thandie Newton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Rose McGowan, Riz Ahmed, Juliet Stevenson, LeVar Burton, Mark Hamill, Anjelica Huston, Tom Hiddleston, Sally Hawkins, JJ Abrams, James Corden, Noma Dumezweni, Oscar Isaac, Mary J. Blige, Jude Law, Brie Larson, Nick Cave and Sir Ben Kingsley.
In addition to the missives from Bowie, Gandhi, Joplin, Hanks and Smith, letters read include ones written by Maya Angelou, Elvis Presley, Kurt Vonnegut, Charlotte Bronte, Katherine Hepburn, Richard Burton, James Baldwin and Che Guevara.