(DEAL PARK, NJ) -- To mark the 50th anniversary of its 1973 premiere on Broadway, the Axelrod Performing Arts Center, the professional regional theater located in Ocean Township, will present the musical Raisin from February 24 to March 12. The musical is based on Lorraine Hansberry’s classic A Raisin in the Sun, which explores a Black family's journey to a better life as they aspire to move out of the projects in the Southside of Chicago in the 1950s. Raisin is a poignant reflection on the American Dream.
This rare revival of Raisin, one of the most unjustly neglected musicals in Broadway history, is presented with the approval of the Hansberry Estate in association with production consultant Phylicia Rashad, winner of the 2004 Tony Award for Best Actress in A Raisin in the Sun.
"This revival, featuring a cast of outstanding performers under the direction of Evelyn Collins, promises to be the hit of the season,” said Rashad. “You don't want to miss it!"
Raisin, which has been praised for its ravishingly beautiful score, stars Fredi Walker-Browne as family matriarch Lena Younger. Walker-Browne is best known for creating the role of Joanne Jefferson in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway musical Rent. Most recently, she has appeared in HBO’s Search Party, in Showtime’s Emmy Award-winning series The Big C and alongside Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke and Julianne Moore in the film Maggie’s Plan.
“I’m thrilled to be a part of this historic revival,” said Walker-Browne. “This is an amazing and intricate piece of theater, and it will be both a pleasure and a challenge.”
The Axelrod production will be directed by Evelyn Collins, founder of the Denzel Washington School of the Arts, and will be a major part of New Jersey’s Black History Month observations. Choreography is by tap legend Dormeshia from Broadway’s After Midnight.
Rounding out the cast is Ethan Joseph, who recently made his Broadway debut in The Tina Turner Musical, as Travis Younger; Eric R. Williams (Into the Woods, Dreamgirls) is Walter Lee Younger; Gia Ware portrays Ruth Younger; Alexandria Reese is Beneatha Younger; Neptune’s MOZIAH is Joseph Asagai and Burt Conrad of Rumson is Karl Lindner.
In Raisin, Hansberry's classic story is transformed into a soulful, inspiring musical following a Black family’s quest for a better life. It explodes in song, dance and incisive human drama. With a book by Hansberry’s widower Robert Nemiroff and Charlotte Zaltzberg, music by Judd Woldin and lyrics by Robert Brittan, Raisin ran for more than two years on Broadway and enjoyed a record-breaking national tour. It was nominated for nine Tony Awards in 1974, including Best Book and Best Score, and took top prize for Best Musical. Raisin also won the 1975 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.
In 1953, when the musical starring Debbie Allen and Joe Morton opened on Broadway, New York Times critic Clive Barnes noted that the book of the musical “is perhaps even better than the play... Raisin is one of those unusual musicals that should not only delight people who love musicals but might also well delight people who don't.”
"We are honored to be collaborating with TV and theater legend Phylicia Rashad and her close colleague, director Evelyn Collins to bring this historic revival to life," said Axelrod Artistic Director Andrew DePrisco. “Of all the lost musicals in Broadway history, Raisin may be the one show that most deserves to be heard and seen again, especially at the present time. It’s a powerful, beautiful story of hope, and audiences can expect to be entertained and moved by this new production.”
When A Raisin in the Sun premiered on Broadway in 1959, the 29-year-old Hansberry became the youngest American playwright, the fifth woman and the only African American to date to win the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play of the Year. The play represented a landmark in its authentic depiction of Black American life. In 1961 the film version, starring Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee and Louis Gossett Jr., won a special award at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for a Screen Writer’s Guild Award.
Performances run from February 24 to March 12. Tickets are $32 to $63 and are available at (732) 531-9106, ext. 14 or www.axelrodartscenter.com. Group rates available. The Axelrod Performing Arts Center is located at 100 Grant Ave., Deal Park (Ocean Township), just five minutes from downtown Asbury Park with plenty of free parking.
Raisin is presented with special permission by Concord Theatricals.