The opening night of “The Mountaintop” at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre on West 45th Street did not only include the stars on the stage-Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett portraying the roles of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Camae, a maid at the Lorraine Motel-but had many stars in the audience who then came to the opening night gala at Espace on 42nd Street.
Among them were Ruby Dee, Phylicia Rashad, Cicely Tyson, S. Epatha Merkerson, Spike Lee, Courtney B. Vance, Mary Alice, Charles Turner, Ebony Jo-Ann, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Debbie Allen and Giancarlo Esposito, to name just some of the star power. Also there were the play’s Black financial backers, Daniel Faustin, Chapman Roberts and Norma Darden, president of Spoonbread Restaurant.
“The whole concept was great. The minute I heard about it, I was attracted to it. It was a no-brainer. The show can be a learning tool about Dr. King’s life for the younger generation,” Faustin said. Roberts admitted he was attracted to this script.
Darden explained, “What got me interested was two brilliant actors, too few roles for Black actors on Broadway and a young playwright who deserved to be heard.”
Veteran actress Dee, who knew King personally, said, “‘The Mountaintop’ is an astonishing portrayal of the time and the man. I really like the imaginative portrayal of it.”
Director George C. Wolfe said, “The show was wonderful.” Lee shared that he loved the show.
Constanza Romero, the widow of playwright August Wilson and costume designer for “The Mountaintop,” shared, “People should come out and see the show because Martin Luther King’s is still such a terrible loss for us in humanity-what a treat to have Martin Luther King with us for one more night. One little droplet; it’s precious.”
New Federal Theater founder and producing director Woodie King Jr., Jackson and Bassett made the evening for me. The writing was concise and precise and the show not an attack on King. It really explored him as a visionary and I felt moved that a young writer like Katori Hall was able to capture that.
Sharon Washington, star of “The Scottsboro Boys,” remarked, “I’m happy to see Sam Jackson and Angela back on stage. I’m so happy for them-the show is great! Katori Hall is a brilliant new voice in the theater-it’s nothing you would expect.”
Alice remarked, “The play was very powerful and moving. The play and Samuel brought out the essence of Dr. King the man-he was a human being.”
Turner shared, “The play had me profoundly moved. Samuel and Angela give everything up and give it so honestly, and Katori Hall, the playwright, has a very unique approach; you saw her version of Martin, the man. I think it’s important for young people to see this play and then do their research on Dr. King-talk about a stimulus shot.”
Jo-Ann enthusiastically shared, “I think this is the continuation of the spirit of August Wilson. Katori Hall has her own voice. I’m just so thrilled at how daring she is and her imagination. I think it’s all that and a bag of chips.
“She says things that most people are afraid to say, and she has an incredible focus on the power of Black women. For me to see two of my dearest friends up on stage, just kicking it out like that-I’ve seen it twice already and I’ll keep coming back,” she said.
Esposito, a star of stage, film and television, remarked, “I enjoyed it. It was a very interesting piece of theater that allows young people between 18 and 40 years old to learn more about the legacy of Dr. King and understand it. It’s an inside look at who he was as a man, but I particularly love that it depicts him as a human being-that’s very important, to understand and realize he was a vehicle for change and goodness and everyone else can be the same.”
“The Mountaintop” is playing for a limited run. For ticket information, call (212) 239-6200.