Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bringing The Mountaintop to Broadway

Producers of the play The Mountaintop are aiming to bring it to Broadway next fall, which interests me for two reasons.

The subject of Katori Hall's play: the Rev. Martin Luther King. Jr. on the last night of his life, sounds fascinating. Here's an interview with Hall from 2008, where she talks about what led her to write it.

The title comes from King's stirring and prophetic final speech, delivered at a Memphis church on April 3, 1968:

"Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!"

What surprises me is that The Mountaintop had its world premiere in London last summer. It was praised by the critics, including the very discerning West End Whingers, and has received an Olivier nomination for Best New Play. (Update 3-21: In an upset, The Mountaintop won the Olivier for Best New Play!)


Why did a play by an American writer about such an important American subject have to go across the Atlantic Ocean to get produced?

That just seems astounding to me and a little sad. (Apparently there was some kind of in-development reading at the Lark Theatre in New York.)

Why couldn't Hall get The Mountaintop commercially produced in the United States? Is there something about London that makes theatre producers salivate, that gives a play a little extra cachet?

I found an interview with Hall from the London theatre Web site What's on Stage, and maybe this is part of the answer:

"I would love to work here again. The space for new writing is much much bigger here. New writing is much more respected. It seems like there’s a bigger space for it ..."

Here's the trailer from The Mountaintop:

My guess is the play, which has only two characters, King and a maid at the Lorraine Motel, will be re-cast with American actors.

I'd like to nominate Tony winner Jeffrey Wright, who's already portrayed the civil-rights leader in the HBO movie Boycott. Just my 2 cents but he's about the right age and I think he'd be a great choice.

No comments: