From PlayBill

Brian Stokes Mitchell Cast as King Hedley II; Bway Opening Now April 29

Brian Stokes Mitchell, the star of Ragtime and Kiss Me, Kate, will play the title role in August Wilson's latest, King Hedley II, when it reaches Broadway. The surprise casting choice was made after negotiations with Charles S. Dutton fell through, reported The New York Times.

Mitchell will finish his Tony-winning run in Kate on Jan. 28. To allow for enough rehearsal, the producers of Hedley have pushed the Broadway opening at the Virginia Theatre back from April 16 to April 29.

Viola Davis will play the role of Tonya. Davis appeared on Broadway in Wilson's Seven Guitars, a work that is sort of a prequel to Hedley.

Hedley began L.A. performances Sept. 2 with an opening Sept. 14. Marion McClinton directs the drama. Following the Chicago run will be a stop at Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center, opening March 1.

The curtain went up on King Hedley II in Chicago on Nov. 30. The play officially opened Dec. 11 and ran through Jan. 13.

Continuing his decade-by-decade examination of African American life in the United States, Wilson sets King Hedley II in 1985 in the black ghetto of Pittsburgh and deals with the triumphs and trials of a community torn apart. King Hedley rages against his past and present and his pregnant wife, Tonya, fears to bring a child into their world. A two time Pulitzer Prize-winner, Wilson also wrote Fences, The Piano Lesson and Seven Guitars. Set design is by David Gallo, costumes by Toni-Leslie James, lighting by Donald Holder and sound design by Rob Milburn.

Significant changes were made to the cast of Wilson’s new drama in its progression from Pittsburgh to the Huntington Theatre in Boston to Los Angeles, to Chicago, to DC and Broadway in the spring. Though Charles Brown, Lou Myers, Monte Russell remain with the show, some major roles have new players, including Tony-winner Leslie Uggams signing on as Ruby, and “Law & Order” first-season castmember, Richard Brooks, as the title character.

Harry Lennix had played Hedley in Los Angeles for all but the final week, when Jerome Butler came into the role. Juanita Jennings played the role now essayed by Uggams, whose Broadway credits include Jerry’s Girls, Blues in the Night and her Tony-winning turn in Hallelujah, Baby!. Yvette Ganier plays Tonya, replacing Mone Walton.

—By Robert Simonson

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