Stop the presses!!! Cedric the Entertainer is about to make his Broadway debut in the David Mamet drama, “American Buffalo. “Previews will begin October 31 and the show will open November 13 at the Belasco Theatre at 111 West 44th Street. Cedric will take to the stage with amazing co-star John Leguizamo, who has been on Broadway in two successful shows, “Freak” and “Sexaholic.” These two talents will be joined by Haley Joel Osment, probably best known for his role as a little boy in “The Sixth Sense.” No longer a boy, this young man will also be making his Broadway debut with Cedric. On Monday September 29, the Black press was invited to attend a meet and greet with the cast and some of the show’s producers, including Vy Higginsen, who last produced August Wilson’s “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” on Broadway, and business mogul Oscar Joyner. After the producers discussed the show, they introduced the three actors one by one.
Each spoke of how excited they were to be involved in this project. They also talked about the fact that this marked the show’s first day of rehearsal. After the general speaking was over, I had the opportunity to sit down and interview Cedric, Leguizamo and Higginsen. Cedric admitted that he was looking for an opportunity to perform on Broadway and this show fit the bill. “The movies all started to feel and be the same, and I felt this was a good time in my career to jump off and do something different. I got the call to do this and it was great. They told me that John was attached and that made me excited because we had done ‘The Honeymooners’ together. I love his performances in all the Broadway stuff that he had done. I thought it would be good to come with somebody who has experience being on stage here, and then when they added Haley Joel I thought it just rounded out the cast. After reading the piece, I liked David Mamet’s stuff from ‘Glengarry/Glen Ross’ and ‘The Verdict,’ which was more the movie, but still his writing style is one that his characters have so much depth inside of what it is they are saying. As a dramatic piece, I thought it was an opportunity to show some dramatic chops, grow as a dramatic actor and still have a little bit of opportunity to put some of my comedic influence into this character and that is exactly what the director wanted from me. So it seems like it was going to be a great opportunity all around,” Cedric said. Cedric plays Donny Dubrow, a junkyard owner. “He’s the patriarch; he is the father figure of all these guys who are on the low end of life. They come to my spot on a daily basis, they play cards, they rest, they vent, and I’m their sounding board as well.
The play has confusion, betrayal and shows how we are all concerned that what we have is about to be taken before it is given its proper value,” Cedric shared. Preparing for the role was not that simple. Cedric explained, “I’m used to performing in front of the audience as a stand-up performer. The problem is, I could change my material, improv or abbreviate, but on Broadway, it’s all about the playwright. It’s all about the written word and performing that and learning to respect that. So, the biggest thing for me is to get involved with the script. Who my character is, what he is saying and why he is saying it. And then try to find ways to make that exciting to me so I’m not bored on stage every night. John [Leguizamo] advised me that even though you have to perform these words, you’ll understand that each night there will be ways to say, change how you say the words, so look at that and be excited about that.” Cedric hopes the audiences will “see that I can find something in a character that is dramatic and humane. I want them to feel the soul and the depth of the character and what he’s going through and how conflicted he is about the whole circumstance. At the same time, my character is the one with the most optimistic attitude, that we can still win. I want people to say, ‘This guy was able to do something I didn’t expect of him. I know Ced; I expected to come in and just laugh right away’ and–knowing that it’s not a straight comedy–ask themselves was he able to deliver. I was able to identify with him, in the same way that I do in his comedy,” Cedric said. Why do Broadway? “You choose to do Broadway because you look for another avenue just to perform as an entertainer. Somebody who can get out on stage and perform every night, and you hope that inspires other Broadway producers, other people who are writing plays, to say I like Ced for this. Of course you want to make an impact in the community. The Broadway community is its own society and you came in it and showed it respect. Maybe it could also turn into more dramatic roles in Hollywood. Since people will see that you can do this. A lot of great comedians, Jamie Foxx, Robin Williams, Tom Hanks, a lot of cats that started on the comedy side, have had success in dramatic roles. Give me some of the Morgan Freeman roles,” Cedric remarked. Encouraging African-Americans to patronize the show, Cedric said, “These guys are identifiable. It’s the quintessential African-American tale, aspiring to be something, having that taken away and then people telling you what you have to do to get it back. Often we find ourselves getting into trouble because we think we’re owed something.” Leguizamo was very candid as he spoke about “American Buffalo” and his role. “What’s so exciting about this piece is it’s really technically an off-Broadway piece. It’s a really edgy, dangerous, exciting piece and you don’t usually get that on Broadway. Broadway has become kind of soft. You know all the musicals, all the Disney, they’re just Disney cartoons turning to musicals. So to bring real theater, this is an edgy American classic that changed the way writers think and filmmakers think. It was the first Broadway show to be so raw. It’s funny, philosophical, paranoid and then it gets brutal and animalistic,” Leguizamo explained. The actor was attracted to the drama because he “thought it was one of those great American classics like ‘Death of a Salesman,’ ‘Long Day’s Journey Into Night’ or True West’, that really changed the way people think. But then having a person like Bob Falls, the greatest American theater director of our time, being at the helm, you know you’re not going to mess up. You know he’s going to take us to a whole other level. That’s why Cedric and Haley Joel jumped on, it’s a chance to go to that next level. He’s going to elevate your game,” Leguizamo said.
Discussing his character Teach, Leguizamo explained, “He fancies himself a teacher, he’s always trying to educate and elevate, but for his own sake. He’s very paranoid, very neurotic. One of the inner city guys who is always edgy and thinks everybody has done him wrong. I feel that growing up in New York I knew a lot of cats like this, who were so, you know, kind of cool, always getting into trouble. Always going too far, but they were exciting to be around. There was always a buzz, but you never knew when it was going to turn around and clip into something wrong, but that vibe is so addictive.” What will audiences get from the production? “Like any great play, it always says something about you and society at large that nobody is saying. It really questions male friendships and how there’s always a slight competitive element in it and wanting to win some how. Men always want to win somehow–whether it be an argument or a game, and this play explores it. It also explores the fact that it’s everybody’s given right to be a business man, to make something of themselves. If you’re not successful to pretend or front like you are successful no matter what economic level you’re from. It doesn’t matter how you get there, it’s just that you get there. It’s like what we have going on now in the banking crisis. They all wanted to make it big and it didn’t matter who they took down.” Looking at his fellow cast members, Leguizamo stated, “Everybody is that character. Cedric is patriarchal, very fatherly and he’s honorable. Haley Joel brings that vulnerability like the character has–that naiveness.” He added, “People should see the play: They are going to be moved. They’re going to question their lives. It’s going to make them really think about themselves and the situations they find themselves in. Sometimes you talk yourself into really bad situations and try to talk yourself out of it. It captures the aspect we’re all in, mortgages are disappearing, the economy is disappearing, credit is disappearing. There’s a lot of humor in this play and that’s why they picked Cedric and I to do it. In past productions that wasn’t brought out. The drama and the brutality are there too.” Hearing the cast that was brought together for this production convinced Higginsen to get in on this project. “We’ve been busy with our own productions and building the Mama Foundation in Harlem and creating our own off-Broadway Harlem scene. When we were invited to participate and we heard the cast, we said we had to do this. We couldn’t help but think that this is such creative casting. I love Cedric, he’s an old time entertainer from back in the day. He can sing, he can dance, and he can make people laugh. He’s a triple threat. So, to imagine that he’s going to add this to his repertoire, to me that would be exciting to watch and think about. It’s a diverse class, it’s multicultural. You take a classic American play-wright, a classic American director and a classic American play, and this is the director’s most favorite play of all time, and you put this type of casting in it. Now you have to say I don’t want to miss this and that’s why we decided to be a part of it,” Higginsen said. What should attract audiences to this show? “It’s a drama, but it’s full of humor as well. It’s sparkling, it crackles,” Higginsen remarked. “If you want to see some of your favorite people doing things they haven’t done, this would be a great reason to come out,” Higginsen shared. To get tickets to “American Buffalo,” call Telecharge