Is Denzel Washington Too Old For His Next Role?

Categories: Theater

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Sidney Poitier was 32 when he played the upwardly mobile Walter Lee Younger in the original 1959 Broadway production of Lorraine Hansberry's classic A Raisin in The Sun (the play that recent Pulitzer winner Clybourne Park so interestingly riffed on).

And Sean Combs was 35 when he played it in the 2004 revival.

That makes sense, since the character is in his 30s.

But Denzel Washington will be 59 when he takes on the same role in a 2014 Broadway revival that's just been reported on.

Too old? Or can the magic of stagecraft erase all doubts (and any lines), as it has many times before?

I'm not sure, though Denzel's such a powerful stage actor (Tony award for Fences) that I wouldn't put anything past him, maybe even the elimination of decades.

Meanwhile, it's interesting that the linked article says that Whoopi Goldberg would love to play Denzel's mama in that production.

Fine with me, even though she's a year younger than Denzel!

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13 comments
FredsterNYC
FredsterNYC

Yep. He's visibly too old for it to make sense. Black may not crack, but it gets old looking eventually. The problem is that instead of going for fresh or upcoming talent, Broadway will put any film star in just about anything to justify three hundred dollar ticket prices. There literally are no new Broadway finds lately besides maybe Megan Hilty from Smash and Sutton Foster, who crippled the run of Anything goes by leaving too soon.

blissbaby
blissbaby

"If Streisand is still planning to play mama Rose.." Uh, I'd say no.. Camera closeups are different from stage.

lotsoftechnique
lotsoftechnique

Denzel can do it.  There are lots of layers to Walter Lee that black actors like to explore.  Listen carefully to his character and you see a lot of "precursor" feelings to the black power movement.

Poitier was brilliant in the role, yet the most powerful Walter Lee I've seen was in a TV production headed by Esther Rolle as Lena and Danny Glover as Walter Lee.  Glover was mesmerizing; he captured Walter Lee's seething anger; you saw what he wanted for himself and at the same time what a danger he could pose to himself and to others.

He's a two-edged character.  And I'd imagine that Denzel relishes the challenge of showing that dark underside of the character in a play with an ultimately positive arc.  I'd certainly pay to see him do it.  As for his age, well, if Streisand is (still?) planning to play Mama Rose, Denzel can certainly portray Walter Lee.

SouthernDave
SouthernDave

A case of star insurance trumping common sense.

AmericanyPride
AmericanyPride

@villagevoice Okay first of all, Denzel is never too old--he's an icon & classic actor who can play anything. Next of all, nothing personal.

kevinscotthall
kevinscotthall

@mikeymusto Last year Samuel L. Jackson (63) played MLK--who died at 39! And Blair U (48) played Stanley in Streetcar. Black don't crack.

TB5977
TB5977

@mikeymusto really? Seriously?? I could see Shemar Moore but at 58 Denzel is too old for the character

blissbaby
blissbaby

He should be playing the old matriarch in drag--or have they already lined up Tyler Perry?

SavannahMontgomery
SavannahMontgomery

OY, Dios mio!..and it used to be "ain't them 30 yr olds (I'm being kind) too old to be in West Side Story?


payinmy286
payinmy286

 I agree. Glover looked older than 35 but it didn't matter. Just as theatergoers have trained themselves to look past race in certain productions (audra mcdonald in carousel comes to mind), they can certainly look past an actor being a bit long in the tooth, as long as his talent and skills are prevelant.

SavannahMontgomery
SavannahMontgomery

But, once again, Movie Star power trumps all....Maybe this production should be called " Raisin My Son" [tuition]

Ohh, and let's not forget  the Sean (Puffy. Puff, P-Diddy. Daddy...and the bang-bang diddy to be) Combs version either!

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