Broadway is set to deliver a performance to America next season that is sure to get
noticed. Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman opens on Oct. 9 at the Hudson Theatre and is poised to change the way you think about a story you think you know.
Wendell Pierce (Serious Money, The Piano Lesson, The Wire, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan) and Sharon D. Clarke (Caroline, Or Change) are set to reprise their acclaimed performances as Willy and Linda Loman, for which Clarke received the Olivier Award for Best Actress and Pierce was nominated for Best Actor while on Death of a Salesman on the Young Vic / West End production in London.
Blvd. had a chance to speak with Clarke about this amazing opportunity to bring such a staple in American storytelling back to audiences, and to reprise her award-winning role as Linda.
“I feel very blessed to have a chance to find out more about these characters,” says Clarke. “I cannot believe that I have just finished Caroline, Or Change on Broadway and am coming back to do what is considered America’s Hamlet; it is a classic and I am doing it with Wendell.”
She is overjoyed.
“For Wendell to come to London and tell the story of Death of a Salesman and then to be able to bring it back to his home [country] and have it seen by America is just phenomenal,” says Clarke.
The anticipation is already growing for what may be dubbed a transforming production.
“New York will be seeing what it knows as this classic play about the American Dream, but seen now through African-American eyes; you can see the glass ceiling; you can see why that dream, at that point, in that time is actually impossible; it is an impossible dream,” says Clarke. “It is what sends Willy down that wormhole of madness.”
This production of Death of a Salesman tells the exact same story, but with a Black cast; the Lomans are an African-American family in a predominantly white capitalist world.
“When we did the show in London, a lot of people asked, ‘Did you change the script? You must have changed the script,’ and we would say, ‘We have not changed anything,’” says Clarke. “For example, when Willy goes into Howard’s office, you now see an older Black man begging a young white man to keep his job. When the package is dropped on the floor, he is told not to pick it up because they have office boys to do that. When Howard drops his matches and Willy picks them up, he does all of the things that he tells his son not to do. When you see a black man doing that with a white man a younger white man and belittling himself, groveling, it is so visceral that you cannot escape what the script is telling you.”
Clarke said the difference in the cast heightens, enriches and deepens the script in a way that makes you see Death of a Salesman in a completely different way.
Is there pressure to bring such a well-known play to Broadway?
“I am bringing this story to people in a way that they have never seen it,” says Clarke. “I am part of history; there is no greater feeling than to be making history in a way that brings this story to Americans that they have never seen before.”
Producers Cindy Tolan, Marianne Elliott and Chris Harper (Elliott & Harper Productions) and Kwame Kwei-Armah have teamed up to bring the critically hailed Young Vic/West End production of the Miller masterpiece to Broadway.
“When this production played at the Young Vic in 2019, we heard from so many young people seeing it for the first time, who said they felt like the play was written specifically for them and for this era,” says Tolan. “We’re excited to bring that feeling to New York audiences, and we hope that the show’s timeless relevance resonates in the same way.”
Tony Award winner André De Shields (Hadestown) will join the cast as Willy’s brother, Ben. Khris Davis (Heart of a Lion, Sweat, Atlanta, Judas and the Black Messiah) also boards as the Lomans’ son Biff.
“When I arrived back in New York, I thought, ‘I am here; I am here in New York where the play is set and I am here to soak up all of that wealth of history and culture that the show brings,” says Clarke. “I am not saying that it is not authentic in London, but I am in the states with an American cast, they inform me in different ways because they are American and genuine; it feeds me.”
Also joining the production are Blake DeLong as Howard/Stanley, Lynn Hawley as The Woman/Jenny, Grace Porter as Letta/Jazz Singer, Kevin Ramessar as Musician, Stephen Stocking as Bernard, Chelsea Lee Williams as Miss Forsythe, and The Wire’s Delaney Williams as Charley, Willy’s neighbor and only friend.
Opening night is set for Sunday, Oct. 9, at the Hudson Theatre (141 West 44th Street), and the show will run for a strictly limited 17-week engagement starting Saturday, Sept. 17.
Visit www.salesmanonbroadway.com for more information and to purchase tickets.