2023 Drama Desk nominee Ray Fisher (The Piano Lesson) will reprise his performance as Muhammad Ali in Will Power's Fetch Clay, Make Man at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, California, via Center Theatre Group and The SpringHill Company, the latter's first stage project. The production will begin June 18 and run through July 16, with opening night set for June 25. Golden Globe winner Debbie Allen is directing. It will also mark basketball star LeBron James' first foray into theatrical producing.
Fisher, who performed the role in the play's Off-Broadway premiere at New York Theatre Workshop in 2013, will co-star alongside The Bear star and Obie Award winner Edwin Lee Gibson as Hollywood icon Stepin Fetchit (a stage name for Lincoln Perry). Gibson originally helped develop the role with Power, but did not perform in the work's Off-Broadway run.
Inspired by true events, the work tracks the unlikely friendship between the heavyweight champion and Fetchit. The latter, a somewhat controversial figure, is considered the first successful Black film actor, but he primarily found that success playing roles deeply steeped in racist stereotypes—his onscreen persona was famously billed as "The Laziest Man in the World."
Fisher and Gibson will be joined by Wilkie Ferguson II as Brother Rashid, Alexis Floyd as Sonji Clay, and Bruce Nozick as William Fox.
“It’s extraordinary to see these characters come to life through Will Power’s creative and dynamic writing,” says Allen in a statement. “The play really paints a picture of the climate of Hollywood in the 1930s when Step was the highest paid Black actor of the time, and then in 1965 when heavyweight champion Ali prepared for his second bout with Sonny Liston and had to face the ramifications and tensions around declaring his embrace of the Nation of Islam in the wake of the Malcom X assassination. I’m really looking forward to the rehearsal process and exploring these complexities with the actors and creative team.”
The California production will feature set design by Sibyl Wickersheimer, costume design by Sara Ryung Clement, lighting design by Tom Ontiveros, sound design by Lindsay Jones, and projection design by Pablo Molina. Casting is by Kim Coleman, and Ed De Shae is stage manager.
The production will be the first stage project for The SpringHill Company, founded by LeBron James and Maverick Carter to develop and produce works about sports and entertainment. Their screen work has included The Shop, Space Jam: A New Legacy, Hustle, and What's My Name: Muhammad Ali, among other titles.
Tickets are currently on sale at CenterTheatreGroup.org.