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Jones & Lester Lead Black Cat to Novello, 1 Dec

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As previously tipped (See The Goss, 16 Mar 2009), last year’s all-black Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams’ classic 1955 drama Cat on a Hot Tin Roof will hit the West End this year, running for a limited season at the Novello Theatre from 1 December 2009 (previews from 21 November) to 10 April 2010.

US stars James Earl Jones and Phylicia Rashad will reprise their performances as Big Daddy and Big Mama, joined by Briton Adrian Lester as Brick and American Sanaa Lathan as Maggie, the parts played in the 1958 screen version by Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor and in last year’s Broadway season by Terence Howard and Anika Noni Rose.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is set in a Mississippi plantation house at the time of ailing Big Daddy's birthday party, an event which sets the scene for family recriminations and revelations. His son Brick, a former college sports star, is more upset about the death of his friend Skipper than the disintegration of his marriage to a sexually frustrated wife Maggie.

The last West End production opened at the Lyric Theatre in September 2001 with an all-white cast including Brendan Fraser as Brick, Frances O'Connor as Maggie, Ned Beatty as Big Daddy and Gemma Jones as Big Mama.

The new production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is directed by Debbie Allen, an Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning director, choreographer and actor (a familiar face from the original film and TV series of Fame), who marked her Broadway directorial debut last February with Cat, which ran for four months at New York’s Broadhurst Theater. The transfer is presented by the show’s US producers Stephen Byrd and Alia Jones.

Both James Earl Jones and Phylicia Rashad are Tony Award winners; Rashad for A Raisin in the Sun and Jones twice over for August Wilson’s Fences and The Great White Hope. In 1998, Jones was also presented with a Drama Desk Special Award for being "a commanding force on the stage for nearly half a century”. Jones’ myriad other credits include Master Harold and the Boys, Of Mice and Men and The Iceman Cometh on Broadway; and on screen, Star Wars, Cry the Beloved Country, Clear and Present Danger, Jefferson in Paris, Patriot Games, Sommersby, The Hunt for Red October and Field of Dreams.

Rashad recently appeared in the Broadway production of August: Osage County and, off-stage, is best known as wife Claire Huxtable from the American TV sitcom The Cosby Show, which ran from 1984 to 1992. Sanaa Lathan appeared with Rashad in, and was Tony nominated for, A Raisin in the Sun. Her screen credits include Nip/Tuck on television and Out of Time on film.

Adrian Lester returns to the London stage for the first time since 2003 when he took the title role in Henry V, which launched artistic director Nicholas Hytner’s reign at the National Theatre (See News, 18 Dec 2002). His other stage credits include Six Degrees of Separation, Company, As You Like It and Peter Brook’s The Tragedy of Hamlet. He’s become best known to British TV fans as con artist Mickey Bricks in Hustle, and has also starred in films including Primary Colours, Love's Labour's Lost, Dust, The Final Curtain and Maybe Baby.

The Novello Theatre is currently dark following the 30 May closure of the UK premiere of Spring Awakening (See News, 12 May 2009). Cat on a Hot Tin Roof will be preceded, from 22 September to 14 November 2009, by limited return season for Stephen Daldry’s multi award-winning NT production of JB Priestley’s An Inspector Calls (See News, 20 May 2009).


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