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'A Raisin in the Sun': Diahann Carroll, Sophie Okonedo, Anika Noni Rose to join Denzel Washington

It looks like Cicely Tyson’s recent Tony triumph in The Trip to Bountiful might be sparking more Broadway returns for veteran actresses off the boards for 30-plus years. Diahann Carroll, a Tony winner herself who hasn’t appeared in a Broadway show since a stint in Agnes of God in 1983, will return to the New York stage playing the award-winning role of Lena Younger, opposite the already-announced Denzel Washington (who won a Best Actor Tony for the revival of August Wilson’s Fences in 2010) playing Walter, in a revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, concerning a lower-middle-class African-American family in the 1950s trying to determine what to do with inherited money that might provide them a better living.

Joining Washington and Carroll will be Oscar nominee Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda) as Walter’s wife Ruth, Tony winner Anika Noni Rose (Caroline, or Change) as Walter’s younger sister Beneatha, and Lucky Guy‘s Stephen Tyrone Williams as Nigerian student Joseph. Kenny Leon, who also helmed the Washington-Viola Davis production of Fences, will direct the revival of the legendary play, recently selected by EW as one of the 10 best plays of all time.

A Raisin in the Sun is scheduled to begin previews at the Barrymore Theatre on March 8, 2014, and is slated to open April 3.

Tony Awards 2013: Who will win?

Despite a Broadway season that saw a 6-percent dip in attendance, theater fans still have cause for celebration at this Sunday’s Tony Awards. There’s a  contest heating up for Best Musical, pitting the “revolting” children of Matilda against the fabulous drag queens of Kinky Boots.

And there’s some real suspense in other major categories: Will two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks (above) add a Tony to his mantel for his Broadway debut in Lucky Guy? Will former Who’s the Boss star Judith Light win back-to-back Tonys in Best Featured Actress in a Play? EW critics Melissa Rose Bernardo and Thom Geier offer their predictions of who will be step-step-kicking to the podium at Radio City Music Hall this Sunday. (By the way, we’ll also be live-blogging the ceremony, hosted for the fourth time by the Energizer bunny of awards-show hosts, Neil Patrick Harris.) Disagree with our picks? Please let us know who you think will win — or should win — in the comments section.
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This Week On Stage: Bette Midler, Alan Cumming, Fiona Shaw, and Cicely Tyson take the stage

Here they are, the last gasp of shows for the 2012-2013 theater season as we approach T-Day (Tony Nomination Day on April 30). And on that note, some notable rulings have been announced: the four young tykes taking on the title role in Matilda will not be competing jointly for Best Actress in a Musical (they will instead receive a special “Tony Honor For Excellence”). And poor Kristine Nielsen (Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike) and all the men in Orphans have been added to the crowded slate of competitors for Leading Actor/Actress, which means about eight Tony-worthy performers will be vying for five spaces in each, already dubbing this year as Sophie’s Choices. Read the full eligibility details here.

This edition features return Broadway favorites like Pippin and The Trip to Bountiful and a particularly solo-show heavy week, with Bette Midler, Fiona Shaw and Brief Encounter’s Tristan Sturrock all holding court (and even Alan Cumming’s take on the Scottish Play falls into the pseudo category). And David Byrne and Fatboy Slim are getting their groove on downtown too. (Click on the links below to read the full reviews):

Here Lies Love  On your feet, disco lovers! No, really. This new David Byrne-Fatboy Slim musical is a literal stand-up experience — wear comfortable shoes! — using the space inside the Public Theater as a full-on dance floor to tell a mirrorballed tale of controversial Philippines strongman Ferdinand Marcos and his wife, Imelda. Kyle Anderson declares the odd hybrid a smashing success: The show’s narrative center is so strong and its infectious melodic spirit so complete that it could easily work in a traditional theater setting (or in the round, on a street corner, or in your living room). The fact that you can sweat right along with the incredible cast is a happy-footed bonus.” EW grade: A READ FULL STORY

Broadway box office: 'Matilda' joins 'Motown' and 'Lucky Guy' as a new hit

Matilda has emerged as a Dahled-up hit of the new Broadway season. In its first full week since its April 11 opening, the rapturously reviewed musical earned $1.13 million for the week ending April 21, according to figures from the Broadway League. That’s a 51 percent increase in ticket sales from the previous week, and represents nearly 89 percent of the potential gross from the Shubert Theatre.

Matilda is one of four brand-new shows that joined this week’s Million Dollar Club of high earners on the Great White Way. The Tom Hanks-topped drama Lucky Guy raked in $1.41 million, fully 124 percent of its potential earnings due to premium-priced ticket sales; Motown the Musical pulled down $1.15 million, 81 percent of its maximum; and the Cyndi Lauper musical Kinky Boots kicked up $1.06 million, about 73 percent of its potential high.

Rounding out this week’s Million Dollar Club are four long-running mainstays: The Lion King ($1.84 million); Wicked ($1.81 million); The Book of Mormon ($1.67 million); and Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark ($1.06 million).

Five more shows are slated to open this week, including a high-profile (and high-flying) revival of the musical Pippin, which last week earned $683,911 (a strong 74 percent of its potential gross).  And there are early indications of box office staying power for Bette Midler’s one-woman play I’ll Eat You Last, which broke a new record last week for the relatively small Booth Theatre with $686,031 in sales. What’s even more impressive is that the Divine Miss M is playing just seven performances a week (most Broadway shows do eight).

Some other star-driven nonmusical newbies — including The Nance with Nathan Lane, Orphans with Alec Baldwin, Macbeth with Alan Cumming, and The Trip to Bountiful with Cicely Tyson and Cuba Gooding Jr. — have yet to spark much box office heat. Each show may have to hope for a strong critical embrace (several have only just opened or will be debuting in coming days) and the even stronger embrace of the Tony nominating committee (which announces its picks on April 30).

Follow Thom on Twitter: @ThomGeier

Read More on EW.com:
This Week on Stage: Alec Baldwin, Nathan Lane, The Rascals, and a slew of new openings
See Opening Night Video for The Nance
Listen to three tracks from Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812
EW Stage hub

Cicely Tyson heads back to Broadway after 30 years, will star in 'Trip to Bountiful'

Cicely Tyson is returning to Broadway for the first time in 30 years. The Academy Award nominee and Emmy Award-winning actress will star in a new production of The Trip to Bountiful. “For years I have been searching for the perfect project to bring me back to my true home — the stage,” Tyson said in a press release.  “In many ways Broadway is my Bountiful and I’m eager and honored to return with this strong, passionate, and funny character in a timeless American classic.”

The Trip to Bountiful, written by Horton Foote, is the story of Carrie Watts, an elderly woman who wants to return to her small hometown of Bountiful, Texas, one last time, against the wishes of her overprotective son and daughter-in-law. “The Trip to Bountiful is among Horton’s most beloved plays, and Carrie Watts, one of his most memorable characters,” said director Michael Wilson. “To do the play and role justice, you need an actress of rare stature and command. Cicely Tyson has, over the span of a distinguished career, depicted iconic Americans engaged in immense struggle. … I am thrilled that she is returning to the stage now to have her trip, to lead us all on a journey that promises to be unforgettable.” READ FULL STORY

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