At curtain call for the December 21 evening performance of the Broadway revival of The Piano Lesson, Reverend Al Sharpton surprised starring cast member Samuel L. Jackson with a birthday cake in honor of the actor's 74th birthday.
Jackson stars as Doaker Charles in the revival, having originally created the role of Boy Willie when the show made its world premiere at Yale Repertory Theatre in 1987. He's joined in the cast by John David Washington, Danielle Brooks, Trai Byers, Ray Fisher, April Matthis, and Michael Potts, with Nadia Daniel and Jurnee Swan alternating in the role of Maretha.
Tony nominee LaTanya Richardson Jackson, the first woman to direct an August Wilson play on Broadway, helms the production. The 17-week engagement opened October 13 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre and plays through January 29. Set in Pittsburgh's Hill District in 1936, The Piano Lesson follows a brother and sister who are embroiled in a battle over a family heirloom piano carved with the faces of their ancestors. Understudies are Shirine Babb, Charles Browning, Peter Jay Fernandez, Sharina Martin, Warner Miller, Doron JePaul Mitchell, and Kim Sullivan.
The creative team also includes Tony-winning music director Jason Michael Webb, who composed new music for the revival, Tony-winning set designer Beowulf Boritt, Tony-nominated costume designer Toni-Leslie James, Tony-nominated lighting designer Japhy Weideman, Tony-winning sound designer Scott Lehrer, Drama Desk-nominated designer Cookie Jordan, Tony-winning projection designer Jeff Snug, and choreographer Otis Sallid. Casting is by Calleri, Jensen, Davis, and general management is by Foresight Theatrical.
In 1990, the play was staged at Chicago's Goodman Theatre, and subsequently transferred to Broadway's Walter Kerr Theatre. The Pulitzer Prize-winning drama received Tony nominations for Best Play, Best Direction of a Play, Best Featured Actor in a Play, Best Actor in a Play, and Best Featured Actress in a Play.