'The Piano Lesson' returns to Broadway with star-studded cast

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Wednesday, September 7, 2022
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"The Piano Lesson" is back on Broadway for the first time since 1990, when it won a Pulitzer Prize and earned five Tony Award nominations. Sandy Kenyon has the details.

Marvel fans may know him as Nick Fury -- and his films have grossed a total of $27 billion, more than any other actor -- but now, Samuel L. Jackson is returning to where he started: the stage.

Beginning September 19, the star heads an all-star cast in the first Broadway revival of "The Piano Lesson" by August Wilson.

And Jackson is being directed by his wife, LaTanya Richardson Jackson.

The meet and greet with the press marked an emotional return for Jackson, who helped launch the play when he was a young actor.

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"The Piano Lesson" is back on Broadway for the first time since 1990, when the play won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and earned five Tony Award nominations.

Jackson's involvement with the show, however, dates back to 1987 at Yale University, where he played the nephew of the character he is playing now.

"It was the kind of play that when I did it, I was exhilarated by the work," he said.

He had a very husband-like answer to what it's like working with his wife.

"She not only thinks that she knows more about doing this than I do, but in her heart of hearts, she knows that she does," he said. "I don't know that that's true, but I don't challenge it."

The couple has been together for more than 50 years, and "tender" is how she describes the task of directing her husband.

"The challenges become, in a room full of people, trying to corral the star," she said "But because he's such a professional, you know, he's game for everything that going on, so it's not that bad. It's not as bad as it could be."

Danielle Books, a graduate of Juilliard who earned a Tony nomination for "The Color Purple," returns to the stage playing Berniece, a woman with an ornate piano that has been passed down from generation to generation in her family.

"(Bernice) is holding onto the past and wants to keep this family heirloom, while Boy Willie (John David Washington) is focused on the future and wants to sell it for land," she said.

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Washington is making his Broadway debut in the play and compares the process to "going to graduate school."

"This is is some of the best writing I've ever gotten a chance to bite, chew into," he said.

His father, Denzel Washington, who starred on Broadway in another August Wilson play, "Fences," and found success in the film version, now plans to bring "The Piano Lesson" to the big screen with this cast after their run ends on Broadway.

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