While there is currently uncertainty over the status of the Paul Greengrass-directed Martin Luther King Jr film Memphis and the Lee Daniels-directed MLK film Selma, Samuel L. Jackson has just committed to playing the civil rights leader on Broadway in The Mountaintop. The move was long-rumored, but he will not be joined by Halle Berry, whose child-custody issues will keep her from joining Jackson. He becomes the latest film star to take a stage turn, and Broadway has been the better for it. Here’s the official announcement:
New York, NY – It was announced today that Samuel L. Jackson will make his Broadway debut starring as Dr. Martin Luther King in the Broadway production of the new play, The Mountaintop, by Katori Hall directed by Tony Award Nominee Kenny Leon (Fences, A Raisin in the Sun). The Mountaintop will begin performances on September 22, 2011, at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre (242 West 45th Street), with an official opening on Thursday, October 13, 2011. Tickets for The Mountaintop will go on sale at a later date.
The Mountaintop is produced by Jean Doumanian Productions, Sonia Friedman Productions, Ambassador Theatre Group, Jerry Frankel, Ted Snowdon, Bob Bartner, and Tom Wirtshafter.
In a joint statement, Ms. Doumanian and Ms. Friedman said, “The Mountaintop is a brilliantly conceived gem of a play. An ambitious work of fiction that is powerful, heartbreaking, humorous and exhilarating. We are thrilled to be bringing Katori Hall’s remarkable, Olivier-winning work to New York, and to present a singular new American voice to Broadway audiences. And we are honored to be presenting the Broadway debut of the great Samuel L. Jackson.”
The play’s producers stated that it had been rumored by the actress Halle Berry that she would be costarring in this production. However, the casting for the role of Camae, a mysterious maid at the Lorraine Motel, will be announced shortly, and Ms. Berry will not be appearing in the role, due to child custody issues.
Taking place on April 3, 1968, The Mountaintop is a gripping reimagining of events the night before the assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as he retires to Room 306 in the now famous Lorraine Motel in Memphis, after delivering his legendary ‘I’ve Been to the Mountaintop’ speech to a massive church congregation. When room-service is delivered by a young woman, whose identity we puzzle over, King is forced to confront his past, as well as his legacy to his people.
The Mountaintop received its world premiere to critical acclaim in a three-week run at Theatre 503 in June 2009, and subsequently transferred to the West End’s Trafalgar Studio 1. The production featured powerful performances by David Harewood as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Lorraine Burroughs as the mysterious Camae, under the direction of James Dacre. The Mountaintop also received two Evening Standard Awards Nominations, including Most Promising Playwright, and was awarded the coveted 2010 Olivier Award for Best Play. This year, Ms. Hall also received the Susan Smith Blackburn prize.