President Obama, First Lady Attend Denzel Washington Broadway Play
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama enjoyed a romantic evening Friday -- with an Oscar winner.
Receiving a huge round of applause as they entered the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, the first couple took in Denzel Washington's performance in the Broadway revival of A Raisin in the Sun, which has been playing to packed houses since it began previews on March 8. They were joined by administration advisor Valerie Jarrett and former NFL player Ahmad Rashad.
The play, written by Lorraine Hansberry, takes place in Chicago sometime between World War II and 1960; it centers on the Youngers, a low-income African-American family living in a cramped South Side apartment. When the family's widowed matriarch, Lena (LaTanya Richardson Jackson), receives a $10,000 check from her husband's life insurance policy, members of the household have different ideas about how to spend it.
Lena wants to make a down payment on a modest suburban house in a white neighborhood, while her restless son Walter Lee (Washington) has dreams of moving up in the world by buying a liquor store. Meanwhile, his college-student sister Beneatha (Anika Noni Rose) has her sights set on attending medical school. The production also stars British actress Sophie Okonedo, making her Broadway debut as Walter Lee's wife, Ruth.
The First Lady has seen a number of shows with daughters Sasha and Malia since the President took office, among them Motown: The Musical, Memphis, The Trip to Bountiful, Sister Act, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark and The Addams Family. But this marks only the second visit for the Obamas as a couple to a Broadway show, following a 2009 date night at the revival of August Wilson’s play Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. The ensemble cast of that production also happened to feature Richardson Jackson, the wife of actor Samuel L. Jackson.
The first play by an African-American woman ever to be produced on Broadway, Raisin in the Sun premiered in 1959, at the same Barrymore Theatre where it has returned in the 20th-century American classic's latest incarnation. That landmark original production starred Sidney Poitier, Claudia McNeil, Ruby Dee and Diana Sands, all of whom reprised their roles in the 1961 screen version.
Directed by Kenny Leon and produced by Scott Rudin, the current revival officially opened on April 3 to rave reviews. The limited engagement is scheduled to run through June 15.